Lotus Engineering has expanded its portfolio of clients to include a new partnership with Jenson Button’s JBXE Racing, the Extreme E team which is due to compete at this weekend’s inaugural event. Lotus’s customer-facing division joins JBXE as a technical partner, meaning it’ll co-promote what’s billed as a sustainable series focused on green technologies in motorsport. The 2009 F1 world champ could hardly ask for a better collaborator when it comes to the setup of his white, fluorescent yellow and black electric Odyssey 21 racer.
Of course, technically speaking, each Extreme E car is identical, to the next, made from a common package of standardised parts, developed by Spark Racing Technology with a battery supplied by Williams Advanced Engineering. The cars are based around niobium-reinforced steel alloy tubular frames, with battery-electric power rated to 550hp and tough off-road hardware that, when combined, ensures the racer weighs 1.6-tonnes. The 0-62mph dash takes 4.5 seconds, with the Odyssey 21 capable of charging up 130 per cent inclines. Not bad.
It goes without saying that Button will want to put those performance credentials to race winning use. Commenting on the announcement, the 41-year-old said: “to announce that a brand such as Lotus Engineering is coming on this journey with us is a proud moment for myself and the team”. No doubt. He added that the squad’s “very excited about our new technical partnership and can’t wait to show what we can do in the first race this weekend”.
Matt Windle, managing director of Lotus Cars, said: “We are on the cusp of an exciting new era of electrified motorsport, and we’re delighted to support the JBXE team as technical partner. The complex technicalities of EV racing present a fascinating challenge, and using our learnings from more than a decade of electrifying sports cars – most recently with the Lotus Evija hypercar – we can bring valuable knowledge to the team.”
Exactly how significant Lotus’s influence can be in a championship that, at least at first, uses common cars is yet to be seen. This weekend’s opening Extreme E race should offer some insight, with the field – which includes other legends of motorsport like Carlos Sainz and Sebastien Loeb, no less, as well as young guns like Jamie Chadwick in a driver line-up that features both men and women – set to compete Saudi Arabian desert near the city of Al-'Ula. The location is the first of five for the 2021 calendar, with each representing one of Earth’s fragile landscapes. It should also be a big test for the durability of both cars and drivers, both in terms of terrain and climate.
As for Lotus, expect to hear of more partnerships like this from the engineering division, what with consultancy team of the famed car business now said to be “growing from strength to strength with multiple major projects underway”. Lotus Engineering recently opened its new home at the Lotus Advanced Technical Centre in Warwickshire, too, which is located right next to one of the UK’s best engineering universities. Handy.
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