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Lotus and F1

DAVID HUNT may not be the only man trying to get the name Lotus back into Formula 1 racing. Just a couple of weeks after Hunt announced his intention to put Team Lotus back on the Grand Prix map, we hear that Group Lotus is considering using F1 as a means of promoting its sportscars. This makes perfect commercial sense. It would also provide a good sideline as merchandising of the Lotus name could become a major money-spinning enterprise if well-handled.

The current owner of Group Lotus is Malaysia's Proton car company which bought 80% of the shares from Italian wheeler-dealer Romano Artioli in November 1996. Since then the Malaysians have been busy investing and have plans to produce the Elise sportscar in factories in Malaysia. Proton is also directly involved in the plans for the Sauber Petronas Engineering company. Sauber Petronas is currently working on the design of a production car engine which will be produced in Malaysia and used to power Proton cars. The intention is for this to begin production next year. Sauber Petronas Engineering will then move on to produce its own F1 engine in the year 2000 and we believe that it is highly likely that when this is ready there will be two teams supplied: Sauber and Lotus.

It is very interesting to note that at a couple of races this year Lotus Cars USA Inc. chief executive officer James Selwa has been spotted in the F1 paddock and at Hockenheim had meetings with Bernie Ecclestone. It is worth noting that the meeting also involved Don Panoz - the man who is building aluminum-chassised sportscars in Georgia and using GT racing as a means of promoting his products. Panoz also has also mentioned that he might be interested in running a United States Grand╩Prix at the Road Atlanta circuit in Georgia - which he also owns.

Lotus Cars USA Inc. is also based in Georgia but it is worth noting that Panoz's wealth comes from the pharmaceutical company known as the Elan Corporation. This may be a coincidence but the fact that Elan is a traditional Lotus name - the first Lotus Elans having been built in the 1960s with a new generation car of the same name produced a few years ago.

We understand that if there is to be a new Lotus F1 team it will not be called Team Lotus unless David Hunt is involved as he owns the rights to that name. The name, however, is not important as the Chapman Family owns the rights to the name Team Lotus International and other names such as Lotus Racing are part of the main Lotus Group empire.

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