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New twist in Lotus saga as Lopez reveals Group Lotus split
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Posted By: James Allen  |  06 Apr 2012   |  12:57 pm GMT  |  158 comments

The use of the Lotus name in Formula 1 proved one of the most bitter and protracted sagas of recent times but a story that appeared to reach its resolution late last year has today taken a dramatic new turn with the revelation that the recently-rebranded Lotus F1 Team has cut all sponsorship ties with Group Lotus, little more than one season into a seven-year deal.

Genii Capital co-owner Gerard Lopez, whose Luxembourg-based investment company owns the Enstone-based former Renault team outright, has told Autosport that the title sponsorship agreement that he signed with Group Lotus in late 2010 has now been ended, along with the option that existed for the sportscar company to take an equity stake in the team, but never ultimately materialised.

“The sponsorship agreement and the obligations of Lotus have been terminated,” Lopez told Autosport. “There is no option from Group Lotus to buy into F1 now – that option was taken over by us. There was one, but we have taken it over now.”

After Group Lotus’s licencing agreement with Tony Fernandes’s then first-year F1 operation to use the Lotus Racing name broke down acrimoniously towards the end of 2010, the sportscar company and its ambitious CEO Dany Bahar opted to enter F1 in its own right in partnership with Lopez’s team, signing a title sponsorship deal until the end of 2017 with a view to taking on an ownership stake in future.

With Fernandes in parallel taking control of the historic Team Lotus name for 2011, it created the bizarre situation where two Lotus-branded, Renault-powered squads were on the grid – which prompted High Court proceedings. The subsequent verdict handed down retained the status quo before a settlement between the two parties at the end of last season led to Fernandes rebranding his team as Caterham and Lopez rolling out full Lotus branding for 2012.

But while’s today’s revelation means Group Lotus no longer holds a formal role at Enstone, Lopez has indicated he plans for his team to continue running under the Lotus name going forward and Genii is ready to fund any sponsorship shortfall. “We are happy to carry the Lotus name as we believe it is a good name for F1,” he explained. “We funded the team last year and the year before for whatever delta was missing. We would prefer to have sponsors up to the full amount – but if we have to fund it then we will fund it.”

Sir Jackie Stewart, who became a partner of Lopez’s Genii Business Exchange at the start of last year, has become increasingly active in the commerical side of the Lotus F1 Team and recently successfully brought in consumer goods firm Unilever, whose personal care Rexona and Clear brands appear on the E20 this year.

Lopez’s stated intention to carry on racing under the Lotus name wouldn’t represent the first time in recent years that a team has continued to carry the name of a manufacturer no longer actively involved in the team.

Sauber’s official team name remained as BMW Sauber throughout 2010 despite the German manufacturer having exited F1 the previous winter, while indeed Lopez’s team still ran with a Renault chassis last year despite the French carmaker by then only having been the engine supplier. In any case, applications to change chassis names are often a thorny subject in F1 given the names are linked to historical constructors’ championship finishing position payments.

The termination of the Group Lotus deal appears likely to be linked to the uncertainty surrounding the future of the sportscar maker, its struggling parent company Proton having recently been bought into by Malaysian conglomerate DRB-Hicom. Lopez was of course heavily linked to his own takeover of Lotus last year and asked if he would still be interested in buying the British-based company he said: “We don’t know yet, because we really do not know what the new owner wants to do with it.”

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1

A few days after this story broke I’m wondering how long Group Lotus/Genii have known this was going to happen. There’s a feel of “if I can’t have the toy, neither can you!” about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if ego dictated the Team Lotus/Group Lotus case was pursued to it’s conclusion with the aim of ensuring that if Group Lotus wasn’t actively in F1, neither would any other Lotus be.

2

More like:

Historical: Group Lotus (cars) & Team Lotus (F1)

(at some point David Hunt becomes custodian of Team Lotus name)

2010: Group Lotus licences Fernandez’s team to use the Lotus name. The team is registered under the name Lotus Racing.

2011: Group Lotus terminates the licence deal with Fernandez’s team and decides to enter into a major sponsorship deal with the Genii-owned, Enstone-based Renault F1 Team. The team becoming Lotus Renault GP.

Fernandez’s team in the meantime aquires the Team Lotus name from David Hunt for the 2011 season.

2012: SETTLEMENT: Fernandez’s team retires the Team Lotus name (Fernandez still owns the name if I am not mistaken, but has agreed not to use it) and changes team and chassis name to reflect his recent purchase of boutique kit-car company, Caterham.

In the meantime Group Lotus and Genii are successful in getting the Enstone-based team name and chassis re-branded to reflect the Lotus brand.

2012 II: Group Lotus reveals it is in no position to pay up on its sponsorship obligations, let alone move into an ownership stake of the team. So enters into a licence to use our name arangement with the Genii-owned, Enstone-based team that is smackingly similar to the one they orgininally had with Fernandez back in 2010!

C’MON!!

3

What a mess! What happened to Bahar’s, “There is only one Lotus”? They have muddled the Lotus brand more than ever! Does anyone know what’s a real Lotus anymore?

historical: Group Lotus, Team Lotus

2010: Group Lotus, Lotus Racing

2011: Group Lotus, Lotus-Renault, Team Lotus

2012 part 1: Group Lotus, Lotus F1 Team (formerly Lotus-Renault)

2012 part 2: Group Lotus, Lotus F1 Team (not affiliated with Group Lotus)

Even Group Lotus, it was owned by Proton, now it’s been sold to… who again?

How many companies can get their fingers in the Lotus name? We’ve been through 5 in the past 2 years! :D:D

4

Hard to understand and follow. Why don’t the team rename itself “Toleman”?

5

@James, Hi I notices a post made by @akbarfoto regarding Kimi’s power sterring and I too am trying to find out why Mclaren n Ferrari’s PS differs from the rest. Interestingly at Renult Alonso never had problems. Is this something the teams also develop? Would be happy to hear your theory.

6

Why am I not surprised about this with the involvement of Danny Bahar. They just need to wait for Proton and Lotus to go belly up and all will be up for grabs. I hope the F1 team will be able to continue using the Lotus name, and perhaps at least own one of them at some point in the future.

7

If I was in Genii’s position right now, I’d rip the Lotus logos off the car, file for a change of name to something like Toleman and be done with the whole sorry affair. Right now, the Lotus name seems to be a pox on everything it touches and as much as Lopez claims he’s fine with acting as a mobile billboard for them I suspect he won’t be once the bills start adding up. I’d probably also give the same advice to Judd in light of the IndyCar engine programme issues.

8

Change the name and you lost 47 millions from FOM

9

That would only be the case if the other teams refused to sanction the change of name – and much as some may feel tempted in order to give themselves a boost financially, it would come back to bite them should they then choose to rebrand so in all likelihood it would be passed without incident. That was the case for both Lotus and Caterham this year, after all, and both retained their prize money. There may be scope for arguing for a reduction in light of losing a “historic” name, but Toleman was the team’s original name anyway and they’ve been operating continuously since 1981 in one guise or another so I would imagine they would qualify as historic by most standards regardless of the name.

10

Imagine if they’d spent as much time and effort on their racing and development as they did worrying about what they’re called…

11

At least Caterham make both road and race cars; and are owned by the same bloke.

12

Lotus admits it doesn’t have engines for Indianapolis test. I bet you there will be drama for Indy and after the big race at best Lotus will probably pull out too.

http://m.torontosun.com/2012/04/03/lotus-dragging-indycar-down

No more money to burn on the motor racing money pit for Lotus. It’s funny they made an engine for IndyCar while using Toyota engines in their best sellong car the Elise.

13
Chauncy Gardner

I will refer to them as “TEF-KAL-BERT”, Team formally known as Lotus Benetton Renault Toleman

14

Lotus is a brand name… companies rebrand all the time… remember Daewoo – now rebranded Chevrolet… the cars aren’t real Chevrolets they just changed the Daewoo badge one day to fool us into thing they weren’t cheap plastic cars! At this stage the Lotus brand name is so tarnished in F1 it’s better to kill off the name to protect the heritage of the Lotus Colin Chapman created. The FIA should have never allowed the Lotus brand name back into F1 especially since it didn’t have ties to the old Lotus (UK) brand.

15
Rafael / Seville

Thank you very much for to explain us this matter in deep.

Otherwise it would be really difficult for us to understand what’s going on.

Best regards from Spain.

Rafael

16

This beggars belief.

The grand plan for Group Lotus always seemed too far fetched. Even McLaren who I believe do not have an issue with actually selling their product did not come up with the grand plan of Lotus.

Then there is the whole F1 debacle. Unless Genii are planning to buy Group Lotus, they should rebrand Enstone immediately or Genii F1.

Forget the Lotus name should be in F1. The fans know ehats what and why give free advertising to a car company that is not paying you. It makes no sense.

Enstone have produced a very good car and have great drivers. Move on from this, but free advertising – No.

17

That’s what I’m laughing at; after all the fuss from Group Lotus they ended up back where they started, just licensing the name… to a better outfit for sure, and with a better Finnish driver, but was it worth all the fuss?

18
Stuart Harrison

Couldn’t make this up. 🙂

19
Matthew Cheshire

What a shame Fernandes lost the rights to use the name. This mess would be even better illustrated with two teams using the name of a company not associated with F1.

If Tony Fernandes decided to market a soft drink called Lotus the saga would really be complete:)

20

He did, that was one of the reasons his license to use the name was terminated. That and trying to sell lotus jewelery ….. LOL

21
Kevin McCaughey

Group Lotus statement “Group Lotus and and Lotus F1 Team are brand partners, the F1 team uses the strength of the Lotus name to promote themselves, and in return Group Lotus benefits from F1 exposure and the ambassadorship of its drivers, and the deal is a non-cost one.”

From: http://www.autocar.co.uk/News/NewsArticle/AllCars/262196/

So, maybe this is not as big a deal as we thought. The article has Group Lotus playing it down and saying business as usual.

22

Yes, because every F1 team gives away their prime space and team naming rights at for no financial benefit from sponsor just because there is such prestige in doing so. Especially an investment firm who is in F1 for no other reason then to burn its profits on the F1 mantle.

23

Correct, it *is* business as usual and this whole thing is a storm in a teacup. The team won’t change its name and they will keep racing as Lotus.

I own and drive a Lotus and they are are a unique and beautiful car and I treasure every minute I am behind the wheel. I am intelligent enough to realise that the Lotus F1 team has no relevance to the road car I drive, and I wish all the hysterics would stop, it’s quite irritating really.

24

Good point !

Come to think of it, Ferrari road cars and Ferrari F1 race cars are completely different, same goes to Mercedes… some technologies are common but you can’t pick-up an F1 car part, put it into a road car (as it is) and drive away

25

For Crying out loud…will my team get a damn break.

So sick of this… Come on Renault start designing some gem cars, get more profits buy off this rubbish… you sold the team to a bunch of hideous corporate backstabbing children…. Bring back Flavio, Symmonds and co and lets win this….

Will Enstone get a break? Call it Benetton, call it Enstone F1 anything this farce should be shut…

26

I always thought Fernandez would come back with an ace, could one last twist be that he sells the Team Lotus naming rights to Genii (if indeed its his to sell, I’m sure we’ve not heard the last of David Hunt)?

But seriously this has been an exceptionally poor show from all sides and I hope BE or the FIA put measures in place to stop teams trading in the sports heritage from now on.

27

James any news on the ART-Lotus Partnership?

28

This isn’t going to help the Lotus brand one little bit.

What a farce!

29

Such a muddle. As long as we’re grave robbing famous teams, how about this:

It is known that Rubery-Owen has been involved with electric and/or hybrid vehicles in recent years. F1 rules going forward emphasize these approaches. So, let Rubery-Owen make use of that technology; buy this lot out of Enstone; paint the cars dark green; and relaunch BRM.

On the other hand, doesn’t David Richards own Aston-Martin? Maybe the time and price are right for him, or will be, in the next couple of years. Let someone else foot the development bill, then swoop in and scoop up a turn-key operation.

Then again, maybe Max can get in there and bring back March.

I would love to see the return of BRM. And, now that I think about it, the last time they were a truly competitive team, they had Yardley (soap, cologne, skin care products) as their main sponsor. Not too different from Unilever, is it? (Question to those who know: Was Yardley bought by Unilever?)

Yes. Bring back BRM. They were the last British team to build the whole car, chassis, transmission and engine – and THE last team, other than Ferrari, to build a winning car and engine under one roof. Toyota doesn’t count. I said “wining car.”

30

According to wikipedia, Yardley is owned by the Jatanias family, and the rights in some markets belong to Wipro Consumer Care and Lighting. So not Unilever.

31

If you’re talking about Ferrari, shouldn’t that be ‘Whining car’

32

@James, can you be so kindly give us about this Power steering that this drivers go through. we mortal don’t understand what is the different between our everyday power steering, with the F1’s power steering. especially where Kimi’s or Trulli’s power steering does not fit there preference. what do they actually seeking or feel of the thing. from the latest interview @ formula1.com they are saying there is a different with high speed steering and stuff.

please give us mere mortal an inside about this power steering. thanks. always love your blog about inside scoop and stuff.

33

As a sidenote to the steering issues Kimi has been experiencing, there’s an article over on Lotus’s site where they explain part of his problem was due to the wheel being setup for a right-hander (while Kimi is a left hander):

http://www.lotusf1team.com/Keep-Left-Kimi-s-Steering-Issues.html

34

I think they’re having you on there Vin. Notice the date that was posted?

35

I’ll look into it

36

Turns out last year’s Lotus vs. Lotus saga has been a complete waste of time, thanks to Dany Bahar. With hindsight, it would have probably been better off to let Tony Fernandes continue running his team under the Team Lotus banner. Despite their insistence, this proves that Group Lotus’ entry was nothing more than another business/marketing tactic that was easily going to fold when things got tough. At least w/ Tony Fernandes and Team Louts you could really see they were very passionate about the “Lotus” name and heritage.

37

To be fair, Bahar had little control over this debacle. The new owners of Proton want to cut financial fat and make healthy returns… rumors circulating that Proton CEO may lose his job and probably Bahar too… these two guys are losing on a personal level so to lay the blame solely on them is a tad-bit harsh.

38
Craig @ Manila

It’s all getting a bit silly and one has to feel a bit sorry for the “average punter” who would (I would expect) be really struggling to understand WTH is going on.

Perhaps Renault could now buy back into the Team and re-name it Team Infiniti or Nissan F1. That would finish this crazy chain of events just-about perfectly.

39

Unfortunately, while that could be a good idea given Nissan’s other motorsport programmes, the Infiniti tie-in with Red Bull Racing nixes it for the moment. Mind you, I suppose these things are always open to negotiation…

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