End of an era as once-proud Lotus lose fight for survival
BY TIMOTHY COLLINGS TEAM LOTUS, the most famous marque in British motor racing, yesterday gave up their fight for survival in the cut-throat jungle of modern Formula One. Chronic financial difficulties, which had bedevilled them for years, finally overwhelmed the Norfolk team, leaving owner David Hunt with little option but to make the staff of 60 redundant.
Like Brabham, who perished two years ago, Lotus have lived too long on borrowed time, the laurels of a bygone age and the goodwill of old friends after falling into a downward spiral following the death of their founder Colin Chapman in December 1982.
"He gave the team direction and 'oomph' and, without him, it was never the same," said Derek Warwick, to whom Lotus remain the epitomy of British racing despite his harrowing season with them in 1990 - their last season sponsored by Camel.
Hunt, who had announced on Dec 8 that he was laying off all staff until the end of last year while he searched for new sponsors and backers, extended that stay of execution until Jan 16. But when the deadline came nothing had materialised and the team he had saved from extinction, when he bought them from court-appointed administrators last October, were left without the resources to race on.
Staff have been extraordinarily loyal "This is an extremely sad day for everybody associated with Team Lotus," said Hunt after addressing the staff at their historic headquarters at Ketteringham Hall, Wymondham, yesterday morning. "The staff have been extraordinarily loyal and patient, but the non-payment of funds due meant that we had no option."
Hunt is looking at approaches from rival teams to create a joint effort, which would keep Lotus's name on the grid in 1995, but hoped to avoid "a situation where they are going to struggle around at the back of the grid and have their name dragged further through the mud".
Sadly, the heritage of Chapman's creations and the driving achievements of Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt, Emerson Fittipaldi and Mario Andretti in a scroll of honour which boasts six drivers' championships and seven constructors' titles is all that the team have left to trade.
Ever since Chapman founded his first Lotus Engineering Company in Hornsey, London, in 1952, Lotus have been synonymous with innovative engineering.
Moves to Cheshunt in Hertfordshire in 1959 and to Norfolk, in 1965, saw that reputation enhanced with the pioneering of such features as monocoque chassis, four-wheel drive, gas turbine engines, ground-effect technology and active suspension.
The racing team, who made their debut at Monaco in 1958, won their first grand prix there two years later. Yesterday, after a total of 490 grands prix, 107 pole positions and 79 wins, the last supplied by the late Ayrton Senna at Detroit in 1987, that famous innovation was unable to keep them on the track.
Reproduced here courtesy The Electronic Telegraph 18 January 1995
The Electronic Telegraph is a Registered Service Mark of The Telegraph plc
=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+= + Kelvin Fielding + =+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=