27 December 2010
Mansell, Chapman back Group Lotus
Two names synonymous with the original Lotus F1 project have lent their backing to the new alliance between Renault and the Proton-owned Group Lotus due to make its debut in 2011.
The names Chapman and Mansell are both closely linked with the history of Lotus in F1, and have now added their voices to the debate over which of the two teams claiming to continue the legacy has the biggest right to do so.
Although Team Lotus founder Colin Chapman passed on even before his creation faded from the F1 scene, his family have remained curators of the team's memory. However, even though Chapman's son Clive appeared at times during 2010 to be coming around to the idea of Tony Fernandes' Lotus Racing being a legitimate successor, he has now lent his support to the new Lotus-Renault alliance formed by the Proton-owned Group Lotus' decision to get involved in F1, claiming that Fernandes' determination to run as Team Lotus in 2011 was against his better judgement.
"During 2010, the Chapman family, as and when appropriate, made it clear to those involved that it would prefer that the Team Lotus name should not be used in F1," the Briton said in a statement, "Indeed, assurances to this effect were received."
Despite having lent Malaysian airline entrepreneur Fernandes the black cap his father used to throw in the air when his team won a race, Chapman insisted that his support now lay with the Renault-Proton project which intends to revive the famous black-and-gold livery for its 2011 return. Fernandes also had plans to change the equally iconic green-and-gold colours his team used in 2010 for black-and-gold in 2011 but, despite backtracking on that, insists that he will use the Team Lotus title he acquired from David Hunt in October.
"The Chapman family was impressed by the achievements of Lotus Racing as a new team, and appreciated its respect for Team Lotus history," Chapman continued, "However, then its license to use the Lotus name was terminated and things changed. [The family] now looks forward to giving continued support to Group Lotus as the ongoing Lotus entity created by Colin and Hazel Chapman."
Mansell, meanwhile, has Colin Chapman to thank for his grand prix break, joining Lotus for his maiden F1 season in 1980 and remaining with the Hethel-based squad until beginning his successful relationship with Williams five years later.
"I am extremely grateful to Lotus - and especially to Colin Chapman, who was so inspirational and almost like a second father to me - and have been watching with great interest the developments that have been taking place recently at Hethel with their ambitious race and road car projects," the 1992 world champion was quoted as saying in a statement appearing on the Group Lotus website.
"I am really delighted to see that Lotus is back where it belongs, competing with the best in the top echelons of motorsport. It is particularly pleasing for me to see the union of Lotus and Renault again and the return of the iconic black-and-gold colours as driven by the late greats Ayrton Senna and Elio de Angelis, Johnny Dumfries and, of course, myself in the 1980s."
Fernandes, meanwhile, underlined his determination to press ahead with the change of name from Lotus Racing to Team Lotus for 2011.
"The migration to Team Lotus brand has started," he wrote in a recent Twitter update, "It's a shame, [as] I liked Lotus Racing and always thought Team Lotus [should] be returned to Chapman family. But that's the deck of [cards] we got handed."
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