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Lotus – A Racing Legend

Ayrton Senna's 1985 Lotus JPS

The question: “Who is Lotus?” has several answers of equal importance. Lotus is without any doubt one of the most famous sports cars manufacturers in the world and also a successful Formula 1 team that managed to win 73 races in its history with famous drivers like Mario Andretti and Jim Clark.

The origins of the company go back to 1952 when the late Colin Chapman opened a company named “Lotus Engineering Ltd”. In its first years, Lotus competed in sports car categories and by 1958 the company diversified and entered the F1 championship. Team Lotus was created as a separate company from Lotus engineering and went on to dominate the championship. Chapman became famous as an innovator, both in the car design and business as he was the one that introduced the concept of aerodynamics and sponsorship to the sport. Team Lotus won seven constructor’s championships, six drivers’ titles, 73 GP wins as well as over 100 pole-positions.

After the death of Chapman, the Lotus Company during the 80s and 90s wasn’t very successful but the team still was responsible for introducing some of the best drivers, like Nigel Mansell and Mika Hakkinen, both future world champions. In 1985, Team Lotus provided legend Ayrton Senna with his very first racing winning car. All of these successes were not enough for the company which eventually folded in 1994 due to the high debts that new owner David Hunt wasn’t able to pay off.

The Lotus name in Formula One was revived by Tony Fernandez who formed a team named 1Malaysia Racing which he wanted to race in the 2010 F1 championship. He wanted to attract some big names and asked Lotus to use the name for the team. Dany Bahar, Lotus Car boss agreed to Tony’s request as he always wanted on returning the Lotus name to F1. He was a formed brand manager for Ferrari and he immediately recognized the marketing potential of the sport and was hoping to market Lotus just like Ferrari. This method would involve Lotus purchasing a team and rely on television and press coverage to advertise the Lotus Company to the entire world, something Bahar thinks to be more effective than traditional poster and television campaigns.

Tony’s tactic paid off as he managed to attract respected designers like Mark Smith and Mike Gasgoyne plus racing winning drivers like Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen. This team went on becoming the best of the newcomers in 2010 and allowed Fernandez to think about a more promising 2011. With the support of Red Bull’s hydraulic package and gearbox, 2011 looks like a very interesting year for Lotus in F1.

Fans of Lotus think that the strong performances of Fernandez’s team are the continuation of Chapman’s team established 50 years ago. In order to emphasize this connection, Fernandez organized several events, including the 50th anniversary of the company’s first F1 success. At the event, many of the members of the old team Lotus participated to celebrate the anniversary. Fernandez also tried to acquire the rights of the “Team Lotus” name for the next year from David Hunt. This name was the original one of the team which Hunt still owned and he claims that because “Lotus Cars” and “Team Lotus” had always operated as separate firms, Fernandez would not need the permission of Lotus Cars to call his team “Lotus” and as a consequence, wouldn’t be a subject to the Bahar’s demands.


However, Dany didn’t agree to this as he believes that his firm owns the “Group Lotus” and claims that the “Team Lotus” is equally a part as “Lotus Cars”. To sustain his opinion, he took legal actions against Tony Fernandez in order to stop him using the “Team Lotus” name. At the same time, Bahar still was wishing for F1 participation and purchased a stake in the ART Racing group. ART has teams in both GP2 and GP3 competitions and plans on entering F1 somewhere in the upcoming future. Due to lack of funding, the company wasn’t able to participate in the 2010 season but with the help of Bahar, it will most likely enter F1 in 2013 as Lotus ART. 2013 will be the year when there will be massive regulation changes, giving them enough time to prepare for the new restrictions and regulations.

It wasn’t long before Bahar started to doubt regarding if his legal actions will be a success or not and started searching for a possibility to enter Lotus Cars in F1 in 2011. Bahar was aware of the fact that Fernandez doesn’t have any options to stop him naming another team Lotus and he hoped that Fernandez will then realize that it wouldn’t be beneficial for either of the parties to have two teams wearing the same name and as a consequence would sell eventually the “Team Lotus” name to Bahar.

The latter was lucky because Renault was looking at altering the company’s strategy and planned selling 25% of its share in the Formula 1 team and instead begin supplying engines to a couple of teams. It is stated that Bahar wanted to buy Renault’s stake of the F1 team and supply majority shareholder Genni Capital with extra $30 million annually to run the team, using the Lotus Renault name.

This provided Bahar with access to the negotiations and sources say that he requested that Renault stipulate in the contract that Fernandez could only get Renault power units if he agreed to drop the Lotus name. The latter gave up on the Lotus name and Renault announced that it will be supplying engines to 1Malaysia Racing Team.

Fernandez did not give up and he announced that he will be using a black & gold livery on the Lotus cars for the 2011 season. Without any doubt, there will be a Lotus team in F1, but we don’t know if it will be the old Renault team or Fernandez’s team. Either way, it will be more competitive.

Source: FOFF.com

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