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F1 NEWS 

Lotus dispute gets March court date

Tony FernandesThe dispute over the Lotus name in Formula 1 will now go to trial much earlier than originally expected, after a High Court judge today pushed for a swift resolution to the matter.

Although Mr Justice Peter Smith rejected a bid by Group Lotus for a summary judgement on one of the naming matters at a hearing on Monday, he told legal representatives that the situation needs to be settled as quickly as possible.

He has now pencilled in a March 21 date for the trial to begin - which means it will commence the week before the second race of the season in Australia.

With an intention to have the trial wrapped up in 10 days, the Lotus name row should be settled in the early stages of the 2011 campaign. It had originally been likely the situation would drag on beyond the end of the season.

It is understood that the March 21 trial will hear all the legal matters relating to the dispute between Team Lotus, which is run by Tony Fernandes, and the road car company Group Lotus.

The row revolves around what Team Lotus claims was an early termination of the five-year licencing deal it originally had with Group Lotus to run a Lotus team, plus issues relating to its right to use the Team Lotus moniker in F1.

Although the judge's decision to bring an early trial does not provide any indication about which party will win in the court case, one legal expert said the refusal to grant a summary judgement was an early triumph for Team Lotus.

Tim Lowles, an associate partner at Collyer Bristow, one of the UK's leading motorsport legal experts, said: "The summary judgement application was made by Group Lotus, and it was a fairly gutsy application to make.

"You have to be fairly confident when you make an application like that, and it would appear to me, as I was not in the court, that the judge did not decide to get into the nuts and bolts of the application. He felt it better to decide all the issues at a proper hearing on March 21.

"If anything, it is a victory for Team Lotus because Group Lotus has not been able to bring the claim to an end. However, all the issues remain in the air, and there has been no further clarity as to the issues involved in the dispute."

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