Group Lotus ups the stakes in its battle with Fernandes

This is steadily becoming the biggest motorsport pis**ng contest of recent times and clearly goes well beyond the bounds of gentlemanly competition… Welcome to Round 3 of the Lotus-vs-Lotus spat.

We were already aware that Group Lotus were in discussions with Genii Capital – majority shareholders in the Renault F1 team – about bringing a tie-up for 2011. The announcement was due at the final grand prix in Abu Dhabi, but there’s been much lobbying and negotiation in the background prior to this morning’s announcement.

Last week the FIA announced the teams that would be competing in the 2011 F1 World Championship, with Tony Fernandes’ Lotus Racing becoming ‘Team Lotus‘. Fernandes’ team announced a few weeks earlier that they’d be moving from the green-and-yellow livery of their 2010 car and reviving the iconic black-and-gold livery of those 1970’s John Player Special sponsored Team Lotus cars – a move that was roundly applauded in the motorsport world.

So we shouldn’t really be surprised that in this very public game of chess, that Group Lotus have thrown a spoiler into the ring by way of the black-and-gold livery of it’s own contender, launched this morning under the name of ‘Lotus Renault GP’.

Here’s the full press release for you to pick over yourself..

Genii Capital and Group Lotus join forces in Lotus Renault GP

Lotus, the manufacturer, returns to Formula 1™

Genii Capital and Group Lotus plc today announced the creation of Lotus Renault GP, the successor to the Renault F1 Team that will contest the 2011 FIA Formula One™ World Championship. This exciting announcement is made in the context of a strategic alliance between the two companies that will provide Group Lotus with significant technological and commercial opportunities for its range of road cars.

Following the return of the Lotus name to Formula 1™ in 2010, under licence from Group Lotus, this historic announcement marks the complete return of the Lotus manufacturer to the sport, with the full backing of its parent company Proton. Group Lotus plc will become a major equity partner of Genii Capital in Lotus Renault GP, and the two parties have concluded a title sponsorship agreement that will run until the end of the 2017 season. With the continued support of Renault as a supplier of engines and technological and engineering expertise, Lotus Renault GP enjoys a strong, stable platform for future success.

[blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”center”]We’re well aware that there has been a lot of controversy around the usage of our brand in F1 and I’m delighted to be able to formally clarify our position once and for all: we are Lotus and we are back.[/blockquote]

Gerard Lopez, Chairman of Renault F1 Team, commented: “We are delighted that we can now go public with the news that we will be racing as Lotus Renault GP in 2011. It is extremely exciting to begin a new era for the team in partnership with Group Lotus, and we will continue to enjoy a strong relationship with Renault over the coming seasons. It is a tribute to the excellent work this year by the team in Enstone that we have been able to attract both major sponsorship and new investment for a very bright future.”

Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar said: “I can think of no better platform for automotive brand communications than motorsport and F1 is the very pinnacle of open-wheel racing. We’re well aware that there has been a lot of controversy around the usage of our brand in F1 and I’m delighted to be able to formally clarify our position once and for all: we are Lotus and we are back.”

The new partnership has been enabled by Renault selling its remaining shares in the team to Genii Capital. Group Lotus plc will subsequently become a major equity partner in Lotus Renault GP, which it will co-own with Genii Capital.

Renault will continue its strong support of the team with which it won the 2005 and 2006 world championships, as a supplier of engines and technological and engineering expertise. Reflecting this technological support, Lotus Renault GP will continue to compete with the Renault chassis name and Renault will enjoy pre-eminent brand exposure on the livery.

For 2011, the Lotus Renault GP cars will race in a new interpretation of the iconic black and gold colours that were last used when Lotus and Renault joined forces in the 1980s. This livery, which has been on the drawing board for over two months in order to reinterpret its iconic graphic signature to suit modern media requirements, is sure to strike a powerful chord with the sport’s enthusiasts around the world.

The team scored a strong fifth-place finish in the 2010 constructors’ championship, which included three podium finishes for Robert Kubica. Next season, Lotus Renault GP is aiming to take another step forward which will see it competing regularly with the most prestigious names in Formula 1™.