Lotus Racing insists it can use the Team Lotus name for the 2011 F1 season, despite the fact that Proton – owners of Lotus Cars – believes otherwise.
Proton issued a statement on Monday that said Lotus Racing team boss Tony Fernandes had 'no right' to use the name and that it would take 'all necessary steps to protect it' [See separate story HERE
Fernandes announced on Friday in Singapore that the F1 team would compete under the Team Lotus banner for 2011 having acquired the rights to the name from David Hunt – although Lotus Cars insists that the brother of 1976 F1 title winner James never held those rights in the first place.
The team has now responded to Proton's statement with a lengthy missive of its own in which it insists it can use the name and reveals that it has started proceedings to prove it has the rights.
“Last week we brought Team Lotus back to the Formula One grid when we announced that we had bought Team Lotus Ventures from David Hunt, and would be racing as the successor to one of the most iconic names in world motorsport,” chief executive officer Riad Asmat said. “This year, we have established ourselves as the leading new team in Formula One as a licensee of Group Lotus, and, although we all dreamt of bringing Team Lotus back to where it belongs, we could not do so in 2010 because those rights were owned by Team Lotus Ventures.
“As Tune Group has now bought Team Lotus Ventures it means we can now use the Team Lotus name for 2011 and beyond. We are all delighted we can go into 2011 with total confidence in what we own, and what we can take to the track.
“However, given that this is contested by Group Lotus we think now is the time to clear this matter up so there can be no further arguments. We have therefore today issued proceedings in the English High Court for a declaration that Team Lotus Ventures has the rights to use the Team Lotus name and everything associated with that brand in relation to Formula One.
"Racing under the Team Lotus name from 2011 means our licence with Group Lotus has now come to an end.”
Riad added that the row with Lotus Cars was a 'non-issue' and that the licence between the two parties was nothing more than a small sponsorship agreement.
"The licence debate really is a non-issue,” he said. “It was a simple licence, attached to a one year sponsorship deal with Proton for 2010 alone, and in fact for a tiny proportion of the amount invested by the shareholders into the team – approximately 1.5% of the total budget.