Well it’s been a fascinating few days since news of a possible tie-up between Team Lotus and Caterham emerged. The Hingham-based outfit announced a major press conference to be held at Duxford Airfield next week, prompting rumours about what’s likely to be on the agenda.
The invite for the gathering on the 29th is headlined as “an incredibly exciting announcement about the future of the team”, but with the High Court case between 1 Malaysia Racing and Group Lotus still to be concluded, we knew it couldn’t be about the spat over the use of the Lotus name in Formula 1.
Well, digging beneath the covers some truly interesting facts begin to emerge. The holding company, ‘Caterham Car Sales & Coachworks Limited’ which is parent to ‘Caterham Cars Limited’ and ‘Caterham Cars Group Limited’ recently filed two changes to it’s articles at Companies House;
Kamarudin Bin Meranun and Anthony Francis Fernandes are principals of Team Lotus, and given Fernandes’ stated ambition to move into road cars it would seem reasonable to assume he and his business partners have purchased a controlling stake in the Dartford-based specialist car maker and will use the company as an alternative to his original plan of buying Group Lotus.
Should the High Court ruling in the case between 1 Malaysia Racing and Group Lotus conclude against Fernandes, then we might possibly see the Caterham name enter F1 at some stage in the future. Wouldn’t that be an exciting prospect?
It seems ironic for Fernandes to strike a deal with the descendent of Colin Chapman’s original road car – the Lotus Seven – which grew out of Lotus to become the Caterham Seven when Graham Nearn took over production in the early 1970s.
With Lotus moving its road cars upmarket, there’s now a huge gap (south of £70k) in the market which the Caterham brand would be perfect to fill, and given Fernandes’ track record of reinvigorating businesses to become world leaders (as he has done with Air Asia), the next few years could well be a golden period for Caterham as new models join the range and the brand steps up to become truly global.
I have a lot of respect for the way Caterham’s Ansar Ali has developed the business since taking over as MD, and it would be fitting to see him given the platform to take Caterham further into the mainstream of car makers.