Almost four decades after the glory days of Jim Clark and Colin Chapman, the famous green and yellow of Lotus will return to the Indianapolis 500 thanks to a deal with KV Racing to field Takuma Sato for this IndyCar season.
The Japanese ex-Formula One driver was already scheduled to run the full year for KV, having failed to secure an F1 drive with Lotus. The deal will kick in from the second race of the season, when the series returns to American soil after its season opener this weekend in Brazil.
He said: “This is fantastic news for everyone. It is exciting for me to be a Lotus driver and I’m really looking forward to great success with this new project.”
The Indy campaign is being run by a separate branch of the group from the Formula One team and has no connection with it bar the name and colour scheme – but closer ties between Lotus and its F1 engine supplier Cosworth have led to that company’s name being used too.
This will lead to the incongruous sight of a Dallara-built and Honda-powered machine being promoted as a Lotus-Cosworth IndyCar. Lotus is hoping to join the series in future years as a supplier.
It competed in the IndyCar Series during the 1960s, winning the Indianapolis 500 race outright in 1965 with the pioneering Lotus Type 38 and its driver Clark, and narrowly missing an earlier victory by finishing runner-up in its debut year of 1963.
CEO Dany Bahar said: “Racing has always defined Lotus and on many occasions in motorsports history Lotus’ numerous innovations have re-defined racing. It’s only fitting that as the Lotus Racing name re-enters Formula One, we will also race and innovate again in IndyCar.
“The Lotus name will, once again, compete in the top two open-wheel racing series for the passion and enthusiasm of car fans around the globe.”
A joint statement by KV owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser said: “We are delighted to be part of Lotus and Cosworth’s return to the IndyCar Series, and with Takuma at the wheel of the classic racing green and yellow Lotus Cosworth race car, we expect to be formidable competitors this year.”
KV are one of the teams that merged into the IndyCar Racing League from Champ Car and so far have been among the most successful, with Brazilian Mario Moraes developing rapidly into a fast, if erratic, threat. He returns this year alongside Sato and Venezuelan EJ Viso.
Rumours had connected Lotus with British driver James Rossiter after he tested for KV in a black and gold car reminiscent of its 1970s F1 machines, but the company did not return a call seeking clarification and, if he ever was in the frame, the Sato deal has frozen the ex-Honda F1 tester out.
Rossiter is back in the UK attempting to secure the funding to pick up the IndyCar season from its second race: “Unfortunately couldn’t put the deal together for the first race. Hopefully be at St. Pete,” he wrote on Twitter. “Meetings today and tonight to make sure I’m on the grid ASAP.”