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Back to the future as Lotus joins F1 entry list
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Back to the future as Lotus joins F1 entry list
Posted By:   |  07 Jun 2009   |  7:55 am GMT  |  0 comments

Formula 3 team Litespeed has announced that it’s F1 team name, if it’s 2010 entry is accepted by the FIA this week, will be Lotus.

Last week we had a team using the Brabham name and there are rumours that March is going to be recycled. If it carries on like this we’re all going to have to start growing mutton chop sideburns again.

Litespeed is owned by two ex Lotus engineers and they have persuaded David Hunt, who owns the rights to the name, to let them use it. Lotus won the world championship with Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt, Emerson Fittipaldi and Mario Andretti as well as seven constructors’ championships. It fizzled out of F1 in 1994.
Picture 13

This harking back to great names from the 1960s and ’70s is interesting on several levels. These are names from the period when Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone were having fun in F1, enjoying racing for racing’s sake, but poised to take over the whole show. F1 worked for them then because it was basically Ferrari vs a bunch of English engineers with Cosworth engines. It was about innovation. F1, like life generally, has become a lot more complicated since.

There does seem to be a nostalgia for those days in much of what is going on at the moment in this 2010 entry crisis. And also it begs the question, what’s in a name? Do we miss Minardi? Would we miss BMW Sauber? They are just entrants, like the many who have been in F1 and gone.

As long as the teams were competently run and the cars competitive so that the team was contributing to the show, does it really matter who’s out there? Well it does a bit. Some of these old team names bolted onto new teams seem like a veneer to me, success by association, rather than achievement. It feels like a branding exercise, when what matters is the beating heart of the team.

But it’s also about scale; the manufacturers in the sport at the moment add tremendous prestige and attract sponsors. As a business, F1 is a bigger place with them in, rather than F3 teams with old F1 names.

What it also does is reinforce the significance of Ferrari, McLaren and Williams, as teams which have survived since those times and continue to provide the spine of Formula 1.

“Team Lotus is synonymous with great British engineering and F1 innovation, ” said the statement. “Such as the Lotus 25 being the first monocoque chassis in F1 and the introduction of groundbreaking sponsorship, both of which easily demonstrate why ex-Lotus personnel would want to bring this championship-winning name back to the formula. Litespeed was born from a similar British background – a factor that was at the core of Colin Chapman’s beliefs and subsequent success.”

Max Mosley couldn’t have written it better himself.

Johnny Herbert is involved as a front man and ex Toyota, Renault and Jordan technical director Mike Gascoyne is in charge of the engineering side of things for this project. Also a native of Norfolk, like Lotus, Gascoyne has been around the block in F1 and knows what it takes to build a state of the art car.

And he will be joined by some really talented staff, no doubt, because when the current F1 teams either don’t enter next year or lay off 300 people each to fit under the budget cap, there will be lots of very skilled people on the market. Projects like this will recycle some of them.

Litespeed/Lotus will operate out of the factory in Norfolk which used to run the TOM’S Toyota team and which was used by Audi and Bentley’s Le Mans projects. There is no indication given of where the money is coming from.

Like all the others, they will learn on June 12th whether their entry has been accepted.

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  1. Sinker says:

    I don’t agree with this at all, the reusing of old names. It just proves that it is all about money for these new-comers; racing to compete and history be damned; ‘Lotus’ on the nose cone is going to draw more sponsorship than ‘Litespeed’. I got excited when I saw the Lotus logo in your article, James, then I started reading and was bitterly disappointed :o(

    If these new teams were genuinely serious about the sport in the long term then they’d want to make a name for themselves (like everyone else has), not standing on the shoulders of past giants and hoping it’ll gain them some ‘street cred’. It certainly won’t gift them any more speed nor respect from current teams.

    I think I’d be a bit upset if I were an employee of the real Lotus, you know, the car manufacturer!

  2. phil c says:

    James

    The question i want answered is of all these new teams where are the dollars going to come from. I dont hear about any sponsorship deals, Brawn is still very bare for a car that has won 5 races. You would think they would want to secure the biggest deal they could. The issue for me here is not the winning car, it is the name of the car. If it was names Mercedes, Audi, Porsche, any other name that is universally recongnised, i have no doubt sponsors would attached themselves to the car. People cannot relate to Brawn, same would go for these other no names teams. With all respect, to private teams, Williams has only survived because he has been in f1 for years and has an established brand these other teams will struggle without the manufacture teams attracting big viewing numbers and sponsors. Vodafone are on Mclaren, because all the big teams and drivers attract millions of people to watch f1.

    F1 needs stability, and like you said names come and go. But no sport can survive without huge financial penalty when 3/4 of the grid disappears.

    I am becoming increasingly frustrated with all this and it seems to me max is on a rampage to leave is last mark on f1.

    Why doesn’t anybody in the press look at the human toll that will be incurred from this. Downunder there are crazy union movements at the moment as people are being sacked. Shorley going from 350million to 45 millions will involve the sacking of 1000′s of people accross the grid. If the teams stay and proceed there will only be 3 new teams on the grid at most, (if they can get the $$ and build a car which is reasonable.) What happens to the rest of the people. They are left high and dry.

    One thing i find interesting Alonso has come out and said he doesn’t want to be apart of f1 which is second rate. It would be interested to hear the views of other drivers, because if they side with the teams f1 is in real trouble. and i would think whilst under contract they will side with the team.

  3. Kenny says:

    James,

    Do you know if Lotus are involved at all? Will they allow the F1 team to use the sequential design numbers? I wonder what number they are up to now.

    At least there is some connection between this project and Team Lotus, with an established racing team involved and some top tier personnel…unlike “Brabham” and “March”.

  4. MichaelC says:

    I think Dave Richard’s approach is better for those who have fond memories and respect for those historic teams.
    Prodrive will adopt the Aston Martin name in a couple of seasons by which time they should be more competitive having ironed out the kinks which the new teams almost certainly will encounter in the first few seasons.

    Interesting you didn’t mention Renault in your article. How do you think people will feel about a grid without Flavio and Alonso if an agreement isn’t reached between FOTA and the FIA.

    The interview with Ross Brawn is worth a look concerning what has happened recently and you can’t help but wish that people that share his opinions and approach were resolving this rather than the people that have been taking a far more hardline approach. I think it was mentioned during the BBC presentation that this should actually be handled in a more discreet manner. Sorry for getting a little off topic.

    http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/75901

  5. alex says:

    James, I know this is ony somewhat related to your post, but I want to say something abt Turkey GP and the lack of spectators. It is so sad to see entire stands empty and covered with cloths so that… they do not look like stands any more.
    Pathetic, considering there could be other venues which would attract full houses. So most of them are in Europe. So what?
    Should F1 not be seen by those who really love it as opposed to being forced down throats of people who do not care for it?
    The marques you mentioned in the post became legends in a F1 WC that was almost totally played in Europe. But they still became legends and did in front of hundreds of thousands of adoring fans. Not empty stands covered by colored cloths.
    More euro races would return F1 to its true fan base, AND cut down costs quite a bit.

    I just sense a return to more realistic economics all over the world (ie things valued according to the real interest of the real purchasers and not estimated values based on ads and marketing), maybe Max is sensing it too.

  6. F1nn says:

    It isn’t the marque that matters.

    It is the quality of the team, car and drivers.

  7. ATM_Andy says:

    I’m not sure how I feel about this.

    It won’t be Team Lotus, just the name, however Nino and Steve are really good guys and Mike is actually better than most people give him credit for.

  8. Howard Hughes says:

    Great points James. On the one hand we all secretly yearn for the names that used to thrill us – Lotus, Brabham, Tyrell, Hesketh, Wolf; I’m 36 so was only a toddler when some of these were doing their thing, but even the mention of some of these names reminds me of my dad waking me on a Sunday night to sight and watch the highlights before I was barely old enough to know what homework was… They conjure up instant images of fat tyres, sideburns, patches sewn on scruffy overalls, playboy drivers sitting round having bbqs and beers with each other after qualifying, fans milling round the pitlane… *sigh*

    I’m no Robbie Williams fan, but tell me this doesn’t make you wish for a time machine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sh9NnoOjgk

    However, doesn’t it cheapen these wonderful memories to simply trawl through the copyright files, dust off an old brand name, and, as you say, just bolt it on to an emerging concern? It would actually seem less cynical if on one was doing it – it would look like they were a genuinely passionate concern. But if we end up with a grid full of retro names it could look awfully like a nostalgia-by-numbers gig.

    Mosley, whatever else he may be, is nobody’s fool. (In fact I’m starting to consider whether he may not actually be the more dangerously capable adversary in public life – seriously, is there no battle for control or supremacy this guy can’t eventually win, even when he looks ready to be written off?) He knows that the biggest accusation that can be levelled against his 2010 proto-grid of embryos is that they’re Johnny-come-latelys, with zero experience and even less provenance. How to combat this? Bingo – slap on the old decals from teams gone by and claim instant heritage.

    I just hope his idea doesn’t alienate the fans, and end up coming back to spank him.

  9. jw1980 says:

    James,

    I remember when Lotus pulled out of F1 in the 1990s David Hunt being involved somewhere towards the end and trying to keep the team in F1 so there is a limted connection to the previous team.

    On another note I have just been watching the support races for the Turkish GP and it has to be said what a pretty depressing state of affairs. Where’s the crowd? The Porsche Supercup race only had 13 entrants. That must be the smallest field ever. A couple of years ago there must have been 30 cars in each race.

    I would have thought that it’s vital that tradional races are kept on the calendar because when contracts run out in places like Turkey or Malaysia surely they will not renew. What’s the point? Twenty races in one season is too many anyway. Sixteen was always the best number.

    A few years ago I considered going to the Turkish GP. Istanbul is a great city but watching it on t.v. suggests that there will be no atmosphere at the actual circuit.

  10. John says:

    I think its a good thing these old names are maybe coming back into F1, these are the names that normal folk, who dont follow F1 so much remember and have heard of and also fans thats were turned away by F1 as it is now remember. I think it will be a good thing for F1. Talk of the budget cap has obviously allowed for smaller teams to consider coming back into the sport which can only be good. Everyone loves a small team taking it to the big outifts. From my point of view I miss the Minardi name a whole lot more than I would if the BMW name was to go. Minardi existed to race in F1, BMW exists in F1 to sell more cars. Your point about veneer, surely this is the same thing BMW and Mercedes have done by buying Sauber and taking a stake in McLaren. With how expensive F1 is at the moment, I dont think some of the big sponsors will be around much longer in the economic downturn, e.g: ING, RBS have already gone. Just like most sports these days, it seems to be more about money and big business and less about the actual sport. I am all for smaller teams, less money, less politics and more sports

  11. rpaco says:

    James, your excellent piece above has reminded me that as you turn in to the gate of the Lotus site at Hethel you are confronted by the large sign/plaque on the island between the in and outward gates (and before your camera and mobile are taken off you by the security guard) which says “Lotus, World Champions” then a list of years, sadly the dates are all too long in the past.
    Of course neither Lotus Engineering nor Lotus Cars will have much if anything, to do with a new F1 race team, although the images and trophies in the foyer will still provide a mental link.

    I can’t help thinking how very different Colin Chapman would find the ethos of today. He excelled in the era when cars were built only to qualify and run the race; if it did not fall to bits as it passed the finish line then it was over engineered and savings could be made somewhere. Unfortunately he went too far to often and the marque was plagued with DNFs Also he would not have had the driver interfering with or commenting on the setup.

  12. Alexx says:

    I agree 100% with you James about, where is the $$$

    Money talks and ……

    These teams are trying to buy credibility with team names that havent been in F1 for 25 years!

    Wake up Max!

  13. Andy says:

    Maybe Max wants all the old names back on the entry list so that if Ferrari/Mclaren go else where F1 household names will remain

  14. Rich says:

    I, too, am not too sure about this one. But at least they have *some connection to the old Lotus team. Not like those “Brabham” ppl!

  15. Alistair Blevins says:

    Please let the cars be black and gold.

    Do Lotus (the manufacturer) have any say in the matter of whether their name is used or not? I’m certain they do…

    I’m sure given their recent road car successes they will be less inclined to be associated with an autonomous team, especially given the way they exited the sport in 1995 – partnered with Pacific if I remember correctly.

  16. David Reimer says:

    Two personal “very nearly’s”…

    First: I very nearly gave up following F1 when Jochen Rindt died…

    Second: I very nearly commented on JA’s Brabham blog post that the name I wanted to see back in F1 was Lotus.

    There’s very nearly enough right notes sounded in the Litespeed-Lotus bumf to make me believe it.

    Oops! That’s three “very nearly’s”….

  17. GP says:

    How can you be a serious competitor when you have such little pride that you use the name and reputation of another?

  18. MrExasperated says:

    All this talk of cutting cost and budget caps…Why is nothing mentioned about 2 other main areas where costs cut be cut to help the sport….NOT for the teams but ;

    a) The circuits which would in turn allow cuts in ticket prices which may cause
    b) More Fans to actually fill these empty grandstands!

    How can it be sensible to expect Teams to cut their costs yet Bernie still charge such ridiculous fees to the circuits and in turn the circuits charge ridiculous fees to the fans.

    I dont understand a lot of the comments on this blog whi seem to be in favour of the FIA, but to me its between FIA and Ecclestone thats destroying this sport not the teams.

    Ecclestone for his greed and the need to service the CVC loans and
    Mosley’s unadultered arrogance and singlemindedness, wanting to prove something rather than do the sensible thing.

    If you really want to save money, I agree wholeheartedly with the team;

    * Stop changing the rules every year, have at least say a 3 year stabiliity between changes.
    * Have less flyaway races not more.

    James, what do think of what I say above, reason or rant?

  19. James Allen says:

    I think it’s great that we have a spectrum of opinion. Some people like the FIA’s ideas, some people hate them. It’s a debate the sport is having with itself at the moment and we are reflecting the fans’ view here on JA on F1. I’m not going to say whether I agree with your position, but it doesn’t read like a rant..

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