JANUARY 18, 2011
Group Lotus attempts to expedite naming verdict
Group Lotus is pursuing a summary judgement in the row over the Lotus F1 naming rights, with a hearing scheduled for next Monday, January 24.
Originally, the matter was not scheduled to come to court before the middle of the year at the earliest but there is an interest in settling the matter ahead of the new F1 season, which starts in Bahrain on March 13.
Tony Fernandes's Hingham-based Lotus Racing competed throughout its first season under a five-year licencing agreement from the Proton-owned Group Lotus. This was rescinded late last year, however, with Group Lotus citing breach of contract. Since then, Group Lotus has bought into the Renault F1 team and announced that it will race as Lotus Renault in 2011. Fernandes, meanwhile, purchased the disputed rights to the Team Lotus name from David Hunt, who was in charge when the team folded in 1994.
In a series of tit-for-tat decisions, exchanges and press releases at the end of 2010, both parties revealed the decision to race in the black-and-gold livery used by Colin Chapman's original Team Lotus in the seventies and eighties. This is in itself controversial, however, with that original livery synonymous with sponsorship from the John Player tobacco brand. Tobacco advertising is now highly restricted and the Canadian GP organisers have already signalled potential problems involved with either team running in black and gold.
Health Canada, which enforces the country's Tobacco Act, told the Toronto Globe and Mail: "Tobacco inspectors would need to assess whether a violation of the Tobacco Act has occurred."
Sources indicate that Lotus Racing believes next week's court hearing will conclude that not all relevant facts are present, meaning that recommendation for a full trial is likely, and that the only realistic way of resolving the matter ahead of the season is an out of court settlement. As things stand, however, neither side seems willing to back down.