This afternoon the family of Lotus founder and legendary engineer Colin Chapman issued a statement which distances them from the Tony Fernandes vision for Lotus. It’s not a body blow to the Malaysian’s plans, but it is an important piece on the chess board which has now fallen to Danny Bahar and Group Lotus.
They were present at the launch in London and Clive is reported to have entrusted his father’s famous corduroy cap to Fernandes to use when the team won a race. Colin used to throw the cap high into the air when his drivers won races. Today’s statement doesn’t mention Fernandes by name and presumably they will be asking for the cap back.
Last summer at the British Grand Prix Clive and Hazel Chapman were guests of Fernandes in the paddock and I had a long chat with Clive about the Lotus Racing project, of which he seemed supportive. But the dispute with Group Lotus has clearly changed their view.
The statement, written by Clive, says that now Group Lotus has withdrawn the licence for Fernandes’ team to use the Lotus name in F1 and particularly now that Fernandes has responded by rebranding his outfit as Team Lotus, which Chapman says the family did not want to happen, they have switched their backing to Bahar and Group Lotus.
“In consultation with Proton, (the family’s support) included supporting the use of the Lotus name in Formula One, 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.
“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 One. Indeed, assurances to this effect were received.”
Once the licence from Group Lotus was withdrawn, one year into a five year agreement, Fernandes struck a deal with David Hunt who owned the rights to the Team Lotus name. Group Lotus dispute the rights and the matter will be heard in the High Court in London next summer.
But the loss of the backing of the Chapman family will be keenly felt by Fernandes. It takes away a key arm of legitimacy from his Lotus vision.
The end of the statement clearly spells out where the family’s loyalties lie,
“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.”
Team Lotus were unreachable this afternoon and neither Fernandes nor technical director Mike Gascoyne have made any comment via Twitter at this point. Fernandes’ last tweet said that he was going on holiday after a long, hard year. It just got harder.