Hopes receding for survival of Lotus

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The Independent Online
MOTOR RACING : Attempts to salvage Lotus, once the world's premier Grand Prix team, could be called off today. Another, and perhaps final, announcement on the marque's prospects is due from the office of David Hunt, the businessman who has tried to put together a rescue package.

Hunt, brother of the late James Hunt, has been unable to raise the funds to keep Lotus in business. He needs an initial £3m, plus further guarantees, to build and develop a new car, and pay a staff of almost 100. Those employees have temporarily been laid off and most are now resigned to losing their jobs.

Lotus have been fighting for survival over the past three or four years. Peter Collins led the crusade and initially the signs were encouraging, but gradually their fortunes and morale waned and they ran up debts. They toiled through last season with an uncompetitive car, sponsorship options dwindled and their engine partners, Mugen-Honda, defected.

The last chance for Hunt and Lotus would seem to be a merger, and Keith Wiggins, the head of another Norfolk-based team, Pacific, is said to have been in contact. Pacific endured a difficult debut season in Formula One last year, qualifying for just fiveraces, and the name of Lotus could still be highly desirable, and marketable. However, Pacific yesterday confirmed a big-money deal with the Japanese investor, Ko Gotoh.

One man adamant he has no intention of involving himself at Lotus is Nigel Mansell, who began his Formula One career with the team. He is having talks with McLaren-Mercedes in the hope of continuing racing. One rumour suggests the stumbling block is money, that he is asking £10m for a one-year contract.

Another theory, that Mansell could be joining Ferrari, with Jean Alesi switching to McLaren, has been dismissed by a spokesman for Marlboro, who sponsor both teams.