Michael Bailey: Group Lotus planning to hang around in F1

There can be no denying Group Lotus' grand motorsport plans have had to negotiate some pretty treacherous waters in recent times.

By now the plan was for Hethel's sports car manufacturer to have the iconic Lotus marque in F1 to itself – regardless of the arguments over its ownership, heritage or history.

Instead, thanks to those 'pesky kids' down at Hingham's Team Lotus and a High Court judge, the only part of Group Lotus' track revolution not carrying yellow and green – including Le Mans, IndyCar, GP2 and a host of other formulae – is its Formula One operation.

They are still the black and gold Renaults to most punters on the street – and given that makes the most sense, who can argue?

But despite the setbacks and costs – some understandably find it difficult to reconcile a �100m F1 sponsorship deal, when Group Lotus are also proposing at least 99 redundancies at its Norfolk plant – Group Lotus remains as committed as ever to turning the much-loved marque into a vibrant, successful brand.

One that produces brilliant cars, and one that wins races.

That's the idea, at least.

Most Read

And given Group Lotus' impressive new test track – believed to have cost a cool �3m – was unveiled at Hethel yesterday, the company clearly wants to stick things out.

'If we decide to go for the long term then renaming would be an issue, but at the moment it is out of the question so it is not something we are pursuing,' Bahar told Autosport this week. 'I think the (High Court) judgement made it clear the Lotus name in F1 belongs to us, and the Team Lotus name belongs to Team Lotus. That is a clear judgment and nothing can stop us from using our name in F1.

'It is about branding, the branding of our Lotus brand…we are very happy with the increased branding we have had since the Barcelona Grand Prix, and we are fine. Absolutely fine, as it is.'

Group Lotus-backed Renault are coming to a key point in the season. Their winter testing pace has not quite carried through and the missing influence of Robert Kubica has not been eased by Nick Heidfeld, who has only impressed in patches.

As always with these deals, Renault have to deliver the goods – it is the only way Group Lotus' involvement makes any sense.

• As for the other side of Norfolk's F1 coin, Hingham's Team Lotus have pulled off a few big deals since a tough weekend in Canada.

With round eight at Valencia on Sunday, Tony Fernandes' yellow and green machine are still some way from really racing the established outfits – but two announcements since Montreal are aimed at getting the Norfolk marque back on track.

The 2010 new boys confirmed GE – or General Electric to most people – as a new partner. The vast multi-national operation employs close to 300,000 people across the world and has a lot of influential fingers in vast profit-making pies.

The deal almost certainly opens doors to the US for Team Lotus, especially as GE owns NBC Universal. That is sure to do them a favour once the USA Grand Prix arrives next season.

Jeff Immelt, GE's chief executive, said: 'The global appeal and popularity of F1 provides a unique opportunity for GE and we look forward to great things from Tony.'

As proven by experience, Fernandes is not one to shirk a bit of expectation.

So that was the extra backing taken care of for Hingham's F1 constructor.

Next up was Team Lotus' development on the track.

With the team's Hingham wind tunnel plans still at least 18 months from being completed, the Norfolk marque has entered into an agreement to use Williams' famous Grove wind tunnel from September – possibly too late to make big strides on the current T128, but something that should help the creation of their 2012 challenger.

But hopefully we will see an improvement before then, otherwise Team Lotus' 2011 will fall short.

• Next week is National Motorsport Week – a fine way of celebrating all that is best about going really fast in varying lengths of circles.

Silverstone is at it, officially opening its brand new grand prix circuit to cyclists on Saturday – the same revised lap that will host the British Grand Prix in less than four weeks time. What a bike ride that would be.

My own small fix came a little early, at Snetterton on Tuesday, when Crescent Racing took in a test day ahead of the latest British Superbike round, which is in Norfolk at the start of next month.

Before that, Snetterton hosts the Lotus Festival this weekend.

In Norfolk we are lucky to have esteemed racing history of our own – and this is most definitely a week to celebrate it.