Long Beach, CA (April 15, 2012) – After the solid run at Barber, the Lotus HVM Racing team was confident that they would continue to improve at this weekend’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Unfortunately, that’s not how it played out.
With a crash in practice on Friday morning and a wash-out of afternoon practice, driver Simona De Silvestro only recorded a handful of laps in the #78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy car Friday. Things didn’t improve on Saturday. A water pump issue kept the Swiss driver off track during morning practice and she was only able to finish three laps in qualifying before a different issue sidelined her.
Frustrated, but hopeful the team was still optimistic that they could put together a strong car for the race. It looked like they were right all the way up until lap 74 of the 85 lap race. The car was running well, De Silvestro was driving hard and the crew teamed up for three great pit stops, but, with only 11 laps to go the engine failed.
“I’m really disappointed,” De Silvestro said. “It wasn’t a fun weekend at all. We had issues in practice and qualifying and only ran like six laps total going into the race, so we were excited to be running such a great race. We had good pit stops and only 11 laps to go when we lost the engine, so it’s really frustrating.”
De Silvestro and her crew impressed guests from sponsors AREVA, Holtec and Entergy that were in attendance this weekend. She had moved up in track position and was poised to have a top 12 finish at the track where she scored her first Atlantic Championship series win.
“A very frustrating weekend considering we did three laps in the dry,” said team owner Keith Wiggins. “We didn’t really get any running in because of various issues, so to have the place we had in the race is a credit to the crew, we did good stops and had a really good strategy going. Clearly we had a 10th or 11th place. To get so far and then for the engine to give up with 11 laps to go is extremely disappointing because we really needed the points and she was driving a fantastic race. It was more frustrating because it looked like it was all going to come together in the end, but we’ll have to move on.”
Wiggins is echoed by team manager Shane Seneviratne. “It’s was a pretty tough weekend from the start, but we recovered from it. We were having a great race and Simona did a good job driving. The crew did some awesome pit stops. It was unfortunate that we lost our motor. We just have to look forward to Brazil now.”
The team heads back to Indy tonight to prepare for their next race in Sao Paulo, Brazil were De Silvestro has led laps before.
The race will air NBC Sports on April 29, 2012.