FEBRUARY 28, 1995

Pacific forms alliance with Lotus

Pacific Grand Prix will shortly announce that it has formed an alliance with the Lotus team and - if it wins a case with the FIA Contract Recognition Board - that Mika Salo will be Bertrand Gachot's team mate for 1995.

Pacific boss Keith Wiggins is understood to have concluded the deal last week with Lotus owner David Hunt, who was looking for a way to keep the Lotus name alive in F1. The new outfit will be known as Pacific Team Lotus.

For Pacific the deal is a brilliant tactical move: it means that the team will be able to sell the Lotus name to sponsors, which F1 analyists reckon is worth as much as US$5 million a year and may even be pick up some of Lotus's 1994 sponsors which had been left in the lurch by Lotus's closure. For David Hunt the deal means that the Lotus name will live on in F1.

The deal could also mean that the team will snatch young Finnish star Mika Salo from Tyrrell. Lotus and Tyrrell went to the F1 Contract Recognition board in Geneva, Switzerland on Sunday to fight over the future of Salo.

The F1 Contract Recognition Board is a body of independent lawyers with whom all F1 contracts are lodged. In the case of a dispute between teams the board is empowered by the FIA to decide if a contract is binding or not.

Team Lotus ran Salo in the final two races of last season and signed a long-term deal with the Finn last autumn. If Lotus had entered the World Championship this year Salo would have been one of its drivers, but the Norfolk team was unable to make the commitment and had to withdraw, citing the non-arrival of funds.

Salo then tested for Tyrrell with impressive results and Tyrrell decided it wanted to sign him. Lotus blocked the move presumably in the expectation of the Pacific deal.