Team Lotus has vowed to take 'a big step-up' with its new Renault-powered T128 in F1 2011 - with Mike Gascoyne describing it as a far more 'contemporary' design than its predecessor and Jarno Trulli eyeing midfield scraps and points-chasing races right from the word 'go'.

The T128 was officially unveiled via an online presentation this morning (Monday), and the car will take to the test track for the first time in Valencia on Wednesday, following a day's private running on Tuesday. It was, pronounced team principal Tony Fernandes, a proud moment.

"There has been so much focus off-track that it's a thrill to be able to get back to talking about racing," enthused the AirAsia founder, with Team Lotus showcasing its new challenger to the world's media and fans several hours ahead of its bitter rival Lotus Renault GP, with the pair's row over the Lotus naming rights still showing no signs of conciliation.

"The launch of the T128 is a big step forward for Team Lotus, and I want to thank the whole team for the amount of hard work that has already gone into the car. I also want to thank Renault and Red Bull Technology for their tremendous support in helping us make this step forward and for being such great team partners."

As Lotus Racing in its maiden campaign of top flight competition in F1 2010, the Anglo/Malaysian outfit wound up as the best of the three newcomers - but with the deliberately conservative, Cosworth-powered T127 having been penned with reliability foremost amongst its priorities, raw pace was sacrificed. Chief technical officer Gascoyne assures that the visibly more aggressive T128 will be a quantum leap forward in the performance stakes.

"This year's car is a much more contemporary design," the Englishman mused of the green-and-yellow liveried contender, which will benefit from Red Bull gearbox and hydraulics technology. "I think that basically this car looks like a front-running car in every area. We said very clearly that we want to start challenging the established teams, and I think that's very achievable.

"The car really will be a midfield runner. It's a modern F1 car. There's been almost no carry-over of parts for the 2011 car, whereas normally you'd have a substantial carry-over and the chance to optimise last year's parts. It looks substantially different from last year's car - it has a much more current feel about it - and it's the basis of our cars for the future. I'm very confident it is a big step-up and that it's the start of a process that takes Team Lotus back to the front of the grid."

"T128 takes Team Lotus in exactly the right direction," concurred CEO Riad Asmat. "We have said since day one of the Team Lotus dream that the plan for our second year was to take the fight to the midfield, and with this car we are all confident that is what we will be able to do."

Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen - grand prix-winners both - remain on the driving strength, and having lamented that 2010 was the 'worst season' of his entire F1 career [see separate story - click here], the Italian is palpably champing at the bit to get back towards where he belongs, in the fight for points and the podium.

"Sitting on the grid in Bahrain this year will feel very different - a different tension," the 36-year-old reflected. "Last year, we were just aiming to finish the race. This year, we'll be aiming to finish in the points - and with the package we have, that should be achievable."

Indeed, so lofty are the ebullient Team Lotus' ambitions for the season ahead that chief operating officer Keith Saunt is targeting between 30 and 40 points and seventh spot in the final constructors' rankings - what would represent a three-place improvement on 2010.

"I doubt there'll be a lot between sixth, seventh and eighth," he opined, confirming that unlike the established front-runners, the team will not begin the campaign with KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems). "Depending on how the other guys are doing, seventh could be achievable. You can just see that this car will be faster than last year's. It's got the right sweeps and curves on it - it's the very latest iteration of what an F1 car should be.

"If KERS was going to get us from eighth to sixth then we'd have it, but when you look at the weight of it and some of the engineering challenges, I think it's a good decision not to start with it. We might end up with it, who knows?"

TO SEE PICTURES FROM THE T128 LAUNCH, CLICK HERE

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