1963 Lotus
The name was as hip as the Beatles and as charismatic as Carnaby Street and now Lotus is back on the grid. The company says it will compete in Formula One next year, a team revived after 15 years away from the glitz and glamour of grand prix racing it once dominated to become one of the iconic names in motor racing history.

In spite of the indomitable history of the familiar green and yellow badge, it is a sign of the times that the new Lotus team will be British-based but backed entirely by money from Malaysia. Tony Fernandes, the entrepreneurial founder of Air Asia, will be the team principal with Mike Gascoyne, the former technical head at the now defunct Jordan and Toyota teams, running the construction operation.

The team was founded by Colin Chapman, a brilliant engineer, whose ability to innovate soon powered his cars to the front of grand prix racing. With drivers like Jim Clark and Graham Hill at the wheel, the Sixties became a period when British cars started to dominate Formula One after years of rule by the Italians.

The Lotus name was also turning into an icon on the roads, Chapman building a series of sports cars, including the little, white Elan driven glamorously by Diana Rigg as Emma Peel in the television series, The Avengers, which even today is a cult classic.

The team started a sad decline from 1982 after Chapman died of a heart attack, aged just 54, amid allegations of fraud after he became involved in the ill-fated DeLorean scandal. The team left Formula One in 1994 and the brand was sold in 1996 to Proton, the Malaysian state-owned carmaker now behind the new venture. Tony Fernandes, former shortstop for the World Series Champion Toronto Blue Jays, and now the fifteenth richest man in Malaysia and other Malaysian investors are backing the venture with considerable financial capital.

“It will be a big challenge to get on the grid but certainly by mid-season I think we’d clearly like to be the best of the new teams and by the end of the year I would hope we have broken into the top 10 overall,” Gascoyne told reporters.

Excerpted from: The Times Online and The Malaysian Star

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