The Electronic Telegraph 9 December 1994 MOTOR RACING BY TIMOTHY COLLINGS TEAM LOTUS, whose new owner, David Hunt, took control only six weeks ago, became embroiled in a new crisis yesterday when their entire 90-strong ...
The Electronic Telegraph 9 December 1994 MOTOR RACING
BY TIMOTHY COLLINGS TEAM LOTUS, whose new owner, David Hunt, took control only six weeks ago, became embroiled in a new crisis yesterday when their entire 90-strong workforce was laid off for financial reasons. At the same time, Damon Hill, growing in confidence with every passing week, revealed he had signed a lucrative new contract with Williams Renault. No two events, announced almost simultaneously, could better have summed up the contrasting trials and tribulations of life in the financial fast lane of modern Formula One. For Lotus, the news of a temporary shutdown until the end of a year in which their debts rose above #10 million, may signal the end of Britain's most famous racing team. Hill's new one-year deal is understood to make him the sport's latest millionaire. Lotus, seven times winners of the constructors' world championship and six times winners of the drivers' title - including one success with Hill's father, Graham, in a Lotus Ford in 1968 - were in the control of court-appointed administrators when Hunt, 34, younger brother of James Hunt, bought the team. Lotus are a team with history and hope, but little else Now, following the departure of their most-prized asset, Johnny Herbert, to Benetton, via Ligier, and their Mugen-Honda engine supply, which is expected also to go to Ligier, they are a team with history and hope, but little else, despite the optimistic defiance in Hunt's comments yesterday. According to Hunt, Lotus have been closed down to give the team "breathing space, during which it can focus on attracting the further support that it needs." Ironically, Lotus's shutdown came just 24 hours after British rivals Lola admitted they could not afford to enter the 1995 F1 world championship. Hunt, whose decision sent a shockwave throughout the F1 community yesterday, said: "We have a number of very promising opportunities which we are pursuing and I'm keen to create more. My colleagues and I are working diligently to resolve a short-term cash-flow challenge in order to achieve the long-term objectives of the company." 'Team Lotus has the potential to return to its winning ways' The shutdown means that production of the team's new T112 car, already delayed because of a shortage of raw materials and parts, has now been brought to a halt. Even this, however, did not prevent Hunt from remaining bullish about the future. "There is no doubt in my mind that Team Lotus has the genuine potential to return to its winning ways and reward its countless loyal fans around the world," he said. "If I did not believe this absolutely, I would not have acquired the team." Lotus's fortunes have been on the wane since 1990 when their sponsorship from Camel came to an end. In 1991 the team were taken over by Peter Collins and Peter Wright who worked energetically, but in vain, for a revival of the halcyon days of Jim Clark, - who won the drivers' title with them in 1963 and 1965 - Hill (a winner in 1968), Jochen Rindt (1970), Emerson Fittipaldi (1972) and Mario Andretti (1978). The team last won a race, with Ayrton Senna at the wheel, at the United States (East) Grand Prix at Detroit in 1987. In all, Lotus have competed in 490 grands prix since Colin Chapman started racing, at Monaco, in 1958, winning 79 times. As the pioneer of sponsorship in Formula One, Chapman would be aghast at Lotus's current plight. _________________________________________________________________ The Electronic Telegraph is a Registered Service Mark of The Telegraph plc The Electronic Telegraph is a Registered Service Mark of The Telegraph plc