Our sources tell us that a team of engineers, many ex-Lotus, are beavering away in the Hethel Engineering Centre. Word has it they are working on an Elise chassis powered by a Renaultsport engine/transmission, and that the car will launch under the Caterham banner next year. Whether the car will carry the Elise name is unknown.
Rumour suggests the Renaultsport-powered Caterham could launch under a new name and with unique bodywork. This sharing of assets would allow Group Lotus to move forward with its larger, upscale Elise project, while effectively turning over the old car to Tony Fernandes and the boys at Caterham. Expect to see the Team Lotus name ‘sold’ to Group Lotus as payment for this deal.
Those close to the situation strongly suggest that, although this is a prelude to even greater cooperation between the two companies, it isn’t the end of the battle between Tony Fernandes and Dany Bahar. Some even suggest the move makes it more likely that Fernandes will eventually take control of Lotus and run Caterham and Group Lotus as complimentary companies on the road and in Formula 1 once Bahar leaves.
Fernandes would scoop up a revamped Lotus for pennies on the dollar. Proton and the Malaysian Government would be able to preserve their honour by turning control of the UK sports car maker over to a man who is a considered a national treasure in his home country.
We will keep an eye on this story as it progresses.
[Chris Sawyer is the creator of the Virtual Driver website]