Mike Gascoyne proud of his work under Lotus name
Mike Gascoyne is proud he helped bring Lotus back into Formula One – but admits losing the iconic marque means the Norfolk-based constructor must leave Hingham to progress.
The Catton-born chief technical officer set up the new Lotus Racing team in September 2009 openly acknowledging his joy at trying to re-establish Colin Chapman's legendary name as a force in F1.
But a long and bitter spat between Hingham and Hethel sports car manufacturer Group Lotus eventually made the best laid plans of Gascoyne and team owner Tony Fernandes unworkable – and from 2012 the outfit will race as Caterham.
The team's F1 operation is set to move to the former Arrows team base near Silverstone, while Hingham will house Caterham's impressive aims at utilising F1 technologies in outside industries.
And for Gascoyne, the harsh reality of the situation had to take precedence over his emotive hopes for Team Lotus.
'I'm big enough, bad enough and been in this game for long enough you just accept that's the way it is,' said the former Wymondham College pupil.
'For me as a Norfolk kid, I came back to Norfolk and set up a Formula One team called Lotus – and you don't get an opportunity like that very often, so it's something I will always be very proud of.
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'You have to have a deep sense of practicality. You can't get emotional about it. It became a massively hot political thing with the Chapman family, with Group Lotus and (their parent company) Proton, and the individuals taking it over.
'But what we did was done in great faith and with great spirit, and I think everyone involved can be very proud of what they did under the Lotus name.'
Gascoyne added: 'There were plans about road cars and Lotus, and they never materialised. In the end we've gone in a different direction with Caterham – with the Lotus name it wasn't not possible and you move on.
'On the Formula One side, had you done that with Lotus it may have been sustainable (at Hingham). But without that, in Norfolk it has been very difficult to recruit experienced people or hold on to them. A lot of people that come to work here, their families stay in other parts of the country and they just come up for the week.
'You've got to realise if you move someone up here and they spend every other week away or 70 per cent of their time travelling, it can become very difficult for the families – and you can understand when a job comes up nearer their families, they leave.
'So you struggle to recruit and you struggle to hold on to people. We just felt for the long-term good of the F1 operation we needed to move and we think that's the right decision.'
Caterham Composites will be one of the new businesses working out of Hingham – aimed at using F1 technologies in industries such as aviation, automotive and sailing. Design and production teams, as well as Caterham's junior motorsport teams may also remain in Norfolk for now.
Gascoyne will act as chief executive for the composite business he believes will grow hugely in the coming years, while remaining fully involved in the Formula One team 'for the foreseeable future'.
On track, Team Lotus did not deliver the first championship point they had hoped for before the season started, but Gascoyne takes one look around the team that will begin its Caterham adventure next season and sees big progress.
'From Singapore onwards we always beat an established team – Williams, (Lotus) Renault, Sauber. We have clearly moved up to those teams and been able to beat them on track,' he said.
'I agree it was disappointing we didn't score a point but who's to be more disappointed, us or Williams and Renault? I think the job we did to be where we were was a lot better than the job they did to be where they were.
'But it's not just where you are on the track, it's whether you're on track to build the team up. Are you putting everything in place for next year and the one after? You don't necessarily see that on track while we're doing it, but that has all been going very well.
'So in that case job done and if you say you want to score points, we didn't do that… screw up. We still qualified 19th and 20th for every race… so what. But actually, where we are for next season…from that point of view there are now 10 established teams and two new teams. There used to be nine and three.
'It's much more of a level playing field. The job now is to take it on and do what we said we would last year and do it properly – that's the challenge and it is a great challenge.
'But it's not like we're just the same: like Williams and Renault, so try harder. No, we have physical reasons why it will be better that we didn't have before. And we are trying harder too.'