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Motor Racing: Financial problems force Lotus' closure

Lotus have pulled out of this year's Formula One world championship, and despite the endeavours of David Hunt, the new owner, it seems the most evocative name in British motor racing will be consigned to history.

Hunt, the brother of the late James Hunt, yesterday told the workforce of 60 at the team's Norfolk base that they were being made redundant. Unable to raise the necessary funds to prepare cars for the new season, which starts in March, he had to bow to the inevitable. He insisted, however, that he would continue to strive to merge with another team or revive a genuine effort at Lotus next year.

In a statement, Team Lotus said the decision to lay off their employees was "based on the fact that funding contractually due had not arrived, and in the absence of that money the company was no longer able to offer staff a realistic prospect of ongoing employment."

Hunt said there had been no option to making the workforce redundant, and admitted the decision undermined Lotus's chances of finding an investor. "Our primary responsibility is to the staff, and we will do everything we can to help them find gainful employment, either with us or elsewhere."

Hunt maintained that Lotus was seriously evaluating approaches from other teams to create a joint effort this year, which would ensure the team's name was represented.

"We are open to all possibilities that can realistically put Team Lotus back where it belongs," he said. "What I want to avoid is allowing the team to be put in a situation where it is going to struggle around at the back of the grid, and have its name dragged further through the mud. The other possibility is to take steps to refinance, reorganise and rebuild during 1995, with a view to returning to the grid in good order in 1996.

"There are still real possibilities for the future. I am confident that there is a path through all this to long-term security. Other than Ferrari, the Team Lotus name is arguably the strongest in grand prix racing."

Lotus, brought into Formula One in 1958 by the founder of the company, Colin Chapman, won 79 grands prix and seven constructors' championships in their golden period through the 1960s and 1970s. Jim Clark (twice), Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt, Emerson Fitt ipaldi and Mario Andretti won the drivers' title with the team. more recent drivers included Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna.

Since Chapman's death in 1982, the team's fortunes have waned and Senna's victory in Detroit - almost eight years ago - was their last. Dwindling funds and last year's uncompetitive car proved too great a burden for Peter Collins and his aides to carry. Hunt took over from the administrator but he, too, found the odds overwhelmingly against him.

End of an era, page 38