David Hunt has finally broken his silence on the increasingly fraught power struggle over use of the Team Lotus name, and comes down firmly on the side of Tony Fernandes who, he insists, has the legal right to use the famous brand and all its assets - even if it appears that they may be ready to give them up.

Speaking to Peter Windsor - whom Fernandes looked set to be up against as a new F1 team owner until the collapse of the USF1 project - Hunt explained the 16 years that he had been the owner of the Team Lotus legacy, and claimed that the Proton-owned Group Lotus had - and never had - any right to use the name. Instead, he insists that, having fielded the team in its last two grands prix, in 1994, he made several attempts to resurrect Lotus as an F1 entity - including proposing a deal with Proton - only to come up short until his dealings with Fernandes this season.

The announcement that Lotus Racing would morph into Team Lotus for 2011, meanwhile, has sparked a furore, with Proton and Group Lotus insisting, amid threats of legal action, that Fernandes has no right to use a brand it believes is theirs. 'Fed up with so much confusion generated by the misguided and ill-informed comment from bloggers and journalists', however, Hunt decided that, on a chance call from Windsor, that it was time to 'help everyone have a clearer picture by putting the record straight', starting with the untruths he believes are being used as propaganda by the Malaysian manufacturer.

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"I was infuriated by [the Proton claims], because I view it as libel," he admitted, "They're basically saying that I have been lying for the past 16 years.

"All these claims are complete nonsense. If Team Lotus was under common ownership and control, how come the Chapman family sold it to Peter Collins in 1991? Why were Group Lotus a third-party sponsor of the Lotus F1 cars during Collins's tenure? And why did they stand by while the administrators then sold it to me and my partner in a sale that was completely under the jurisdiction of the British High Court?

"For the first couple of months after we purchased it, rumours were being spread that we didn't own the name Team Lotus. This was obviously a concern to Group Lotus and a potential nuisance to us, so Group decided to clarify the issue by writing to us - and apparently everybody else they could think of who might have had some interest in the Team Lotus property, including the Chapman family and Peter Collins. They asked anyone who thought they had an ownership claim to set it out in writing.

"The only respondents were us, and our lawyers set out the rights we had acquired in full to Group Lotus. Group then thanked us and gave everyone on the list a second chance to comment and then invited us to a meeting so that we could start working together - them as Group and us as Team, just as it had been in the Chapman and Collins eras before. At no point did Group say that they felt they themselves had any claim on any Team Lotus property and, as far as I'm aware, from that date until the day after the Singapore Grand Prix this year, they have never suggested that we did not own Team Lotus. So for Group now to claim that they've always owned Team Lotus is pure fantasy.

"Beyond that, we did two races at the end of 1994 - Japan and Australia - under our own ownership and control, so that part of the Group statement is completely untrue as well. We even gave Mika Salo his first F1 race, for Pete's sake! The truth is that Group Lotus has never competed in F1, never built an F1 car and never owned Team Lotus. They've always been separate companies - as is common practice in F1, as well as being common sense. Colin Chapman always wanted to protect Lotus Cars from the insurance and accident problems that can affect a race team."

Hunt admitted that his ownership appeared to sit comfortably with the separate Group Lotus until the time that the Norfolk-based sportscar manufacturer was acquired by the ambitious Proton organisation.

"That's when things changed," he confirmed, "When they bought Group Lotus in late 1996, a lot of Malaysian dignitaries flew over to see the new purchase at a launch event - and were taken completely by surprise when they learned that their new trophy asset did not include an F1 racing team. It's a bit like the Americans thinking they'd bought Tower Bridge only to find the old London Bridge on their doorstep.

"It seems the Malaysians had been lacking in their due diligence, [but] I flew out to KL to meet the chairman of Proton and explained that we were keen to return Team Lotus to F1, referring to a detailed proposal I'd sent to the Malaysian prime minister around a year earlier for a project called 'Malaysia Team Lotus'. The chairman asked for a copy and asked for one to be sent to Group Lotus. I was happy to oblige, [and] left with the understanding that they were indeed interested and would discuss it at board level.

"That was the last friendly word I had with them. Thereafter, they attacked our trademarks in the Trademark Court on numerous occasions, without any material success. They tried to force us to change our logo. They told us that the Group Lotus board's considered view was that F1 is of no benefit to the Lotus brand. They put the Team Lotus history into their publicity material and website, pretending it was theirs. And they never challenged our ownership, privately, publicly or in court. Indeed, it's interesting to note that, having never dared challenge us over ownership in 13 years, three days after control was seen to have passed to other Malaysian hands, they came out with that extraordinary press statement. Interesting timing!

"Let's be clear: Group Lotus has never raced in F1, and, despite what it now claims on the freshly-applied murals on the Proton Building at Hethel, it has no F1 world championships, grand prix wins, poles or even races contested in its history. Their claims are as ridiculous as if I had announced a new sports road car from Team Lotus which followed in the long tradition of Team Lotus road cars such as the Elan, Esprit, Europa etc. I would have been passing off; my claims would have been laughable and Team Lotus would have been demolished in court if it had dared defend litigation from Group. In my opinion, that is what is likely to happen to Group in the litigation now underway in the British High Court. It is also my opinion that they know that as well as I do, which is why they have attacked now. I believe they are counting on it never reaching the court hearing and a 'Malaysian settlement' resolving 'ownership' of Team Lotus in their favour."

Hunt is confident that a legal team will find enough reasons to keep Proton and Group Lotus at bay - even if that means a potentially confusing battle in F1 next season between the Fernandes-controlled Team Lotus and the rumoured Group Lotus involvement with Renault.

"Over the 16 years under my control, for various reasons we've had numerous firms of lawyers go through Team Lotus's legal rights with a fine toothcomb and none has deemed our rights to have been deficient in any way, at least until we came up against Tony's lawyers - but that's another story," he continued, somewhat enigmatically, "My point is that, in my view, Group Lotus's High Court litigation can only succeed if they can convince a judge that black is white or find some new legal doctrine that numerous lawyers had never thought of before.

"Group Lotus and Proton have had 13 years to do a deal with me - and, in all that time, they have been sitting on my Malaysia Team Lotus proposal. The current '1Malaysia' approach looks remarkably like my original vision for them but, rather than working with Team Lotus as sister companies with overlapping interests and names because we were founded by the same man, as had been the historic tradition, they set out to damage or destroy Team Lotus in the hope, I imagine, that they could then grab the Team Lotus brand, logo, identity and history for their own use without having to pay for it - and in the hope that no-one would notice.

"Now, having failed to stop me, and with Tony and his partners having proven the claims I have long been making - that the F1 universe would welcome Team Lotus back to the starting grids and is a very valuable brand - Proton and Group Lotus are acting like spoiled children and trying to steal the sweeties from Tony and his partners like playground bullies. They didn't dare whilst I was holding the sweeties because they would have never won in the British courts and I am not subject to any political influence. Tony, and his partners and staff at Lotus Racing, don't deserve to have the rights taken away from them."

The youngest brother of 1976 F1 world champion James, and a decent driver in his own right, Hunt revealed that Proton was given one final chance to acquire the Team Lotus brand as recently as last year, but only seemed interested in doing so once Fernandes expressed his interest.

"When I was first approached by Tony in 2009, we agreed to give Proton first crack at doing a deal with me, but they blew it," Hunt noted, "They were shown respect, but did not reciprocate. So, when I got into serious negotiations with Tony, I think it is very revealing that Group Lotus/Proton then frantically tried to re-open negotiations on several occasions. Why would they do this if they believed we did not own anything?

"I told them they'd blown their chance and, anyway, Tony had by then asked me not to re-open negotiations with them. He had given me his word that he would do a fair and reasonable deal with me and that he was not in F1 to rip anyone off. He knew he had to do a deal with me because we were the ones, not Group Lotus/Proton, who held the rights to return Team Lotus to F1 and acknowledged the huge efforts that I, and many others, had made over the years to keep Team Lotus alive and unsullied. So, against that background, and Tony's commitments, I told Proton they had missed their chance. In any event, they'd had 13 years to think about it and that seemed like a fair crack for them."

Such was Proton's objection to the deal with Fernandes, and the claims that it made in an effort to rubbish the announcement made in Singapore in September, that Hunt's relationship with Fernandes' group took a hit that also looks likely to go through the courts.

"I exchanged similar undertakings with [Proton] at the outset, but they had quickly amounted to nothing, [and] that's now at the root of the difficulties that currently lie between Tony and his partners and me," Hunt explained, "Their lawyers have recently threatened legal action against me based on what appear to be nonsensical and unsupported allegations from third parties. I completely refute the allegations and will naturally defend them if they were to proceed.

"I'm sure it's all a misunderstanding and will be cleared up quickly but I remain completely confused as to why it's happened. I've been bending over backwards to support them in every area and to bring them significant sponsorship dollars, so I'm sure we'll find it's a simple case of crossed wires between client and lawyer or some other equally innocent explanation.

"I have stuck resolutely to what we agreed and have delivered on my side of the bargain, as Tony freely acknowledges and any journalist who has tried to interview me will attest. I dread the thought of more confrontation, nonsense and legal action, but I have invested 16 years of my life in ensuring that what is true and right and proper prevails. Before Singapore, I was looking forward to putting that chapter behind me but, if I have to stand up and fight for honour and integrity and what's right and proper, then I shall do so again because that is so much more important than money or power."

For all the current difficulties, Hunt has nothing but praise for the current Lotus Racing project, and believes that it would be a shame if use of the Lotus brand was allowed to go elsewhere. That, however, is something he can see happening as the row deepens, with Fernandes reportedly ready to rebrand his operation.

"It would be a disaster if Tony and his partners let it go," he insisted, "They've represented to the world, and given me assurances, that they're totally serious and fully-committed to the Team Lotus brand. Tony has been a fan since childhood and this is a dream come true for him - all the rhetoric has been there and, without it, I wouldn't have done business with them.

"Yet it appears they may be giving in at the very first hurdle, a threat they were well aware of at the outset and which came from people who were, at the outset, ostensibly on the same side as Tony! I certainly hope they don't give in and I'm comforted that Tony has confirmed to me again over the past few days that they will fight it all the way in court. I would be both outraged and bitterly disappointed if Team Lotus were to be sequestered in some political backroom in Kuala Lumpur and pressures applied in commercial and/or political ways unrelated to F1.

"My view is that it's really all about who is going to lose face - the Proton and Group Lotus bosses due to the wild and laughable claims they have made, or Tony and his partners for all their claims about being serious and committed to bringing the Team Lotus brand back and taking it back to its former glories. For either side, that's a huge potential loss of face as I understand Malaysian culture.

"If Tony, Din and Naza were to roll over it would demonstrate to me that they have been acting in bad faith, with me and the fans and the F1 authorities who gave them their entry. It would also be a blot on my custodianship of Team Lotus as I will have sold it to people who were not passionate or serious or committed - something I have always been at pains to avoid.

"I'm also sure that Tony has not forgotten that he has a commitment to the staff in Norfolk. Many have had to re-locate and I am pretty sure almost every one of them went there because they believed they were part of a 'Lotus F1 project' - they didn't go there to work for Team Tune!

"And there's also the fans, many of whom have been waiting 16 years for the return of Team Lotus. From the correspondence I receive I know the sick feeling in the stomach all true Lotus and Team Lotus fans the world over will get if it's announced that Team Lotus is now under Proton's control. I imagine that would be the final nail in the coffin for almost all true Lotus F1 fans."

Obviously keen that Team Lotus remains a viable F1 possibility and not the plaything of a corporation with no apparent passion for F1 or motorsport in general, Hunt offers one final solution to the problem.

"I would be quite happy to take back custodianship of Team Lotus and defend any actions brought by Group Lotus/ Proton," he announced, "I have no fear of Group Lotus or Proton whatsoever, and am entirely confident of the legal position. Tony could have a licence to race as Team Lotus. That would free him up to focus on delivering results on track and the fans would see the true DNA of Colin Chapman's F1 legacy on the grid next year, whilst I sort out the legal side.

"I have 16 years of knowledge of Group Lotus/Proton's actions and am therefore the best person to defend any claims they bring. We might even have an action or two we could bring against them!"

As Hunt's version of events emerged, Lotus Racing revealed that it would be altering its livery for 2011 from the green-and-gold made famous by the first Colin Chapman-run entries to the iconic black-and-gold used under John Player Special sponsorship in the 1970 and '80s.