Lotus aiming to end dispute

The battle over who owns the Team Lotus name took a new turn yesterday as the two sides try to reach an agreement away from the public glare.

With Group Lotus enjoying its big day at the Paris Motorshow, Hingham-based Lotus Racing released a statement hinting a compromise could be reached over their proposed use of the Team Lotus brand in Formula One next season - something Hethel-based Group Lotus claims it cannot do.

Lotus Racing confirmed shareholder and deputy team principal Dato' Kamarudin Meranun recently met Tun Dr Mahathir, an advisor from Malaysian car manufacturer Proton - who owns Group Lotus - so they could 'discuss the matter in person and agree a future course of action for Lotus Racing'.

A statement from the F1 team continued: 'Lotus Racing believes it is acting within its own rights, and as a result of this meeting, the team will now refrain from making any further comments on the matter.

'This action is upon advice from Tun Dr Mahathir, and it is out of our respect for him that we will act upon his wishes as he has supported us since our inception, and his backing has been invaluable in our growth.

'We are very grateful for having had the opportunity to put forth our case and have complete trust that a fair review will be made, and a decision on the matter will be announced in due course.'

Lotus Racing, who are nearing the end of their first season in Formula One, have started proceedings in the High Court to get confirmation they hold the rights to use the Team Lotus brand from 2011.

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But despite the statement, words continue to fly from both parties.

Speaking in Paris on Wednesday, Proton's group managing director Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir reiterrated the fact only Group Lotus have the rights to use the Team Lotus name and Lotus Racing's Malaysian team principal Tony Fernandes and his 1Malaysia Racing Team fully accepted this when they took out a licence to use the Lotus name from Group Lotus .

'Group Lotus, therefore, terminated the 1Malaysia Racing Team's license to race as Lotus - 1Malaysia Racing Team and Fernandes accepted that,' he said, with Monday's announcement by Fernandes over their 2011 plans inviting Group Lotus' wrath.

It is thought Proton and Group Lotus are eyeing their own return to Formula One - hence the battle for the Team Lotus name - while Lotus Racing chief executive Riad Asmat revealed souvenir T-shirts also played a part in the dispute.

'Initially there was good cooperation but then issues cropped up after that and it came to a point where they said we were detrimental to their brand and infringed their rights,' said Asmat.

'One of these was about producing T-shirts of all things, which we were told we did not follow correct procedures and they terminated our agreement about two weeks ago.'

The fact Lotus is such an important component of Fernandes' team is why the Hingham team are going to court, added Asmat: 'There are livelihoods at stake and we had to take this course of action.'