Chapman family backs Group Lotus F1 bid

The Chapman family would prefer not to see the Team Lotus name return to Formula One from next season.

The family of Lotus founder Colin Chapman had refused to comment on the ongoing legal battle between Tony Fernandes' Hingham-based F1 outfit – which competed as Lotus Racing in 2010 – and Group Lotus, who will become title sponsors to the Renault team from 2011.

But over the Christmas period Colin Chapman's son Clive released a statement on behalf of his family that firmly pinned their colours to Hethel's Group Lotus mast.

'The Chapman family is impressed by the exciting developments under way at Group Lotus, and is very grateful to Proton for the significant investment being made to secure a strong future for the excellent workforce at the Hethel factory,' read the Chapman's statement.

'The family is looking forward to continuing to give its support to Group Lotus, which is the ongoing Lotus entity created by Colin and Hazel Chapman. After all, the Lotus marque is the responsibility of Group Lotus, and Hethel is the home of Lotus.'

Fernandes had originally been given a five year licence to race as a Lotus from Group Lotus' Malaysian owners, Proton – but that was revoked in September after they claimed Fernandes had broken the rules of their agreement.

The complaint came days after Fernandes announced he had bought the name rights to Chapman's original – and extremely successful – Formula One constructor, Team Lotus, from David Hunt.

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Team principal Hunt had been unable to save Team Lotus, which had been kept separate from Hethel's Group Lotus operation up to its financial demise in 1994, but retained the name rights until someone came along to revive it.

Fernandes was given public backing by Clive and Hazel Chapman ahead of Lotus Racing's debut season, attending the team's T127 launch and first grand prix earlier in the year between them.

In fact, June's Classic Team Lotus Festival organised by Clive Chapman was a huge success at Snetterton – and enjoyed support from both Lotus Racing and Group Lotus.

But it was widely rumoured relations between Chapman and Fernandes' team soured during the second half of the season.

Clive, curator of the Classic Team Lotus collection of Lotus' racing cars, has also acknowledged Group Lotus' ambitious plans include a heritage centre at Hethel for his iconic racers.

'In 2010 the Chapman family and Classic Team Lotus have been pleased to support Group Lotus in many ways,' continued the Chapman's statement. 'In consultation with Proton, this included supporting the use of the Lotus name in Formula One, which was licensed by Group Lotus.

'The family was impressed by the achievements of Lotus Racing as a new team, and appreciated its respect for Team Lotus history. However, then its license to use the Lotus name was terminated and things changed.

'The family, as and when appropriate, made it clear to those involved that it would prefer the Team Lotus name should not be used in Formula One. Indeed, assurances to this effect were received.

'The Team Lotus identity represents the motor racing legacy of Colin Chapman, and this was preserved by the Chapman Family and invested within Classic Team Lotus.

'The association by Group Lotus with Team Lotus history is much appreciated and entirely appropriate, especially as it is in keeping with how things were in Colin Chapman's time.'

The FIA has provisionally accepted Fernandes' 2011 entry under Team Lotus, while their Hingham factory has new signs and a new website – all part of their rebranding for next season.

Fernandes and Group Lotus – headed by chief executive Dany Bahar – are set for a battle through the British courts over using the Lotus name in Formula One, which is expected to be resolved in the autumn.

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