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By Any Other Name?

FEATURE BY MAT COCH
24/10/2012

On Sunday, Mario Andretti drove his world championship winning Lotus 79 around the Circuit of the Americas. He was followed on track by Jerome d'Ambrosio behind the wheel of a similarly liveried 2010-spec Renault R30. In August the Belgian demonstrated an ex-Ayrton Senna Lotus at a Word Series by Renault event in Paul Ricard, France.

D'Ambrosio's appearance at the wheel of an original Lotus car, and his subsequent appearance in a Renault painted to look like a Lotus, is rather perplexing. Equally confusing is Andretti's presence in his original, Colin Chapman provided Lotus, at the Circuit of the America. It raises questions over just who the Lotus team, operated by Genii Capital, actually is. More to the point, it raises questions about whom the team operated by Genii Capital is trying to be.

On its website the team directly links itself with the franchise's parentage. Having started life as Toleman it became Benetton, before Renault and ultimately what we know today as Lotus. All of this is clearly and proudly advertised by the team, nowhere more so than on the wall of its motorhome where it displays the accomplishments of its Benetton and Renault predecessors.

At the same time the team appears to be actively and deliberately positioning itself to draw on the emotive JPS branding Team Lotus ran for the better part of two decades, the livery made famous by the likes of Emerson Fittipaldi and Andretti.

While actively telling its own history and the championships it won as Benetton and Renault, it's appears, at least to this writer, to be trying to hijack that of the team once led by Colin Chapman. Pitpass offered Lotus the opportunity to set the record straight on its marketing campaign and apparent attempts to misappropriate Lotus' history however the Enstone squad declined.

Team Lotus is a historic and important part of Formula One history. Genii Capital is an investment company which purchased the Renault Formula One team. It has no links with Formula One or Lotus beyond the fact it purchased a franchise and a license.

Tony Fernandes and Proton (the company which was once owner of the Lotus name), had argued like scorned lovers over the rights to Lotus' presence in Formula One since 2010. Fernandes ultimately relented and purchased Caterham, whom his team is now named after, while the Lotus car company was sold on to new owners.

At the beginning of 2012 the Genii Capital run team re-branded itself Lotus Renault after being sponsored by the car company in 2011. That year it adopted a cynically black and gold livery in what many might have seen as a two-fingered salute to Fernandes.

Genii Capital is not Lotus any more than 1Malaysia Racing was. It has no claim to the Lotus history, nor does it have any links. The team currently known as Lotus began life as Toleman, a team which lost its star driver to Lotus at the end of 1984.

Lotus departed Formula One at the end of 1994. Every team bearing that name since has been an impostor; mutton dressed up as lamb; a wolf in sheep's clothing. The team we know as Lotus is a bought and paid for name by a company which appears to want to manipulate history to create an emotive connection to a team it has no right or claim to be.

For the team currently known as Lotus to portray itself in a manner to suggest it has any relationship to the feats of Fittipaldi or Andretti is misleading marketing and, in this writer's humble opinion, ethically questionable.

Mat Coch
mat.coch@pitpass.com

To check out previous features from Mat, click here

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