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Lotus F1 engine would be a logical step, says Bahar

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Malaysian-owned sportscar maker Lotus could eventually build their own Formula One engine as well as running a team, Lotus Group CEO Dany Bahar said on Wednesday.

"We have plans underway to think about our own engine family in our road car programs for the future," he said.

"The fact that we have announced that we will be developing an engine for Indycar for 2012 shows already that we are heavily interested in becoming an engine manufacturer with our own brand."

Renault, who have sold all their stake in a team that will still carry their name, have a three-year deal to supply Lotus Renault GP with engines as well as champions Red Bull and the rival Team Lotus operation.

However the Formula One engine rules are changing, with a 1.6 liter four cylinder turbocharged unit due to be introduced in 2013.

He said Lotus, whose road cars currently use Toyota engines, saw themselves as "the British Porsche" rather than a Ferrari rival and like the German manufacturer intended to sell and race cars in every sportscar segment.

TEAM LOTUS

"We have the capacity, we design engines for other OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) so there is no reason why we should not be able to build and design engines for ourselves," said Bahar.

"I believe on the road car side, the engine is the heart of any sportscar and it is not far away from thinking for us that it would be the right decision to build our own engine for future sportscars.

"This is the first step, having a complete own product -- a sportscar with an own engine -- and then the rest is a logical consequence."

Bahar, who joined Lotus from Ferrari in 2009 after previously working for Red Bull, recognized that many fans would see him as 'the Bad Guy" in a battle with grid rivals Team Lotus, who competed this year as Lotus Racing.

That team's boss, Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes, is seeking a ruling in the London High Court over the rights to the Team Lotus name and is also taking legal action against Lotus Group and their owners Proton for terminating a five-year licensing deal.

Bahar expected the matter to be resolved out of court, while saying that earlier attempts to do a deal with Fernandes had foundered due to "ridiculous and absurd" demands.

"If the price would have been right, if some conditions would have been more realistic I believe this would have been the right approach," he added. "So we were not afraid of partnering with Mr Fernandes."

Bahar said the Team Lotus name, created by the late Colin Chapman, should be allowed to rest in peace as a glorious part of Formula One history.

Lotus Group, he said, merely wanted to be recognized as the owner of the Lotus brand with the right to enter any sports activity.

"We don't want other people to call their car a Lotus because the Lotus car is our brand," he said.

"We are not claiming to be Team Lotus or to become Team Lotus. We do not want to become a second Team Lotus, we will never be one."

(Editing by John Mehaffey)