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Page last updated at 18:33 GMT, Friday, 12 February 2010

New Lotus team target consistency

Lotus team boss Tony Fernandes (left) launches the car with drivers Jarno Trulli, Fairuz Fauzy and Heikki Kovalainen
The Lotus team unveiled their new car at London's Royal Horticultural Halls

By Andrew Benson

Lotus have set realistic targets after unveiling the car that will bring the famous brand back to Formula 1 for the first time in 16 years.

Team boss Tony Fernandes hopes the new outfit can finish every race of what is effectively their debut season.

He said their achievement in having a finished car within five months of getting an entry was "a fairy story".

The car will carry Lotus's historical F1 colours of gold and green, made famous by Jim Clark and Graham Hill.

Lotus, who became famous for winning a series of six drivers' titles and seven constructors' championships through the 1960s and '70s, last raced in F1 in 1994, when the team collapsed with financial problems.

I have a lot to prove - Kovalainen

Fernandes, a Malaysian businessman and founder of the budget Air Asia airline, has bought the rights to the name and is racing with the blessing of the family of Team Lotus founder Colin Chapman.

Chapman died in 1982, but his widow Hazel and son Clive were at the launch on Friday in London's Royal Horticultural Halls, along with several historic Lotus F1 cars.

The Malaysian Proton car company, which owns Lotus Cars, is also backing the project.

The team is being presented as a revival of a historic name - it will be granted prize money on the basis of Lotus's historical record, and technical director Mike Gascoyne said that their first win would be counted as Lotus's 80th in F1, not the new team's first.

But all the leading figures in the team made it clear that their targets for their debut season were rather more humble.

"I'd just love to finish every race," Fernandes said. "If we can beat some of the [other] new teams, that would be a fantastic start. If we can beat some of the established teams that would be great.

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"But we're not here to finish last in every race. We aim to compete with the best - and our ambition is shown by the drivers we have signed."

Lotus are unique among the four new teams entered this year in having two experienced, race-winning drivers.

Both Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen said they signed for Lotus because they were convinced that it would become a major force in F1.

They said the reasons for that were based on Fernandes's successful business background, and the track record of the highly respected F1 engineer Gascoyne.

Trulli, who has worked with Gascoyne at four previous teams, said he had chosen to join Lotus despite being in discussions with established teams.

"I had several options," said Trulli, who has driven for Renault and Toyota among others in a 14-year career that includes victory in the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix, "but at one stage something was growing up that was special, and it was Lotus.

"You are English, you know more about what Lotus means that I do, but over time I have understood. Lotus is probably second only to Ferrari in F1 history.

"And there was this one crazy guy, Mike Gascoyne, who was ready to get this name back on the track.

"Mike can be a difficult person if you don't know how to handle him. But he is very straightforward - you always know where you are with him.

"After that, though, you don't know if the funds will be there. But after meeting Tony I realised something serious was going on.

"We know it is not going to be easy. We are running out of time before [the first race in] Bahrain.

"What they have achieved so far is great but for this year we have to be realistic. We know we will have troubles, but we have to be reliable, decent and show great promise."

Kovalainen, who was Lewis Hamilton's team-mate at McLaren for the last two years, added that he believed the team could be successful "within two to three years".

"It's been a fantastic effort from the whole team," Kovalainen said.

"When I went to the factory in December and saw there were four people there, I said to Mike: 'Are you sure this is going to happen before [the first race in] Bahrain?'"

My experience can help Lotus - Trulli

The car has been designed by a group of engineers put together by Gascoyne in Cologne in Germany, many of them from the Toyota team who quit F1 at the end of last season, and with the help of the Fondtech wind tunnel in Italy.

Gascoyne started work on the design of the car in May, but until 12 September Lotus did not even know whether they would have an entry as F1 fought a political civil war between the teams and Max Mosley, the then president of governing body the FIA.

He said he felt "a bit shell-shocked" to have managed to get a car ready for a launch exactly five months from that date.

"Given the time, I don't think we could have done a single thing better," Gascoyne said.

"We always said we wanted to produce a good solid, current car - ie, not one that was two to three years old (in terms of technology) - and that is not too far off the back of the established teams.

"I'm confident we will have achieved that."

The new car, dubbed the T127, had a brief shakedown run at Silverstone on Tuesday, and will run alongside other teams at next week's test at Jerez in Spain.



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see also
In pictures: Lotus F1 car launch
12 Feb 10 |  People and Places
Lotus return to F1 in track debut
09 Feb 10 |  Formula 1
Lotus F1 sign Trulli & Kovalainen
14 Dec 09 |  Formula 1
Lotus feel weight of famous name
17 Nov 09 |  Formula 1
Lotus boss craves instant success
12 Nov 09 |  Formula 1
Lotus will return to F1 in 2010
15 Sep 09 |  Formula 1
Lotus name ready for return to F1
07 Jun 09 |  Formula 1


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