Team Lost-Us

Posted: April 9, 2012 in Formula 1
Tags: , , , , , ,

Before we get going, the Bahrain issue.  Having had a think about it, I’ve decided I don’t really want to dedicate a big chunk of time to writing about such an emotive issue, only to then be ripped to shreds by someone who couldn’t be bothered to read my words properly (hello, Martha. I trust you’re keeping well).  Life’s too short.  I’ll just say this instead: Damon Hill is a very intelligent, thoughtful man who has, in the end, arrived in somewhere approaching the right place.

Now, Lotus. You might recall that last year there were two teams laying claim to the Lotus name.  The good news for those who don’t recall, along with those who are only here because I made them visit and have exactly no idea of what I’m on about, is that I wrote about this last February.  To save you searching through the archives, just click here if you fancy a recap.  Give me a ring and I’ll come round and work the mouse for you as well.

The condensed milk version goes like this.  There was Team Lotus, whose cars were painted in green and yellow, were called Lotus and had a Renault engine in the back, but didn’t have the word Lotus written anywhere on them.  There was also Lotus Renault GP, whose black and gold cars were called Renault, had a Renault engine in the back but had Lotus written on them in big letters.

In times of old, there was the Team Lotus racing division and the Lotus Engineering road car division, later to become Group Lotus, both owned and ran by Colin Chapman.  In the years around and after Colin’s premature passing in 1982, the two divisions were acquired by different owners.  Without bogging ourselves down in the various things that happened in between (the link above does that if you’re interested), last year’s situation arose because Team Lotus had acquired the rights to use that name while Renault had agreed a title sponsorship deal with Group Lotus, leading to two separate factions bidding for the right to use the same brand in the same arena.  Matters were settled through the courts, Group Lotus came out on top and for 2012, the green and yellow car became known as a Caterham.  The black and gold car was a Lotus, there was to be no more confusion and, crucially, nobody was ever going to ask me to explain which one was which again.

Fast forward to April 2012 and now the Lotus isn’t a Lotus anymore either, except that it is.

Group Lotus, you see, are having all kinds of financial problems.  For some time they’ve been a massive drain on the resources of their owners, the Malaysian car company Proton.  There are reports that the banks who have lending agreements with the group have stopped providing money since the turn of the year, citing the group’s failure to meet certain commitments made as part of those agreements.  This, as you can imagine, makes it difficult to keep on providing sponsorship money to a Formula 1 team, though that’s of secondary importance to the main event, which involves Group Lotus having a very large amount of debt (assuming, of course, that £250 million sounds like a large number to you) and a very small number of people buying their cars.

The upshot is that the Lotus F1 team are no longer connected to Group Lotus in any way.  The group no longer has an option to buy into the F1 team and their title sponsorship deal has been annulled.  However, the F1 team’s owners Genii Capital might still have some interest in buying the group from Proton over the coming months, so maintaining some kind of tenuous link to them is in their interests.  Added to that, it’s a pretty major effort to have a team name changed at the best of times, especially when a season has already started and especially when such a simple act can cost you millions of pounds in constructors prize money.  As a result, the racing team that isn’t connected to Group Lotus, Team Lotus or even the Lotus Express Chinese takeaway on Stockton Road is still known as…?

Yes.  It.  Is.

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