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Team Lotus buys Caterham

Side by side: Formula One outfit Team Lotus has bought British sportscar maker Caterham, prompting a limited-edition version of its 'Seven' model, draped in the team's green and gold livery.

Lotus F1 team owner Tony Fernandes acquires British sportscar brand Caterham

28 Apr 2011

TEAM Lotus, the Formula 1 team owned by enigmatic Malaysian tycoon and airline owner Tony Fernandes, has bought Caterham, the British sportscar maker famous for keeping alive the concept of Colin Chapman’s iconic Lotus Seven road-going race car.

To celebrate the union, Caterham has launched a run of limited-edition upgrade packages comprising Team Lotus livery and “a raft of bespoke Team Lotus additions”.

Just 25 Caterham Sevens will be produced with the upgrade package, which can be specified on any Seven variant. The cost of the package to Australian customers is $5500 on the entry-level Roadsport SV120 and $7150 for all other models, which are subject to luxury car tax.

Each of the 25 limited-edition cars will feature a cockpit plaque exhibiting the signatures of Team Lotus Formula 1 drivers Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen, and customers will also receive a book about the history of the Seven, signed by Team Lotus chief designer Mike Gascoyne.

For the time being, it will be business as usual at Caterham and it will continue to be led by the existing management team, headed up by managing director Ansar Ali, who has been with the brand for six years and credited for the export strategy that has taken Caterhams to world markets including continental Europe, Japan, the Middle East and Australia.

 center imageIn addition to extra funding, Caterham will benefit from a tie-in with Formula 1 through an exchange of cutting-edge race technology and global exposure as the F1 circus travels the world.

On the official Team Lotus podcast, Mr Ali said the iconic Seven would remain safe under the new ownership.

“The Caterham business is about evolution not revolution so we will look to be evolving the Seven even more. The Seven is the core of our business,” he said.

“We have a very active motorsport programme and we’re looking to expand that even further. I’ve just come back from Kuala Lumpur having been out with Tony (Fernandes) for a week and the opportunities for Caterham Motorsport out there just beggar belief, in my view.”

Mr Fernandes believes that his ownership of Caterham will help make participation in motorsport more affordable, just as his airline Air Asia had brought air travel within reach of many people living in Asia and beyond.

Speaking on the Team Lotus podcast, Mr Fernandes said: “I think with Caterham the plans we have are that everyone who wants to race will be able to race through the academy and the cars that we will develop through Caterham.

“Team Lotus fans will be able to get closer to racing through Caterham and improve their driving abilities.

“Affordability has always been our life. Many of the brands in Formula 1 are beyond the affordability of the average Formula 1 fan. But I think with Caterham and with our plans we can bring Formula 1 into cars that people can afford.”

The announcement of the acquisition and resultant special edition car comes at a time when both Team Lotus and Group Lotus – which under Proton control, also happens to be Malaysian-owned – are awaiting a High Court ruling over who owns the rights to use the Lotus name in Formula 1 racing.

Last season, Lotus raced under licence granted to Mr Fernandes by Group Lotus, but for this season, Group Lotus took the decision to sponsor the Renault F1 team, prompting Mr Fernandes to attempt to secure the Team Lotus name from David Hunt (brother of 1979 Formula 1 world champion James Hunt), who bought the rights to the name when the team went bust in 1994.

Group Lotus reacted by withdrawing the licence from Fernandes, who proceeded to use the Team Lotus name for this season as a way of protecting his investment, resulting in two Lotus-branded teams appearing on the grid. Mr Hunt eventually declined to assist Mr Fernandes in court due to a dispute over payment for the Team Lotus name.

The dispute with Lotus has put paid to Mr Fernandes’ ambitions to buy Lotus Cars but the tie-up with Caterham could be a backup plan for Mr Fernandes if he is forced to surrender the Lotus name, although he has reportedly denied this.

Speaking on the Team Lotus podcast, Mr Fernandes said: “Inevitably there will be linkage between (Caterham and Team Lotus). As to name changes and branding and all, watch that space. I don’t actually know the answer right now.

“Let’s see how the court case pans out. There will definitely be linkage and Caterham will be very closely linked with Team Lotus and vice-versa,” he said.

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