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Back to the future as Lotus joins F1 entry list

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Back to the future as Lotus joins F1 entry list
Jun 7, 2009, 7:55 AM

Formula 3 team Litespeed has announced that it's F1 team name, if it's 2010 entry is accepted by the FIA this week, will be Lotus.

Formula 3 team Litespeed has announced that it's F1 team name, if it's 2010 entry is accepted by the FIA this week, will be Lotus.

Last week we had a team using the Brabham name and there are rumours that March is going to be recycled. If it carries on like this we're all going to have to start growing mutton chop sideburns again.

Litespeed is owned by two ex Lotus engineers and they have persuaded David Hunt, who owns the rights to the name, to let them use it. Lotus won the world championship with Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt, Emerson Fittipaldi and Mario Andretti as well as seven constructors' championships. It fizzled out of F1 in 1994.

Picture 13

This harking back to great names from the 1960s and '70s is interesting on several levels. These are names from the period when Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone were having fun in F1, enjoying racing for racing's sake, but poised to take over the whole show. F1 worked for them then because it was basically Ferrari vs a bunch of English engineers with Cosworth engines. It was about innovation. F1, like life generally, has become a lot more complicated since.

There does seem to be a nostalgia for those days in much of what is going on at the moment in this 2010 entry crisis. And also it begs the question, what's in a name? Do we miss Minardi? Would we miss BMW Sauber? They are just entrants, like the many who have been in F1 and gone.

As long as the teams were competently run and the cars competitive so that the team was contributing to the show, does it really matter who's out there? Well it does a bit. Some of these old team names bolted onto new teams seem like a veneer to me, success by association, rather than achievement. It feels like a branding exercise, when what matters is the beating heart of the team.

But it's also about scale; the manufacturers in the sport at the moment add tremendous prestige and attract sponsors. As a business, F1 is a bigger place with them in, rather than F3 teams with old F1 names.

What it also does is reinforce the significance of Ferrari, McLaren and Williams, as teams which have survived since those times and continue to provide the spine of Formula 1.

"Team Lotus is synonymous with great British engineering and F1 innovation, " said the statement. "Such as the Lotus 25 being the first monocoque chassis in F1 and the introduction of groundbreaking sponsorship, both of which easily demonstrate why ex-Lotus personnel would want to bring this championship-winning name back to the formula. Litespeed was born from a similar British background - a factor that was at the core of Colin Chapman's beliefs and subsequent success."

Max Mosley couldn't have written it better himself.

Johnny Herbert is involved as a front man and ex Toyota, Renault and Jordan technical director Mike Gascoyne is in charge of the engineering side of things for this project. Also a native of Norfolk, like Lotus, Gascoyne has been around the block in F1 and knows what it takes to build a state of the art car.

And he will be joined by some really talented staff, no doubt, because when the current F1 teams either don't enter next year or lay off 300 people each to fit under the budget cap, there will be lots of very skilled people on the market. Projects like this will recycle some of them.

Litespeed/Lotus will operate out of the factory in Norfolk which used to run the TOM'S Toyota team and which was used by Audi and Bentley's Le Mans projects. There is no indication given of where the money is coming from.

Like all the others, they will learn on June 12th whether their entry has been accepted.
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