Who Dropped The Ball This Time?

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Spring Training for the IZOD IndyCar Series got off with a bang on Monday, with the Chevy powered cars from Team Penske and Andretti Autosport swapping fast times throughout the day with Andretti’s Ryan Hunter-Reay taking fast time for the day on Monday. On Tuesday, it was Team Penske leading the pack with Helio Castroneves ending up with the quickest time. His Penske teammates, Will Power and Ryan Briscoe, were second and third respectively. Unfortunately, not a fun time was had by all.

On Monday, Simona de Silvestro set the slowest time of the day as her Lotus entry was only running on five cylinders due to a wiring issue. It was more of the same on Tuesday as Simona had wiring problems on both days. That was not a good start for the British manufacturer. Their only representative on track for the past two days was de Silvestro. At least, she had an engine. Dragon Racing, the other Lotus team scheduled to run Monday and Tuesday, had been slated to be on track in the first session albeit with only one driver – Sébastien Bourdais. Their other driver, Katherine Legge was scheduled to run in the Thursday-Friday session adding to speculation that Lotus was short on engines.

Going into Spring Training, there was no speculation whether the Dragon Racing cars would be running during the first two days. Everyone assumed that Bourdais would be pedaling his Lotus powered DW12 around the bumpy circuit at Sebring. He did not. As word made its way around Twitter on Monday that the Dragon car of Bourdais had no engine, everyone jumped to the conclusion that Lotus had dropped the ball again and Dragon was the victim of the poor planning we’ve witnessed thus far from Lotus. I will include myself in the collective “everyone”. I was fuming over yet another example of buffoonery compliments of Lotus.

It wasn’t until late in the day when I saw a tweet from our friend Pressdog, when he suggested that we shouldn’t jump all over Lotus until we knew all the facts. Suddenly, I felt about four inches tall. He was right – just because Lotus had been a case study in how to do everything wrong when entering into a racing series, didn’t mean that they were necessarily to blame this time.

Just because the owner of Dragon Racing has the last name of Penske doesn’t mean that he shares his father’s bank account. Remember that this time last year, de Ferran Dragon Racing had just announced that they were shutting their doors. When they emerged from the ashes as Dragon Racing, they were hanging by a thread and always seemed to be on the verge of disbanding before the season ended. Although they seemed to be back on solid financial footing enough to run two cars this season; is it out of the question that there might still be some serious financial concerns with this team?

Joe Berkemeier, from Trackside Online, made a good point yesterday. If Dragon had not planned on running, why would they go to the trouble (and expense) to bring their cars and transporters all the way from California to Florida? It’s a good point, but it doesn’t automatically throw the blame back on Lotus. If the Dragon check for the engines had yet to clear (or arrive) Lotus may go ahead and let them run an engine in good faith. If this were a well-funded engine program like Chevrolet, they may be so inclined. Likewise, if Dragon’s owner’s first name were Roger instead of Jay – then Lotus may have been willing to overlook such a detail. Unfortunately, we are dealing with two entities that don’t have such a strong recent history.

There are some very respected journalists on site at Sebring; Berkemeier, Marshall Pruett and Jenna Fryer among them. None of them have been able to uncover what the real story is. If they have, they haven’t shared it. So, we fans are left to speculate.

Lotus is an easy target. They have failed on just about every front so far. They dragged their feet in developing an engine and completely under-estimated the time, money and effort involved in meeting their commitments – and gotten away completely unscathed by IndyCar except in the court of public opinion. When it was learned that Bourdais had no engine for the first two days of Spring Training, fans were gathering their torches to burn Lotus at the stake. I was one of them until Pressdog intervened and raised the question if Lotus was truly at fault. This is why he is considered the Dean of IndyCar bloggers.

So who did drop the ball this time? Was it Lotus or Dragon? There are a lot of good stories coming out of Sebring, but this unanswered question is one that continues to puzzle me. I guess you can count me into the Legions of the Miserable this time by focusing on one of the few negatives from this week, but the Lotus saga continues to baffle me. That’s assuming that they are the ones that dropped the ball this time.

George Phillips

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27 Responses to “Who Dropped The Ball This Time?”

  1. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    I am thinking of the, “if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck” scenario… While it is not inconceiveable to think that there are financial issues for DR here, I think it is much more likely that this engine situation is a duck that is more of Lotus’ creation than of Dragon Racing’s…

    • I am inclined to go with Bent’s take on this. Being a fan from the 60′s it makes me sad to say that since commiting to the IICS Lotus has looked weak since day one.

  2. I’m not 100% sure what’s going on, and honestly, I don’t care where the blame is, so long as it gets fixed.

  3. New cars and engines and fans and media are crucifing every detail. As fans we should love the problems and focus on how the teams work through them. If it was easy. we would have nothing to talk about except maybe Danica. I embrace the mechanics building new cars and engines, manufactuer support and tracks that want good promotion. We should all enjoy it.

    • Bent Wickerbill Says:

      Tough to ‘love’ watching a team work through pre-season problems when there is no powerplant…. Car just doesn’t seem to turn the kind of laps the other teams are turning….

  4. Hold on, George, I thought an engine not showing up was NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Now I’m confused. We’ll see if an engine shows up Thursday, and if it doesn’t if there is maybe some small mention of it from among the 10 or so real reporters in Sebring.

  5. Obviously Pressdog is the problem.

  6. And this situation just shines a big ugly spotlight yet again on one of the biggest problems with the series. Everything is “reactive” rather the. “proactive”. They need to learn to get out front of the story and head the avalanche off at the pass. Whats the point of pretty hash tags if a third of the field has no engines? In stead of allowing an ugly situation to stew in a pot of speculation for days, someone needs to make a *$@& statement to the media. if Lotus has no engines, tell us so we can clear Dragon’s name. If Dragon’s cheque didn’t clear, tell us so we can clear Lotus’ name.
    Here’s a few has tags for you #transparency #statement #fail

    • A week or two ago, the biggest problem in bloggoworld, according to some, was no #hashtags, yet no start times had been released for any race but Indy, something that kinda matters for those of us who actually buy tickets and travel to races.

  7. Agree that Lotus speculation is overshadowing some fun stuff happening on the track. Agree that new engines are doing what they’re supposed to–giving us something very interesting to follow and talk about. Agree that somebody (reporter-type) should press Lotus for a statement. Agree that P-dog is probably the problem.

    I’m also a big fan of Jenna Fryer–she’s doing a great job covering Indycar.

  8. George,
    Maybe the issue is that Lotus does not have a handle yet on the degree of difficulty involved. I am going to go out on a limb and say that only TWO engines enter St Pete. Breaks my heart but facts are facts. As Meesh Beer says, #FAIL. Now, start to imagine up to 3 races go by with only two Lotus powerplants…..

  9. So let’s say for a second the Lotus racing program in IndyCar goes belly up and never blows exhaust in anger. After Indy there will be at least 22 cars on the grid each week, from two solid engine manufactuers breaking track records at many tracks in a brand new race car. Compare that scenario to either flavor of indyCar in 2006 and we would have been Delighted….

    The propensity to need to find the dark cloud on an otherwise sunny day is part of the reason I am to the point of erasing all my “favorited” blogs from my browser and removing the twitter app from my phone. It seems the only places I can enjoy IndyCar with out the Bi Polar hysterics are during the broadcast on race day and through the members of the traditional media who write with ballance and perspective. They seem to understand that 98% of the fan base wants to be informed and entertained as a pastime, not incited and instigated towards hatred as a lifestlye.

    • I might normally agree with you, but I sense that this is a backhanded slap against oilpressure. This is not a site that normally seeks out the dark cloud, but George also tries to acknowledge that not everything is rosy in the IICS. This is a major story and cannot be swept under the rug.

      • and actually, this is the fun part.

      • It is not a slap at George, it is a reaction to an overwhelming accumulation of pointless negative and generally false speculation about everything this off season. The car’s a pig. There’s only going to be two ovals. There’s only going to be 15 cars. There’s not enough engines cause there’s 30 cars. Boo Hoo we invented twitter and get no credit for it. Izod is bailing on the series. The family is going to fire Randy.

        To me part of the problem is that the off season is just too long and as a result everyone has too much time to spend talking about anything other than ACTUAL RACING. Here’s to Getting Started at Phoenix the week before the superbowl,

    • Sorry we have independent thought. We’ll try and just buy the PR mindlessly like you want us to.

      • Dylan: Three guidelines for relevant bloggering:
        1 – Think Independently – we agree on that one.
        2 – Opinion should be informed by fact and truth.
        3 – Criticism should be accompanied by plausible realistic alternatives.

        The first without the second two is just irrelevant noise…

    • Bent Wickerbill Says:

      Well, I guess that settles that…. Geezus, what were we all thinking…
      BTW… It’s time to take the needle out of your arm and put that baby back on the vinyl disk…..

  10. I’d blame Lotus for having no speed or reliability. With Dragon I’d still blame Lotus some, because they were the idiots who trusted Dragon in the first place, if it’s true it’s Dragon’s fault. But if it’s true Lotus is that low on engines then there’s a serious problem.

  11. My honest opinion is that the legal wrangling in 2011 with appeals and such into late fall to determine ownership of all things Team Lotus v Group Lotus-related, required the engine development to be significantly slowed until the thing got figured out, which wasn’t until as late as November 2011.

    It’s part of the reason you now see the official Lotus cars in Black/Gold Trim (not British Racing Green/yellow which is used by former Team Lotus/Malaysia Racing in F1 – Tony Fernandes – which is now Caterham racing in F1 which races under the Green and Yellow scheme)

    No one I’ve read yet has researched this part of the equation to determine if/how it affected the Indycar motor development.

  12. Racing Truth Says:

    For the record, despite it all, the Lotus, while still slowest, was only 1.09 secs. behind P1. That’s not terrible, folks.

  13. Steve K Says:

    Why would Bourdais join a team that was this touch and go. Remember he signed before Pugeot folded. Isn’t Legge a pay driver? This has to be a Lotus issue. They have been communicating poorly from the start. What other reason would Dragon bother showing up for? SFR should consider themselves lucky.

  14. Ron Ford Says:

    I am going to have to go along with JPindycar’s opinion on this matter. What he said. I think there is way to much hand wringing, sky is falling, negativity about these engine issues. So Simona had a wiring problem, so what? They got it fixed, she got in 64 laps and was only one second behind. Not too bad. Take a look at Marshall Pruett’s photos of the various engine bays at Sebring. To this ol’ shade tree mechanic those look like very, very, complicated installations. I think all the engine manufacturers and teams are paddling as fast as they can and are probably not too worried about what various bloggers think. I believe that as fans we should be happy to have them and don’t need to be constantly picking apart and questioning their every move. Independent thought does not have to be grumpy thought.

  15. Yeah, nobody will score any points for guessing this, because it’s far too obvious, but I’m basically with JP (and Ron just above me) here.

    I will not disagree that the situation with Lotus and/or Dragon is anything but unfortunate. It is very unfortunate, it’s a bummer, and (the way I personally feel about it) it’s a disappointment. But the situation is far from being something that should outrage any of us to the point where we HAVE TO absolutely know what is going on right this second. I’ve been in somewhat similar situations in the past (well, situations that look like tiddlywinks, compared to anything that’s going on in IndyCar, but enough that I can understand what it’s like when a vendor is behind on delivery and/or you’re waiting for a check to clear, whichever applies to this particular situation), and in these situations, things change by the hour. That’s probably the reason for no forthcoming details or press releases, because such information would probably be out of date within hours. Why cast dispersions on the other party with a tersely worded press release or statement to Jenna Fryer when you A) still have to work with the other party for the rest of the year and B) they may yet come through for you in the extremely near future. None of us commenting here (well, unless any of us work for Lotus or Jay Penske, in which case, apologies, and I’m rooting for you this season) NEEDS to know the details right now,so that’s why we don’t know. We’ll know what the story is in due time (like, before St. Pete, I guarantee it).

    Really, this next part isn’t a slap at George (and, really, I don’t even think George seems all that upset about this issue, he’s just asking questions), because he’s been one of the voices of sanity in this long, drawn out offseason, but in this Age of the Internet, people are waaaayyyyy to easily drawn into being outraged about whatever might not be going perfectly today. “The new car didn’t stack up to my aesthetic ideal.” IT’S AN OUTRAGE! “The new car only did 215 at the first test at The Speedway.” IT’S AN OUTRAGE! “The new engine situation is an ongoing, well, situation, and isn’t perfectly hammered out yet.” IT’S AN OUTRAGE! “Driver X and Y are on the sideline while some loser [insert whatever guy you don't particularly like here] walked in with a check and kicked him out of a ride that Driver X or Y might not have been a candidate for in the first place.” IT’S AN OUTRAGE! “The chuckleheads over at NASCAR got the drop on IndyCar on splashing Twitter handles all over the on-screen graphics during races.” OUTRAGE! “Some engine supplier or team didn’t come through on a promise.” OUTRAGE! Jeez. That stuff is all disappointing, but I try to reserve actual, palpable expressions of rage for stuff like human rights violations or stories of people getting screwed by insurance companies. I mean, to each their own, but not getting that wound up allows me to sleep better than I used to in the days where I flew off the handle at the slightest thing. In the grand scheme of zero to Auschwitz, IndyCar’s relatively minor issues don’t really move the needle for me. We’re still gonna have a season, and it still promises to be better than anything that we’ve seen in the world of open wheel racing in year. Again, to each their own, though. Whatever floats your boat, I guess.

    Sorry for the late comment, but the IE6 on my work computer does not allow me to post a comment on any website that was created post-Friendster.

    • indygrrl Says:

      I think that is part of the point, a press release would not be outdated unless it is printed. Why have technology and not use it to keep people informed. Fans DO want to know what is going on, especially where IndyCar is concerned. A lot of promises were made this season and this was the “compromise” that was reached. Of course we want the news–we are not miserable nay-sayers with dark clouds hanging over us, we are fans whose appetite was whetted by big changes this year and they just have gradually gone away. It’s kind of bizarre to think that they may snatch back to cars from last year and stick them on the track again, but stranger things have happened.

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