Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lotus must live up to its name, says Dr M

NORFOLK (England): Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad wants the Lotus F1 racing team to achieve success by living up to the brand’s legendary name.

The former Prime Minister said the Malaysian-backed team had a mission since taking the Lotus name and reputation so “they jolly well deliver on that”.

“Lotus is a very famous name and if they fail, that is not going to be good for them,” he told newsmen after opening the Lotus racing factory in Hingham, eastern England, on Monday.

Dr Mahathir, who is Proton adviser, was later assisted in firing up the engine of the Lotus F1 racing car – the Cosworth T127 – while seated behind the wheel.

Ready to roll: Dr Mahathir sitting in the Lotus F1 racing car after opening the factory in Hingham on Monday. Giving him the thumbsup are (from left) Kovalainen, Fairuz and Trulli.

Present were team principal Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes, his two deputies Datuk Kamarudin Meranun and S.M. Nasarudin, CEO Riad Asmat, chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne and the three drivers Fairuz Fauzy, Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen.

Touted as the Father of Motor Racing in Malaysia, Dr Mahathir is the visionary behind the birth of the Sepang International Circuit and the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Asked on the significance of his visit, he said he came because he did not believe the team could get the car ready in time (for the season opening race in Bahrain on March 14).

“So, I challenged them, you get the car ready and I will come and sit in it.”

“Well, I lost my bet but fortunately, no money is involved,” he said to laughter all round.

Dr Mahathir said normally, it would take a year or more to build a racing car but it took the team only five months to build it from scratch.

To a suggestion that the team’s low operational budget could hinder its performance, he said ‘‘We can work with a small budget. It is okay, we can do it”, referring to reports of the team’s one-third budget compared with McLaren’s.

Fernandes said it was not just about money but about Malaysian innovation, ingenuity, passion and people.

He drew attention to a question by CNN once on how the team could compete when Toyota and Honda had pulled out.

“I said AirAsia made more money than Japan Airlines and All-Nippon Airways,” he said, adding the team was also competing against Ferrari which had been racing since 1930.

He said history had shown that those with huge budgets did not necessarily always succeed.

*Taken from The Star Online

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