David Hunt: Group Lotus in the wrong over F1 move
Former Team Lotus owner David Hunt believes confusion will reign supreme if two teams bearing the Norfolk marque reach the 2011 Formula One grid.
Hunt, brother of former world champion James Hunt, tried to salvage a financially-stricken Team Lotus in 1994. Hunt ultimately failed, but kept hold of the rights to one of the sport's best-loved names in the hope someone would resurrect the team in F1 – something set to take place through Tony Fernandes' Hingham outfit in 2011.
And Hunt believes Group Lotus are completely wrong in their efforts to claim the marque in F1 by sponsoring Renault's outfit from next season.
'I think it's silly, whatever angle you look at it,' he said. 'Talk about confusing the public. Group Lotus and (their owners) Proton know the truth of the history and of their legal position in respect of the Lotus brand in F1. Even (Group Lotus chief executive) Dany Bahar knows.
'I know some liken it to the situation with Red Bull, where they also own Toro Rosso, but politically and commercially it's all controlled by one entity.
'Whereas with the two Lotuses, there would be one team with all the rights, and one which has none. So apart from the punch up it would cause in the courts, they are not going to be singing from the same hymn sheet. They are going to be at each other's throats all the time.'
Hunt claims Bahar was told first hand of Team Lotus' exclusive rights to use the name in F1 during his time at Red Bull – who were then looking to buy into a F1 team. In the end they took over Jaguar – a constructor with less gravitas – and turned the team into world champions. But Hunt feels those discussions showed Bahar he owned the rights to Team Lotus – a fact Group Lotus strenuously denies.
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A website – www.saveteamlotus.com – has been set up to garner support for Hunt's cause, which is to ensure Fernandes' team gets to operate as Team Lotus unchallenged.
'Even if Proton and Group Lotus were to succeed with their extraordinary agenda, they would actually score an own goal because, judging by what the fans say, the damage they would do to their brand is pretty plain,' added Hunt, who believes Wednesday's move raises some pertinent questions.
'Have the sponsors on Renault's car all been warned what they are in for and the damage that might occur to their brand through association of what is effectively a declaration of war by Proton?' added Hunt.
'And given Renault still have a suspended sentence tied to them after bringing the sport into disrepute in 2008, are they doing so again by deliberately and willfully confusing the public over the Lotus brand?'