The family of the late Colin Chapman has dealt a sickening blow to the hopes of Tony Fernandes’ Team Lotus (nee Lotus Racing) outfit, by throwing its support behind the Lotus-backed Renault F1 team, just a year after it had given its full support to the Malaysian-owned debutant outfit.
Additionally, the family has said that it would prefer the ‘Team Lotus’ name not make a return to the Formula 1 stage, despite Fernandes having purchased the rights for its use from David Hunt (brother of the late 1976 World Champion James), who acquired the rights to the name after Team Lotus collapsed at the end of the 1994 season.
The announcement is an added curve-ball to the protracted naming rights dispute between Team Lotus and Group Lotus, who both wish to run the ‘Lotus’ name in 2011 – the former as a constructor, and the latter as a title sponsor.
But now Clive Chapman (pictured), son of the late Colin who was the team’s founder in the 1950s until his death in 1982, has spoken out for the first time and thrown his support behind the Dany Bahar-led push to rebrand the Renault F1 team.
A statement issued on behalf of the family quoted Clive – the managing director of Classic Team Lotus – as giving his full support to Bahar, on the basis of Group Lotus’ decision to terminate its five-year license with Fernandes to use its name.
We had previously speculated that Chapman’s support was starting to waiver when the naming rights dispute first surfaced in early October.
“The Chapman Family is impressed by the exciting developments underway at Group Lotus, and it is very grateful to Proton for the significant investment that is being made, to secure a strong future for the excellent workforce at the Hethel factory,” the statement reads.
“In 2010 the Chapman Family and Classic Team Lotus have been pleased to support Group Lotus in many ways. In consultation with Proton, this included supporting the use of the Lotus name in Formula 1, which was licensed by Group Lotus.
“The Chapman Family was impressed by the achievements of Lotus Racing as a new team, and appreciated its respect for Team Lotus history. However, then its license to use the Lotus name was terminated and things changed,” it adds.
The Chapman family has asked that the ‘Team Lotus’ moniker not be reborn, in spite of Fernandes having purchased the naming rights in order to rebrand the team after it lost its license from Group Lotus.
“During 2010, the Chapman Family, as and when appropriate, made it clear to those involved that it would prefer that the Team Lotus name should not be used in Formula 1. Indeed, assurances to this effect were received,” the statement continues.
“The Team Lotus identity represents the motor racing legacy of Colin Chapman, and this was preserved by the Chapman Family and invested within Classic Team Lotus. The association by Group Lotus with Team Lotus history is much appreciated and entirely appropriate, especially as it is in keeping with how things were in Colin Chapman’s time.
“The Chapman Family is looking forward to continuing to give its support to Group Lotus, which is the ongoing Lotus entity created by Colin and Hazel Chapman. After all, the Lotus marque is the responsibility of Group Lotus, and Hethel is the home of Lotus.”
Such statement can make or break any legal claim that either party may have when the matter is eventually heard before the High Court in London, but this won’t have done anything to help Tony Fernandes’ case at all…