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Throwing a curve ball right down the media’s throat, Lotus issued a press release today that aimed to disarm and diffuse the flurry of speculation and jokes.
It did so by writing in completely unacademic, and some might argue, unprofessional style. Above the text, a borrowed copy of Sniff Petrol’s satirical photo (seen above) that portrays CEO Dany Bahar as “Baghdad Bob,” Iraq’s ex-information minister notorious for insisting things were fine.
Here’s a quick recap of what lead into today’s hilarious SNAFU.
Lotus Motorsport and Alex Job Racing (AJR) will partner to compete for the GT championship in the American Le Mans Series, starting with the race at Long Beach on the weekend of April 14.
The factory-backed Lotus Evora GTE will feature a black-and-gold painted car reminiscent of JPS Lotus F1 cars. The team will also be be backed by Battery Tender, William Rast and Yokohama in 2012.
“We are focused on winning,” said Dany Bahar, CEO of Group Lotus. “Alex Job has one of the best records in sports car racing. We look forward to working together and developing a top-tier team over the coming years. Racing is a core component of the Lotus brand, and we are thrilled to have this new partnership to further enhance our winning racing heritage.”
Alex Job, the team principal, confirmed that IndyCar driver Townsend Bell will partner with two-time ALMS Founders Cup winner Bill Sweedler for the entire season.
“Lotus has made a lot of racing news lately with significant programs announced in multiple categories of motorsport,” said Scott Atherton, ALMS President and CEO. “After a full evaluation of all options we are proud they selected the ALMS for their factory-backed GT racing platform. This represents the best possible opportunity for Lotus to race what they sell and to showcase the technology and performance of their cars against the benchmark examples of the industry.”
There used to be a time when any car company hoping to succeed in business would open up shop in North America. While North America remains one of the key markets for car companies, the new focus is on emerging markets, with China as the number one choice.
Group Lotus is the latest to enter the Chinese market, with a showroom in the trendy Chaoyang district of Beijing. While this is the first official dealership for Lotus in China, a further 10 showrooms are expected to open in this country in 2012.
At the launch, many Group Lotus execs such as Clive Chapman (son of the late Colin Chapman, founder of the company) and Dany Bahar (Group Lotus CEO) were present, along with President and CEO of Lotus China, Li-Chen Zhang.
On this occasion, Zhang said: “This is the first showroom that the Lotus brand has set-up in China since entering the Chinese market on June 15 and it’s a very proud day for all of us who believe very strongly in the brand. We truly believe the Chinese market will completely embrace the Lotus philosophy of performance through lightweight and innovation through clever design. We sold around 300 units before we even opened the showroom so the initial interest and orders put forward indicate that our faith in the brand is well placed.”
At launch, Lotus will be selling six models in China, namely the Elise R, Elise SC, Evora, Evora IPS, Exige S240 and Exige S260. The Evora GTE road car and T125 race car will follow soon after.
GALLERY: Lotus China
Fans of Formula 1 racing and Lotus must have spent this year feeling a bit confused regarding who they should support, since there were two teams going by the name Lotus.
There was Team Lotus, a private team founded by Tony Fernandes (who also owns Caterham Cars), and then there was Group Lotus which was run by Lotus (the guys who make the cars) and their parent company Proton.
The two teams fought over the naming rights. Group Lotus said that the name Lotus belongs to them, while Team Lotus said that their name has always operated in motorsports as a separate entity to the road car business.
Who gets what naming rights was up to the courts to decide, and the verdict is in. Group Lotus is to keep the rights to the Lotus name in motorsports, which means they now own the rights to the Team Lotus name also.
In what is being described as a amicable settlement between the two parties, the former Team Lotus, which is also owned by 1 Malaysia Racing Team, will rename themselves as the Caterham F1 Team for the 2012 season.
Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar said at the announcement that, “On behalf of Group Lotus and Proton, I would like to express how pleased we are that this matter is finally closed and we can now focus on looking forward to the future.”
The new deal will also lead to a working relationship between the two parties over future automotive projects.
Caterham, a company that started out life as a Lotus dealer, who got the manufacturing rights to the Lotus 7 and has been producing the car for over 30 years now, will now be its own force in Formula 1. Recognition of the Caterham brand will thus grow on a global scale.
As part of a plan to spot future motor racing talent, Group Lotus has been the first car manufacturer to truly feature a presence in that most grassroots form of racing, karts.
For decades, some of the most notable stars of Formula 1, including former Lotus driver Ayrton Senna and more, recently the likes of Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, all began their careers in karts, so the idea seems logical.
However, Group Lotus isn’t just interested in spotting future world champs, it’s also embracing karting in a big way because it also allows for the potential to work with talented youngsters who show a real aptitude for innovative design and engineering.
Under the guise of the ‘Lotus Racing Karts’ banner, the company, in conjunction with Jefra Racing, will operated a full factory effort in the 2012 CIK-FIA World Karting Championship and to boot, the team’s machines will sport the unmistakable black and gold livery, made famous by Lotus Formula 1 racers during the 1970s and much of the 1980s.
The team will be headed by Fran Jerancic, and headquartered at Jefra’s home base in Italy, just outside Treviso, while the karts themselves will be sourced from seasoned manufacturer Wildkart.
“Our entry into karting is exciting on many levels,” declared Miodrag Kotur, who currently serves as Director of Operations for Lotus Motorsport. ”Not only are we nurturing talent and widening our motorsports programme, we also have an opportunity to join forces with two world-class specialists.”
Further announcements regarding Lotus Racing Karts, will be made on February 14th during next year’s Autosport Show at Britain’s National Exhibition Centre near Birmingham, West Midlands.
What season of F1 would be complete without the off-track drama? The complex battle between racing teams Group Lotus and Team Lotus rages on, indicating that the previous ruling for the rights to the Lotus name didn’t end the dispute yet.
Turns out, the high court judge had given Group Lotus the go-ahead to use the Lotus roundel, the “Lotus” name, and the retro-tastic black-and-gold livery. But it hadn’t entirely ruled out Team Lotus’s involvement in the sport, and parent company 1Malaysia Racing Team can still use the name and logo “Team Lotus.” This, for Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar, is a problem.
And as such, he is planning to appeal the ruling and eliminate the confusion: “it is inevitable that the similarity of the names Lotus and Team Lotus will cause confusion not only amongst F1 supporters and the wider public,” he said, “but also amongst F1 commentators who use the word ‘Lotus’ interchangeably for both teams.”
We hope this plays out with a clear winner on top, because what’s the plural of Lotus, anyway? Loti? Lotusesses?
Group Lotus, the carmakers, and Team Lotus, the racing team, have been battling it out off the track over the rights to use the name “Lotus.” And in a decision awarded this weekend, Group Lotus has come out on top.
Team Lotus traces its lineage back to Colin Chapman’s original Formula 1 efforts in 1952, and along the way have racked up some of the most successful victories in the sport. But the original team folded in 1994, and after a succession of flagrantly useless owners (including F1 legend James Hunt’s surviving brother) Tony Fernandes relaunched the team in 2010.
But a year earlier, the Malaysian government—which controls a stake in Lotus’s parent company Proton—threw its own hat in the Formula 1 ring in an effort to promote Proton on the world stage. They picked an experienced team name that would garner respect among the racing community: Lotus.
Actually, Lotus Renault GP, as the team was built from the remnants of the Renault F1 team which was restructured in 2010. Neither team has a direct connection to the 1994 team, but Team Lotus is backed by Tony Fernandes, while Lotus-Renault is backed by Genii Capital and Group Lotus plc—as well as the estate of Colin Chapman, which expressed a desire for Team Lotus to die a peaceful death. The high courts have agreed to this, as well: in a decision made this weekend, judges allowed Group Lotus to use the name “Lotus” in future F1 races, as well as revoking Team Lotus’s trademarks.
There’s some good news to come out of this drama: what do the Lotus-Renault cars look like? Well, when you see them at Monaco this weekend, they’ll be sporting some familiar livery: the famous black-and-gold scheme made famous by John Player Special in the 1970s. Retro-tastic.