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12 February 2010

Lotus Racing brief history

Lotus Racing was officially born on September 12th 2009 when the FIA granted the new team its entry into the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship. Headed up by Team Principal Tony Fernandes, supported by Chief Technical Officer Mike Gascoyne and Chief Executive Riad Asmat, the team made its base in Hingham, Norfolk, near to the home of Group Lotus, a few miles up the Norfolk roads in Hethel.

Lotus Racing’s origins began before September, with Tony and fellow shareholders Kamarudin Meranun and SM Nasarudin leading a consortium of Malaysian business interests who joined forces to provide initial funding for the nascent team under the parent company 1Malaysia Racing Team banner. Tony immediately began appointing key senior management positions, including Riad Asmat joining as Chief Executive Officer and Lee Chung Han as Chief Financial Officer, while Mike Gascoyne began work on the technical program in the UK and across Europe.

As the team moved into its new Hingham, UK home work began immediately on building the 2010 cars, with Mike directing the technical efforts across centres of excellence in design, wind tunnel, composite manufacturing and a host of ancillary support services throughout Europe in an intensive effort to be ready for the rapidly approaching season ahead. With the car build process under way, a similar effort was also being undertaken in creating the team itself, with new staff being taken on every day, and the fabric of the team’s identity being created from scratch.

In December one of the first major milestones was reached, with a ceremony in Kuala Lumpur unveiling the first Lotus Racing drivers - Italy’s Jarno Trulli, Finland’s Heikki Kovalainen and Malaysia’s Fairuz Fauzy. The combination of race winning experience, youth and passion give the team a good platform from which to establish the true pace of the car and have a fighting chance of exceeding expectations in the season ahead.

December brought the UK’s worst winter for 30 years and as staff numbers at the Hingham factory swelled work continued apace. Jarno, Heikki and Fairuz all spent time in snowy Norfolk, having their seats fitted and familiarising themselves with their new Race Engineers, pit crews and support staff. Chassis 01 passed all its crash tests in early January and soon afterwards arrived at the factory for the engineers and mechanics to get to work on the actual build process. As the team’s hours in the factory increased, the car itself began to take shape, and by early February a few all night sessions saw the months of hard work culminate in the first Cosworth engine fire up in the factory.

Two days later the now 130 strong staff gathered in the factory’s race bays to see the car in its final build specification for the very first time. As the final pieces of bodywork were fixed in place, the Lotus Racing team saw, for the very first time, the car’s green and yellow livery, bringing to mind some of motor racing’s most iconic images and leaving everyone involved with the impression that not only was the car technically beautiful, but also would exceed the expectations of motor racing fans around the world.

The next day the team moved to a very cold and snowy Silverstone for shakedown – a day where system checks and engineering procedures worked in harmony to finally see the Lotus Cosworth T127, as it had by then been designated, break cover on track for the very first time, with Malaysia’s Fairuz Fauzy at the wheel.
As the car’s speed built up so did the atmosphere amongst the 65 people amassed on site – five incredibly intensive months of hard work and pressure had paid off handsomely, with a stunning car on track, and the wail of the Cosworth V8 screaming around the Northamptonshire countryside.