The Classic Team Lotus Festival, Snetterton 19/20 June
Our next Championship Rounds, at Snetterton on 19/20 June are part of a major feature meeting being promoted by our co-organisers Motor Sports Vision Racing – The Classic Team Lotus Festival, which is to be held on Sunday 20 June. In recognition of ‘The Classic Team Lotus Festival’, the editor has had a few thoughts about some Loti.
“You see? It designs itself”, Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman.
As a biologist I am an evolutionist who finds greatest interest in the products produced in a period of transition. There are some remarkable animals and plants around these days, who would believe the octopus, squid or starfish, but when confronted with body plans that occur in the Burgess Shale, one stands back in amazement. Colin Chapman had the ability to think 'outside the box', in an era when designers of F1 cars were less limited by regulations than they are now. He advanced the evolution of the GP car by reconfiguring the basic design in ways that others had not imagined.
Lotus 16 (1958-1959)
Era. Towards the end of the 2.5 litre formula. Minimum
race distance had been cut from 300 to 200km, fuel was specified as Avgas
instead of an explosive and corrosive brew frequently containing nitro
methane. The result was that the 2.5 litre GP cars shrank in size, F2
machinery being upgraded to F1. However, the championship in 1958 was
won by the last of the large dinosaurs, the Vanwall.
Lotus 18 (1960)
Era. The success of the Cooper Climax in 1959 had made
front engined GP cars obsolete. The Climax engine, the engine of choice
for the small British chassis builders, had been progressively enlarged
to 2.5 litre capacity, the resultant torque made most gearboxes marginal.
Like our Hewland Mk9 boxes, GP gearboxes were usually built into casings
designed for other purposes. Coopers did the job properly, and their expensive
and reliable units served them well, when transmission failure was a frequent
cause of retirement, they won the championship.
Lotus 25/33 (1962-1966)
Era. A 1.5 litre formula had been introduced in 1961.
The British had attempted to revolt against the FIA with the intention
of retaining the old 2.5 litre formula, they lost. One consequence of
this for the British teams was that in 1961 the only engine available
to them was the four cylinder Climax producing less than 100bhp/litre.
Ferrari had a V6 with a distinct power advantage. For 1962, somewhat late,
Coventry Climax and BRM produced V8s.
Lotus 49, (1967-1970)
Era. History repeated itself in 1966, when the new
3 litre formula was introduced there was a complete lack of suitable engines.
Brabhams won the 1966 and 1967 championships using a single cam per bank
Repco V8 based on an Oldsmobile block, installed in a space frame chassis.
Chapman was instrumental in persuading Ford to commission a modern V8
from Keith Duckworth's Cosworth concern. Duckworth's design was well thought
out, and once some problems with timing gears were sorted, it was reliable.
The DFV remained competitive into the turbo era. Winning its first race
in 1967, and its last in 1983, overall it powered to 155 race victories
in GPs. At the end of its first season Chapman magnanimously allowed his
exclusive contract for the DFV to lapse, and F1 became the DFV version
of Formula Ford with only Ferrari occasionally offering a challenge.
Lotus 72 (1970-1974)
Era. With the best engine in F1, the DFV, being available
to all constructors, it was down to the team to attract the best drivers
by providing the best chassis. The 49 layout was effectively the design
standard, and even the lumpen March 701 won races in Jackie Stewart's
hands. To gain an advantage Chapman thought outside the box, and came
up with the layout of the modern single seater.
Lotus 79 (1978)
Era. The idea of using an inverted wing section to
generate downforce in a race car was not new, its most recent incarnation
had been the unloved March 701, which had inverted stubby airfoil sections
on its flanks. Such 'wings' were ineffective because the tip vortex prevented
them generating a significant pressure difference between the surfaces.
The Lotus team, stories vary as to who made the breakthrough, realised
what is now obvious, seal the wingtip to eliminate the vortex, retain
the pressure difference, and you have downforce.
Era. In an effort to reduce downforce the FIA insisted
on 6 cm ground clearance, naturally this could only be measured when the
car was stationary, and was soon circumvented by devious designers, with
the result that F1 cars effectively had no suspension, but for give in
Postscript. Colin Chapman resented the banning of the 88B, but had bigger problems to distract him, these were associated with John DeLorean's government financed plan to build cars in Northern Ireland. The adverse publicity resulted in several sponsors withdrawing from Team Lotus.
Colin Chapman died of a heart attack in December 1982. He was 54.
Post Postscript. Outside his motor activities, Colin Chapman also ran a company manufacturing large powerboats. He developed a new GRP moulding technique, naturally his hulls were lighter than the competition.
As a skilled pilot, Chapman became interested in microlights. At the time microlights were little more than hang gliders with lawnmower engines. He had plans to subvert the intention behind the microlight regulations by manufacturing a suitably light composite machine with a powerful engine, and got as far as commissioning the design of the engine. History shows that this concept was 25 years ahead of its time, but this begs the question, would you feel happy flying at 10,000’ in a machine stressed by Colin Chapman?
ps Ask one of the paddock hillclimb gurus about when CABC lent a year old F1 Lotus to his friend David Render for sprints and hillclimbs.....
A selection of classic Loti - how many can you name? Some are duplicates. A harder question - can you think of an ugly Lotus, because we can't.
Pictures by Nigel Bland, at Brands in the 1980's and Monaco 2010 and from Internet