Lotus add history to grid moving out of Europe

Jim Clark won the world championship with Lotus in 1963

Lotus, one of the most revered names in motor racing, announced yesterday that it is coming back to Formula One after an absence of 15 years.

At the same time, BMW sold its team to QADBAK, the Middle East consortium behind Munto Finance, which bought Notts County, the Coca-Cola League Two football club, this summer.

It seems unlikely there will be a link between Sven Göran-Eriksson, County’s director of football, and Formula One but QADBAK — representing investors in Qatar and Abu Dhabi — clearly has serious sporting intentions in Europe, given that it is thought to have spent about £50 million acquiring the BMW Formula One operation based in Hinwil, Switzerland.

The deal came too late to keep the team’s place on the grid for 2010, which was snatched at the eleventh hour by a hasty proposition from Lotus, the carmaker based in Hethel, Norfolk. The FIA will ask Formula One’s ten teams to agree to allow QADBAK on to what would be the biggest grid for 17 years, with 14 teams. Whether such a bumper turnout is an indication of the financial health of Formula One or a sign of the gradual takeover of the traditional heartlands of sport by money from the Middle and Far East remains to be seen.

Lotus are as British as bacon butties, a team that effectively ended Italian dominance of Formula One in the Sixties with charismatic drivers, such as Jim Clark and Graham Hill. Founded by Colin Chapman, an engineering genius and innovator, the team swept to seven constructors’ championships and six drivers’ titles with 79 victories and 107 pole positions before folding in 1994.

The team pioneered the notion of sponsorship, when in 1968 their familiar green and yellow livery was ditched to make way for the red, gold and white of the Gold Leaf cigarette brand. Lotus were first and the rest have followed, with sponsorship now a £1 billion business for Formula One.

But the British Lotus name will be little more than a front. The car business is owned by Proton, a Malaysian state-owned carmaker that is behind the comeback, along with Tony Fernandes, the Malaysian entrepreneur and founder of the Tune Group, which owns Air Asia. Fernandes, who will be team principal, also has his football obsession and considered becoming shirt sponsor of Manchester United before the club signed with Aon, the American financial giant.

The Formula One team will be based near to Lotus’s headquarters — led by Mike Gascoyne, the former technical head of Toyota and the defunct Jordan team — but the Malaysians have ambitious plans for a research and development centre at the Sepang circuit outside Kuala Lumpur. Team members next year will be drawn from Malaysia and they want to find a home-grown driver.

i was surprised to have heard of this news. its not about lotus coming back or the qadbak buying the bmw sauber f1 but the part where they said that they’ll set up an r&d at sepang circuit. that’s hell of a good news. do they need any e&e engineer down there? would love to be part of the team.. haha.. dream on.. congrats proton for making such a wise decision buying lotus years before.. article from Times Online.

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