The company’s deep involvement in motorsport reflects the company’s desire to demonstrate its transfer of technology from track to road car through the medium of competition, so it’s no surprise there’s a genuine heavyweight in the form of Claudio Berro to head up the racing team. Interview by just-auto’s Simon Warburton.
SW: How long have you been in motorsport and what does it mean to you?
CB: I have been in motorsport for 30 years. I started in 1979 as a rally co-driver with Turbo Lotus in Italy and we competed in rallying for the World Championship.
I stayed for five years and then [went to] Alfa Romeo and Ferrari. Motorsport is in my blood. Then ten years with Peugeot Italy, then touring car programmes. Jean Todt called me to join him in 1994. Two years ago I decided to join Lotus.
SW: So why Lotus?
CB: I wanted to work at a company that wanted to invest in motorsport, not necessarily a lot of money [but] for motorsport for Lotus is life. Same story at Ferrari and Alfa Romeo.
Lotus’s story is Formula 1, it’s clear. The genius of Colin Chapman and genius inventions such as composite chassis, wing, ground floor effect, Lotus is highly technical in Formula 1.
SW: What are some of the new innovations Lotus is bringing to motorsport?
CB: We are building our engine for the future – it is a fantastic challenge. Today we have a Toyota engine, but when we have our own engine, the spirit of the car is [there].
SW: There has been a lot of discussion about how motorsport can become greener. To what extent are electric vehicles the future and could they realistically compete in motor racing?
CB: I was with the FIA and they talked about creating a new single seat electric car. The rules are not 100% fixed but it is on the way. The main problem is the battery stock for energy, but motorsport competition in the future will be a big evolution in batteries. The next step will be automotive propulsion including racing.
It’s clear the technology is expensive. You lose a lot of energy [through braking] but if you can recover it, it is a way to the future, maybe for single seat racing.
SW: Is there a timetable envisaged for electric motorsport racing?
CB: [Perhaps] within the next two to three years minimum – it will not be before 2015 – it will be difficult to have a standard energy recovery system. For Toyota, Volkswagen, it is easier to work in these areas. Toyota produces fantastic Prius cars, but for us in GT cars, this area is complicated now.
SW: Isn’t part of the reason motorsport fans enjoy racing, the roar of the engines, the smell of the oil, isn’t that all part of the experience?
CB: We have some systems in Lotus Engineering to create some artificial noise. Of course a racing car needs noise, some racing oil, the smell.
Lotus Engineering has created some testing for some different types of noise with experimental electric cars.
SW: Is it possible to race electric cars at the same speeds as in conventional motorsport?
CB: It is possible to achieve the same racing speed with electric cars. We have one dealer in Holland who has an experimental Elise – the concern is the weight of the battery. [For example] for two hours continuous racing, we produce the Tesla here and it has two hour capacity.
SW: How important is Lotus Engineering to what you do at Lotus Motorsport?
CB: We have a link with Lotus Engineering and motorsport, in some areas we have a very strong link with them. The capacity of Lotus Engineering is in all scenarios. There are some very open scenarios in Lotus.
Author: Simon Warburton, just-auto.com