Group Lotus terminated the naming license for Malaysian millionaire Tony Fernandes' formula one team because of a dispute about t-shirts, team chief executive Riad Asmat has revealed.
On the face of it, the Proton-owned British carmaker has simply had a change of heart, deciding now to ramp up its involvement in motor sport and regretful that its brand is already separately deployed in formula one.
It emerged last week that Group Lotus has decided to enter feeder categories GP2 and GP3 with ART, and it has now been announced that the carmaker is continuing its Indycar foray in 2011 whilst designing a prototype sports car for the LMP2 category.
Group Lotus also said it is upgrading its test track in Norfolk which will be eligible for "F1 testing".
"It's important for people to realise just how committed we are to doing our heritage justice," said director of motor sport Claudio Berro.
At the same time, Lotus has withdrawn its naming license to the current F1 team Lotus Racing, and has vowed to fight the team's intention to deploy the alternative 'Team Lotus' name in 2011 and beyond.
Group Lotus owner Proton is also withdrawing its on-car sponsorship of Fernandes' team.
"Unfortunately we never reached the point where we discussed extending that one year deal," said the team's chief executive Asmat.
He revealed that the naming license has been terminated due to "some very trivial points", including "t-shirt design approvals of all things".
Asmat said there will need to be talks with Group Lotus about the real reasons for the termination because "we thoroughly reject" the marque's right to have done so.
"Initially there was good cooperation but then issues cropped up after that and it came to a point where they said we were detrimental to their brand and infringed their rights," he told MediaCorp.
"One of these was about producing t-shirts, which we were told did not follow correct procedures and they terminated our agreement about two weeks ago," said Asmat.
He indicated that continuing to be called Lotus is crucial for the team, which explains the decision to take the matter to London's High Court.
"There are livelihoods at stake and we had to take this course of action in the courts," he said.