Lotus links up with Renault F1 for 2011 season

Associated Press
Image released by Renault F1 motor racing on Wednesday Dec 8 2010 of the new F1 car livery. Group Lotus has teamed up with Renault for the 2011 Formula One championship, creating further uncertainty over the use of the famous name.  Lotus reappeared in F1 in 2010 after a 16-year absence with Group Lotus leasing the name to Tony Fernandes' Lotus Racing, but Renault announced Wednesday a new seven-season agreement to create Lotus Renault GP. Fernandes  is pursuing a case through London's High Court to keep the right to use the Team Lotus name. (AP Photo/ RenaultF1) ** NO SALES EDITORIAL USE ONLY
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Group Lotus has linked up with Renault for next year's Formula One championship, raising the possibility of two teams racing under the famous name in 2011.

Lotus reappeared in F1 in 2010 after a 16-year absence with Group Lotus licensing the name to Tony Fernandes' Lotus Racing, but Renault said Wednesday that the new seven-season agreement to create Lotus Renault GP "marks the complete return of the Lotus manufacturer to the sport."

Group Lotus will own and run the team with Luxembourg-based Genii Capital, which has completed the purchase of Renault's stake in the team. Renault will continue to supply the engines and technical support.

"We're well aware that there has been a lot of controversy around the usage of our brand in F1 and I'm delighted to be able to formally clarify our position once and for all," Group Lotus Chief Executive Dany Bahar said. "We are Lotus and we are back."

Renault, which finished fifth in the 2010 constructors' championship with Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov on board, will race in the traditional black-and-gold Lotus livery until the end of the 2017 season.

"We will continue to enjoy a strong relationship with Renault over the coming seasons," Renault F1 chairman Gerard Lopez said.

But Fernandes, the Malaysian businessman who runs the AirAsia airline and tried to buy the English Premier League soccer club West Ham this year, is pursuing a case through London's High Court to keep the right to use the name.

Fernandes responded to the new agreement on Twitter: "Never felt better about our future and Team Lotus. Looks like (they're) trying to hijak our black and gold idea."

Fernandes plans to rebrand Lotus Racing, which failed to score a point in 2010, as Team Lotus for next season after buying the name from David Hunt, who had owned it since the original team's financial collapse in 1994.

The team even announced its own black-and-gold color scheme at last month's season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

But Malaysian state-owned car maker Proton, which owns Group Lotus, contends that its right to the name takes precedence.

Lotus was formed in 1952 and went on to win 79 F1 races and seven constructors' titles between 1958 and 1994 — when the team collapsed amid financial problems.

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