Who Dropped The Ball This Time?
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.