March 24, 2012
Tagliani's engine a work in progress
By DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. - Alex Tagliani wants to see the positive in his situation in this brand new IZOD IndyCar Series season.
The Montreal native joined a new team — BHA Barracuda — this year to drive the No. 98 Dallara DW12 Lotus — but not everything has gone as expected.
There is nothing wrong with the pedigree of the Bryan Herta-owned team, in fact it is the same squad that won last year’s Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon behind the wheel.
But when Barracuda decided on Lotus as an engine supplier, little did the team realize that all kinds of problems would develop.
First Lotus was late to the game, months behind the efforts of Honda and Chevrolet in engineering a new power plant for IndyCar.
That resulted in Lotus being down on horsepower compared to its rivals.
It also meant Tagliani had precious little time to test — only a day and a half at Sebring International Raceway — before the team had to load up for St. Petersburg.
This while the Chevrolet and Honda teams were spending weeks on the track putting their new engines through the paces.
It is not in Tagliani’s DNA, however, to turn his back on a challenge.
“It is a little bit frustrating but it is what it is,” he said Friday as he walked through the IndyCar paddock along the shores of Gulf of Mexico.
“You look at what happened to Ferrari in Formula One in Australia last week. They have all the resources in the world and they were down on horsepower.
“So this is what we are facing.”
The performance issue has some Lotus drivers saying off the record that they are not pushing it to the limits because if the engine should fail, there are just no spares around to replace a broken one.
Four-time open-wheel champion Sebastien Bourdais, in fact, didn’t even have a Lotus engine for his No. 7 Dragon Racing machine until late Thursday.
Tagliani is no stranger, though, to starting out a season behind the eight-ball.
Back in 2003 at St. Petersburg, Tagliani arrived with no back-car and no transporter yet he ended up third on the gird after qualifying.
And last season he became the first Canadian to start on the pole at the Indy 500 driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports — another small team.
Tagliani said that he is proud of the No. 98 team, in spite of its current woes.
“As a team, Bryan Herta has done everything that could be expected,” he said. “Everybody on this team is dedicated to putting the best car possible on the race track.”
Tagliani said even Lotus is working hard under trying circumstances.
“Lotus was late because they are new this season,” he said. “When it came time to get on the dyno (measuring engine performance), Chevy and Honda were way ahead.”
There is also the fact that Lotus itself is going through a re-organization at the corporate level and that has to be affecting its racing program.
“So it is going to be a work in progress,” Tagliani said.
“We have to push (John) Judd (Lotus engine builder) and push Lotus every single day to make sure they can provide something that is going to be reliable.”