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Hunt says Renault and Proton risk damaging the sport

ESPNF1 Staff
December 10, 2010 « France 'auto-phobic', says Prost | »

The decision of Group Lotus to switch allegiance to the RenaultF1 team from Tony Fernandes' Team Lotus risks bringing the sport into disrepute and damaging the brand made so iconic by Colin Chapman.

That is the view of David Hunt, who held the rights to the 'Team Lotus' name before recently selling it to Tony Fernandes' outfit.

Despite Group Lotus claiming it owns the naming rights and withdrawing the licence from Team Lotus, Fernandes insists he still owns the rights after buying them from Hunt.

Group Lotus, headed by Dany Bahar, announced on Wednesday that it will be the title sponsor and a major shareholder of RenaultF1, with the team to be re-branded Lotus Renault GP.

It has led to the bizarre prospect of two Malaysian-backed Lotus teams on the grid, fielding four similar cars all powered by Renault engines and fielding near-identical black and gold liveries.

"Have the sponsors on Renault's car all been warned what they are in for and the damage that might occur to their brand through association of what is effectively a declaration of war by Proton?" Hunt told the Norwich Evening News. "And given Renault still have a suspended sentence tied to them after bringing the sport into disrepute [for crashgate] in 2008, are they doing so again by deliberately and wilfully confusing the public over the Lotus brand? I think it's silly, whatever angle you look at it. Talk about confusing the public."

Genii Capital chairman Gerard Lopez owns a 70% stake in the RenaultF1 team and helped broker the deal for Group Lotus to buy Renault's remaining 30% stake.

"As far as we're concerned Bernie has been involved and obviously this happened with his blessing," Lopez told the Telegraph.