The Lotus naming dispute took a new twist on the day when the court case between Tony Fernandes' Team Lotus and Proton-owned Group Lotus commenced.
David Hunt, who Fernandes acquired the Team Lotus naming rights from when Group Lotus withdrew the squad's license to run as Lotus Racing, has now hit out at Fernandes and revealed a disagreement over the terms of their deal. He had previously been a strong supporter of the second-year squad's right to use the Lotus title in Formula 1.
"When we had to make the Team Lotus staff redundant in 1995, I made a promise to them and the fans to return it to F1 in the hands of a worthy custodian, and initially I had high hopes that [Lotus bosses] Tony, Din and Nasa were going to tick the boxes," Hunt told Britain's Daily Telegraph. "What angers me is that I have, in good faith, worked extremely hard on the build-up to the hearing because I believed Tony would honor our January agreement. He's apparently 'changed his mind' at the 11th hour, by his own admission, now that I've done so much work on his company's behalf, and he's trying to renegotiate by offering new terms which are, frankly, ludicrous.
"All I'm looking for is for Tony to stick to his word and honor our agreement. If he doesn't, then regrettably I don't see why I should continue to provide assistance and this trial won't be the last battle he's facing, even if he wins."
A Lotus spokesman rejected Hunt's claim, telling the Telegraph: "Team Lotus has an agreement with David Hunt which was signed by both parties. David Hunt has tried to renegotiate that agreement, which Team Lotus is not prepared to do."
The court case, which commences today, is intended to finally resolve all issues in the Lotus-versus-Lotus duel. Having now entered into a title sponsorship deal with the Renault F1 team, Group Lotus is arguing that Fernandes has no right to continue using the Lotus brand in F1, while Fernandes believes both that he has a legitimate claim to operate as Team Lotus and that his agreement with Group Lotus was unfairly terminated.