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Renault to make F1 comeback

lotusLONDON-- French car maker Renault announced plans on Monday to return to Formula One under its own name next year by taking over the Lotus team, a deal that staved off the threat of administration for the cash-strapped outfit.
  Renault said it had signed a letter of intent to take a controlling stake in British-based Lotus, which is facing legal action in London over unpaid taxes and risked having its fate decided by a judge had Renault not come to the rescue.
  "The signature of this Letter of Intent marks Renault's first step towards the project of a Renault Formula 1 team from the 2016 racing season, thereby extending 38 years of commitment of the brand to the world's premier motorsport championship series," Renault said in a statement.
  Lotus was previously the Renault Formula One team, which was sold and renamed after a race-fixing scandal centred on the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.
  Under its previous guises of Benetton and Renault, the team won world championships with Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso. Sponsored mainly by Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, Lotus finished fourth overall in 2013 but slumped to eighth in 2014 with just 10 points.
  It has struggled to operate normally this season because of pressure from creditors and legal difficulties.
  In Japan, the team were locked out of a hospitality unit intended for their use after failing to pay Grand Prix circuit organisers. Their mechanics had to be fed elsewhere as a favour and their freight was delayed because of payment problems.
  After the Belgian Grand Prix, bailiffs impounded their cars in a dispute with former reserve Charles Pic that was later settled.
  The London court case was brought by Britain's tax authority, HMRC, which is owed some 2.715 million pounds ($4.12 million) in missed income tax and national insurance payments relating to July, August and September, plus interest.
  The High Court in London had given Lotus until Monday to make a deal with Renault that could potentially satisfy creditors, or face administration.
  At a hearing on Monday morning, lawyers for Renault and Lotus said a deal had been agreed overnight and they asked for an adjournment until Dec. 7 to allow time to finalise the transaction and deal with pressing issues.
  "It is hoped that HMRC will be paid this week," lawyer Tina Kyriakides, representing Lotus, told the court.
  HMRC says it is owed a further 1.4 million pounds relating to Lotus's tax affairs between 2009 and 2014, but that amount is disputed and is not expected to be paid in the immediate future.
  HMRC's lawyer Jeremy Bamford consented to the adjournment, which was granted by Judge Colin Birss.
  In the meantime, Lotus will enjoy protection from other creditors, including Malaysian car manufacturer Proton, the firm which owns the Lotus brand and allows the Formula One team to use the name under licence.
  Lawyer Lloyd Tamlyn, representing Proton at the London court hearing, objected to the adjournment and said Proton had received "no offer of payment whatsoever" from Lotus or Renault.
  "All we've been offered is a conference call or a meeting over the next two weeks," Tamlyn said, arguing that the adjournment should be much shorter or that HMRC's case should be dismissed, freeing Proton to bring an action of its own.
  Judge Birss rejected Tamlyn's argument, saying that the best chance for Lotus's creditors to be paid was to allow the team to be rescued by Renault.
  Lotus employs 400 staff at its base in Enstone, in British Prime Minister David Cameron's Witney electoral constituency in Oxfordshire, southern England.
  The court had previously heard that Lotus owed West Oxfordshire District Council 483,000 pounds.
  Lotus's current owners are Luxembourg-based Genii Capital, which is run by venture capitalist Gerard Lopez, an early investor in Skype. Lopez is the team principal but has attended few races this season.