Lotus could be set to return to the grand prix grid in 2010 after it has emerged that – much like Formtech with Brabham – Litespeed GP has purchased the rights to one of the most iconic names in Formula 1 history and its fourth-most successful constructor of all time to enter a team in the top flight's new 'low-cost', budget-capped era.
Lotus has not been seen in F1 since it collapsed at the end of the 1994 campaign due to financial difficulties, but should the FIA approve Litespeed's entry then the name would be resurrected next year – doubtless to the joy of the legendary British marque's fans all around the world. Until this announcement, Norfolk-based Litespeed was known only as a back-of-the-grid British F3 national class outfit – but that perception will surely now change.
The team has secured a supply of customer Cosworth engines and has enlisted the services of highly-respected former McLaren, Sauber, Tyrrell, Jordan, Renault, Toyota and Force India technical director Mike Gascoyne, as well as Johnny Herbert as driver manager and global commercial ambassador. The popular former British Grand Prix winner competed for Lotus from 1990 right up until its final season four years later, qualifying an unheralded fourth for the 1994 Italian Grand Prix at Monza only to be unceremoniously removed from the action into the first corner by the fast-starting Jordan of Eddie Irvine behind – an incident that served to hammer another nail into the coffin for a squad already struggling for funding and ultimately hasten Lotus' demise.
“I am Norfolk born and bred,” admitted Gascoyne. “For me to continue my F1 career under the banner of the Team Lotus name and help to bring it back to its deserving place in the world championship is a fantastic feeling and something that I am extremely proud to be doing.”
Team Lotus will be led by team principal Nino Judge and director of engineering Steve Kenchington. Both have been involved in Lotus' F1 efforts in the past, and have purchased the ownership rights to the name from businessman David Hunt – brother of the late 1976 F1 World Champion James Hunt – who himself bought them back in 1994.
“David Hunt has been the custodian of the name for so many years,” revealed Judge, “and we thank him for entrusting us not just with its safeguard but, more importantly, its development in the racing world of tomorrow.
“Most people already know that MGI Ltd and Mike Gascoyne are undertaking design activities for the new 2010 chassis. What has not been public knowledge until now has been our desire to secure the Team Lotus name. Team Lotus is synonymous with great British engineering and F1 innovation, 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. The FIA's new regulations are a bold initiative which allow for a level playing field in the sport for the first time. It underpins our objective to re-establish the Team Lotus name and paves the way for us to introduce a competitive car.”
Running in its celebrated original British Racing Green and gold livery, Lotus produced a whole string of competitive cars over its official 36-year history at the highest level, under the watchful eye of esteemed designer Chapman, who founded Lotus Engineering Ltd back in 1952. The breakthrough victory was delivered by Sir Stirling Moss in the 1960 Monaco Grand Prix, with the first championship glory coming only three years afterwards during Lotus' golden era, when the late Jim Clark led the team to both the drivers' and constructors' laurels, a feat the Scot would replicate two years later still.