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Gascoyne puzzled by Group Lotus approach

Mike Gascoyne has questioned Group Lotus' reasoning for entering F1 in opposition to Lotus Racing.

Lotus Racing's chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne admits that he cannot understand what the rival Group Lotus operation hopes to gain from its intended entry to F1 with Renault next season.

Although the true extent of the Lotus-Renault relationship has yet to be revealed - and the rumour mill suggests an eventual buy-out that would remove the last 'works team' involvement of the regie following last winter's 75 per cent investment by Gerard Lopez's Genii Capital - Gascoyne is puzzled by the Proton-owned company's motivation for wanting to spend money with a rival team when it could have come on board with Tony Fernandes' Lotus Racing operation.

Lotus Racing has carried Proton branding this season, having acquired a licence to use the Lotus name for its team, but that looks set to end after the permission was revoked for 2011. Despite Fernandes having offered an olive branch, and suggested the two parties get together, Group Lotus appears hell bent on establishing its own motorsport empire, tying up with Renault in F1 and ART Grand Prix in GP2 as a foothold.

"If they want to advertise their road cars, why spend so much money on it?" Gascoyne asked in Germany's Auto Motor und Sport magazine, referring to the reported $30m a year five-year title sponsorship deal with Renault, "With us, they could do it free of charge."

The same report claims that Group Lotus, which has former Red Bull and Ferrari man Dany Behar as CEO, is running at a loss, but Renault team boss Eric Boullier has confirmed that the two parties are in talks about the future - an announcement on which is rumoured to appear over the Abu Dhabi GP weekend.

Should the two slip into bed together, the team is likely to be renamed Lotus Renault, which would cause no end of confusion as Fernandes' Lotus Racing team recently confirmed that it will use Renault engines from next season. Although the licence to run as Lotus Racing will expire at the end of the current campaign, Fernandes insists that he has the legal right to return as Team Lotus in 2011 - having acquired the name from David Hunt prior to the Singapore GP - but the paddock grapevine suggests that he may instead back down from a costly court battle with Proton, which disputes the ownership, and rebrand the Hingham-based outfit using one of his various company names. Fernandes has already entered a team in next year's GP2 Series under the Team AirAsia moniker after Group Lotus struck a deal to partner ART.

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