Ex-Formula One driver, Jean Alesi, signed a contract with Newman/Haas yesterday to compete in the legendary Indianapolis 500 on 27th May 2012. Doubts had been growing over Alesi’s chance of competing in the race, after one of Lotus’ partners, HVM Racing owner Keith Wiggins, saying the money isn’t there to support an extra seat.

The difficulties experienced by Lotus in producing sufficient race engines for the series, exacerbated by recurring electrical problems experienced during the first race of the season at St Petersburg, have cast further doubts on Norfolk company’s ability to support Alesi’s one-off outing.

Newman/Haas originally announced last December they would not be competing in the 2012 Indy 500, but presumably somebody has come up with the money to make the deal work. Carl Haas’ team has been assisting Dragon Racing with its Lotus-powered cars, after being sidelined this season due to a lack of sponsorship.

47-year old Alesi will race at the Brickyard for the first time in his career, wearing the Centigraphe Sport watch on his wrist, with F.P.Journe emblazoned down the side of the black-and-gold Lotus-powered Dallara DW12.

Alesi’s decision to drive at Indianapolis is motivated by his role as a Lotus ambassador who participate in the IndyCar Series this year as an engine supplier, and also support the company’s marketing of its road cars as it seeks to raise its profile in the US.

Whilst the partnership between Lotus and F.P.Journe can be explained by the usual reasons (shared values, innovation, precision craftsmanship..), the partnership also cements the relationship between founder François-Paul Journe and Jean Alesi – two friends from the south of France with a shared passion for beauty through technology.