A week on from the High Court ruling in the embarrassing Lotus naming row – against which it has notified its intention to appeal – Group Lotus chief executive officer Dany Bahar has asserted that the company is 'even more committed than ever before to our long-term plan within the sport' and eager 'to win, not just participate'.
Last Friday, Mr. Justice Peter Smith deemed that Group Lotus – in partnership with Lotus Renault GP – can continue to use the 'Lotus' moniker in F1, and that Tony Fernandes' rival outfit can similarly continue to run under the classic 'Team Lotus' banner [see separate story – click here
]. It was a decision that arguably should have satisfied both parties but has, Bahar reveals, left a distinctly unsatisfactory aftertaste.
“The judgement grants Group Lotus the rights to use the name 'Lotus' and the Lotus roundel on their own within F1,” he reflected. “The judge also found that Team Lotus, run by 1Malaysia Racing Team, has the right to continue to race in F1 under the name 'Team Lotus' and using the Team Lotus roundel.
“As a consequence, it is inevitable that the similarity of the names Lotus and Team Lotus will cause confusion not only amongst F1 supporters and the wider public, but also amongst F1 commentators who use the word 'Lotus' interchangeably for both teams as demonstrated throughout the season so far. With the full support of our parent company, Proton, we are seeking leave to appeal so that this point can be clarified for the benefit of all interested in F1.
“[Proton] have followed the court case with great interest and like us, they are looking forward to the matter being brought to a close. More importantly than the ongoing F1 naming issues, the past year has been an extremely important one in Group Lotus' history – and Proton has played, and continues to play, a crucial role in our development.
“One of the most critical elements of this support has been assisting us in securing the funding for our future plans. I am happy to confirm that this is now all complete thanks to Proton's help and, together with Proton, we can focus on completing the five-year business plan to return Group Lotus to profit.
“We have an incredibly strong relationship with Proton; they support us 100 per cent, and frankly, this is really important for a company like ours. Part of the business plan is the joint development of a global small car platform, meaning that for the first time in the Proton Lotus history, the relationship will be mutually beneficial. This alone should demonstrate how close we are.”
Speaking more specifically about Group Lotus' motorsport activities, the ambitious Bahar sought to stress that whilst the company's involvement in Lotus Renault GP is key, it is not the sole focus.
“We are even more committed than ever before to our long-term plan within the sport,” stresses the Turkish-born businessman. “With regards to our involvement with Lotus Renault GP, as Lotus we stand united with Genii Capital and have every confidence in the future success of Lotus Renault GP.
“Everyone always asks about F1 but for us, it's not just about F1, given that motorsport in general is a key ingredient to our marketing strategy. We have always been and will always be an automotive brand that is associated with racing. Congratulations to Nick Heidfeld on his result in Monaco, when he came in eighth to earn valuable points that pushed him up a place in the [F1] drivers' championship to sixth, whilst Tony Kanaan did a great job coming fourth in the Indy 500.
“We want to win, though, not just participate – but we don't expect everything overnight. We start slowly and gradually build up our presence in a way that makes sense for our business. Look at our involvement within IndyCar – we started last year with one car, now we have three and from next year onwards, we'll be offering engines. People always question the cost but, believe me, if we couldn't afford it, we wouldn't do it.”