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- Tony Fernandes
Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar has revealed his company was keen to work alongside Team Lotus but negotiations were cut short by "ridiculous" demands from Tony Fernandes.
Group Lotus recently announced it will sponsor RenaultF1 in 2011, meaning there is a very real prospect of two Lotus-branded teams on the grid next year. The use of the historic name is set to go court with both sides confident they will win before the start of the season.
Bahar joined Group Lotus last year with the aim of aggressively promoting the Lotus brand through motorsport, but was not part of the company's original deal with Fernandes to license its name in Formula One. Earlier this year Group Lotus made clear it would revoke its license from Lotus Racing at the end of the season, forcing Fernandes' outfit to buy the unused Team Lotus name from David Hunt.
However, Bahar has now revealed that the decision to use RenaultF1 to promote its cars instead of Team Lotus was because talks with Fernandes broke down.
"We tried, but when the counter proposals are so ridiculous, there is no point to continue to talk." Bahar told journalists at a media lunch on Wednesday. "[RenaultF1] was one third of the cost."
He added that it made more sense for Group Lotus to come into F1 as a sponsor and minority shareholder of RenaultF1 than with a full team.
"We would not have the courage to build a new team from scratch," he said, "So we took the more conservative approach. We want to fight at the top end of the grid. We understand that for the next two years we need to learn about F1, the car will be a Renault and so on, but then when we have a new Concorde Agreement, hopefully [in 2013] we can possibly change the name, we'll see where we are and learn over two years."
He confirmed that Group Lotus does not want "anyone [else] to call their car Lotus because the Lotus car is our brand. We are just a car company trying to come up with a new Formula One programme".
He also reiterated RenaultF1's comments early this week that the new Lotus Renault GP was not laying a claim to the history of Colin Chapman's Team Lotus.
"We don't claim to be Team Lotus, and we don't want to be," said Bahar. "It has a glorious past, but Team Lotus should be kept where it was, it should rest in peace."
He also revealed that Group Lotus was keen to manufacture its own F1 engines in the future after the company recently announced it would supply powerplants to Indycar racing from 2012.
"We have plans underway to think about our own engine family in our road car programmes for the future," Bahar said. "The fact that we have announced that we will be developing an engine for Indycar for 2012 shows already that we are heavily interested in becoming an engine manufacturer with our own brand."
Lotus involvement as an engine supplier would likely dovetail with the new, smaller-capacity engine regulations set to be introduced in 2013.
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