Mike Gascoyne: Lotus Racing will not leave Hingham site
Even though they are a big step closer to securing use of the Team Lotus name from 2011, Mike Gascoyne has confirmed his Hingham-based Formula One team is staying put – whatever it is called.
The Norwich-born chief technical officer took Lotus Racing to the riches of 10th place in the 2010 constructors' championship ahead of fellow new teams HRT and Virgin Racing. But a deterioration in relations with Group Lotus during the season – as well as the Hethel manufacturer's own F1 aspirations – left doubts over both the Hingham outfit's name and its future.
However Lotus Racing appear to be winning the battle. F1 governing body, the FIA, confirmed yesterday 2010 drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli will be racing next season – for 'Team Lotus': a sure sign F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is on Hingham's side and 'great news for the team' according to Gascoyne on Twitter.
'Our long-term future is here,' Gascoyne told the Evening News – and having bought their Hingham factory, with plans to build their own wind tunnel for 2012 and ongoing additions to their 200-strong workforce, it is clear Norfolk's rich motorsport scene will not be losing its F1 presence any time soon. 'There's a slight hiccup with the name but, that aside, what you see now is an established F1 team, and that is probably the greatest achievement of this year.
'We're very pleased, working with the planners, how keen they are for us to develop the site. We now own the factory, we've got two buildings on the site we are renting, the GP2 team is based here, there is the new wind tunnel and it won't just be that, but production for the car as well – that will lift the whole standard. We're painting the building, redoing the reception, putting mezzanines in everywhere.
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'We are here, and whatever we may be called there will be a Formula One team based in Norfolk again, making racing and engineering racing cars, which I think is great for Norfolk and is a sense of pride for me as a Norfolk lad. I just can't quite understand why Group Lotus wouldn't want it to be called Lotus, but they're not...'
Gascoyne holds back from finishing that sentence, but the frustration with their neighbouring namesake is palpable throughout the factory at Hingham.
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At Hethel, Group Lotus chief executive Dany Bahar is intent on adding the Lotus badge to every formula going in his bid to invigorate the brand – that includes a reported �100m takeover of Renault's F1 team based in Bicester from 2011, and the decision to revoke a five-year licence for Lotus Racing to use the Norfolk marque after just 12 months.
Group Lotus declined to comment on the FIA's entry list yesterday, while Lotus Racing would only confirm it is 'correct'. Either way, former Wymondham College pupil Gascoyne has remained philosophical on what a name means to his team: 'I think when Colin Chapman brought sponsorship into F1, he thought he'd be on the receiving end – he wouldn't be paying it out,' smiled Gascoyne. 'For me, Colin Chapman was about engineering, about making and engineering racing cars.
'That's what Team Lotus did; that's what we do here. It's not about going and sponsoring a French manufacturer to put a badge on it, I find that very difficult to understand.
'We have Malaysian owners, three great shareholders (Team principal Tony Fernandes, pictured, and compatriots SM Nasarudin and Kamarudin Meranun) who have put their money where their mouth is and one of the messages Tony has given here is, whatever the name, it doesn't change what the team is. The team is the people that build it up. Without getting into the politics of it, people who just want to associate a name with something is one thing, but you only build up a team by putting good people in. That's what we've been focusing on doing.
'As head of engineering, it doesn't matter if I put on a green shirt, a black one or a pink one, I don't care. It doesn't change my job. The name is for Tony to sort out – for everyone here, the job doesn't change. Having said that, there is a great sense of pride in what we did this year and we want to go and take that on.'