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22 April 2010

Back home safe and sound

Lotus Racing was among the first Formula One™ teams to make it safely back to their UK base after landing late last night at London Stansted, Team Principal Tony Fernandes’ Air Asia having come to the team’s rescue and flying them all back from Kuala Lumpur at lunchtime on Wednesday.

Having already helped the entire team escape the masses trying to leave Shanghai on Monday night, Tony and his Air Asia team performed miracles to ensure all 55 members of the team, as well as key figures from Cosworth and a number of F1™ journalists and photographers, first made it safely to Malaysia, Air Asia’s home country, to be ready to jump on the first flight to the UK when the airspace finally reopened. At the same time, the team’s freight has also been winging its way to England, and is now en route to Lotus Racing’s Norfolk factory, where it will all be unpacked and inspected before the focus turns to the upgrade packages being applied to the cars for Barcelona.

Talking about the efforts made to get the team home was Tony Fernandes, uniquely placed in F1™ as both a Team Principal and Group CEO of Air Asia, the only airline flying directly from South East Asia into Stansted: “I’m delighted everyone’s made it back to Norfolk safe and sound. The Air Asia team in KL worked extremely hard to ensure we could get everyone on the first flight out, and with the extremely tight timelines they’re working to between now and the departure dates for Barcelona, it was vital we could get them all home as soon as possible. We were fully prepared for the journey back, and when I gave the team a tour of the Air Asia Academy at Sepang on Tuesday, I showed them the simulators where our pilots had been through rigorous training for flying through volcanic ash. Tough times often produce amazing results, and the team has bonded even more closely through these trying times, both internally and with the Air Asia team who helped them out. They knew they were in safe hands and it’s great we could get them back ahead of most of the grid!”

Mike Gascoyne, Chief Technical Officer, was back in the office early on Thursday after the 14 hour flight back from KL landed just before midnight, and was going through the plans for unpacking the freight and turning round the cars in time for the departure to Barcelona: “Firstly I want to say thanks, on behalf of the whole team, to Tony and Air Asia for literally taking us under their wings and getting us home so quickly. With their help, we’ve faced minimal disruption to our travel plans, and have minimised the impact it could have had on our ability to work to our pre-Barcelona timetable, and it was a great effort from everyone in Malaysia to help us out. We will go through our normal proceedures to unpack all the freight that’s arrived from China, and will then turn our attention to applying the Barcelona update package to both cars. All in all, we’re just glad to be home and able to focus on our jobs again, rather than worrying about the forces of nature!”