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Lotus Racing - Team Lotus brief history

Colin Chapman established Lotus Engineering in 1952 and Team Lotus was formed in the winter of 1953/54.

The late 1950s were a time of transition in F1, the big front engined Vanwalls and Ferraris were about to give way to rear engined designs. Credit must go to John Cooper for producing a successful rear engined design and to set the general layout pattern for F1 cars to the present day.
A new Formula 2 regulation was announced for 1957 and in Britain several organizers ran races for the new regulations in the course of 1956. Most of the cars entered that year were sportscars and they included a large number of Lotus 11s, led by the Team Lotus entries for Chapman, Cliff Allison and Reg Bricknell. The cars did well but Cooper, which had produced a single-seater F2 car was able to win most of the races.

With the Lotus 12 in 1957 there were no victories, but in 1958 Allison won the F2 class in the International Trophy at Silverstone beating Stuart Lewis-Evans's Cooper.

As the Coventry Climax engines were enlarged in 1958 to 2.2-liters Chapman decided to enter Grand Prix racing, running a pair of Lotus 12s at Monaco in 1958 for Graham Hill and Cliff Allison. These were replaced later that year by Lotus 16s. They were still not competitive against the 2.5-liter machinery.

In 1959 - by which time the Coventry Climax engines had been stretched to 2.5-liters - Chapman continued with a front-engined F1 car but the car achieved little. In 1960 Chapman realised that the future lay with the rear engined designs and continued with the Lotus 18. By then the company had expanded to such an extent that it had to move to new premises in Cheshunt.

The first Grand Prix victory for a Lotus car was by Stirling Moss at Monaco in 1960 in a Lotus 18 entered by privateer Rob Walker.  In 1961 the new 1.5 litre engine formula became effective and Innes Ireland took Team Lotus's first Grand Prix victory at Watkins Glen in the United States.

There were other successes in Formula 2 and Formula Junior. The road car business was doing well with the Lotus Seven and the Lotus Elite and this was followed by the Lotus Elan in 1962 and the Lotus Cortina in 1963.

Success on the race track was an important part of the company's strategy and in 1963 Jim Clark drove the Lotus 25 (the first monocoque chassis in F1) to a remarkable seven wins in a season and gave Lotus their first Drivers World Championship. The 1964 title was still for the taking by the time of the last race in Mexico but problems with Clark's Lotus and Hill's BRM gave it to Surtees in his Ferrari. Clark gave Lotus their second Drivers World Championship in 1965. Lotus and Clark also competed at the Indianapolis 500 in the United States with the Lotus 29 almost winning the 500 at its first attempt in 1963, retiring in 1964 but winning the race in 1965 with a Lotus 38.

The BRM engines choosen by Chapman fot the new 3-liter Formula 1 in 1966 proved to be a wrong choise. In 1967 using the Cosworth DFV helped the team to become winners again, with Graham Hill as the World Champion in 1968 with the Lotus 49. Team Lotus introduced commercial sponsorship to F1 at Monaco in 1968 (sponsor Imperial Tobacco's Players Gold Leaf cigarette brand). Disaster struck however in April 1968 when Clark was killed while driving in a F2 race at the Hockenhiem track, Germany. The car left the track and hit a tree.

In 1970 Jochen Rindt was posthumous World Champion with the Lotus 72. Rindt was killed in an accident at Monza, leading the World Championship at that moment. In 1972 Emerson Fittipaldi (25 years old...) used a revised version of the car to win Lotus another World Championship in 1972.

Colin Chapman was always searching for the next innovation to give Lotus a competitive edge, and his fertile mind began to examine ways of improving the underfloor aerodynamics of the car to achieve what was to be called 'ground effect'. This area had been examined before but Chapman was able to perfect the techniques including effective 'flexible skirts' to create the required aerodynamic conditions under the chassis.

The result was the John Player Special Lotus 79 which was in a class of its own and allowed the American Mario Andretti to take the Drivers World Championship in 1978. However tragedy struck when Team Lotus's second driver, the talented Swedish driver Ronnie Petersen was killed in an accident at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza

Colin Chapman died in 1982. After Chapman's death the racing team was taken over by Peter Warr but the Lotus-Renault 93T was not a success. Midway through the year the team hired French designer Gerard Ducarouge and, in five weeks, he built the 94T. A switch to Goodyear tires in 1984 and a reliable car from Ducarouge enabled Elio de Angelis to finish third in the World Championship, despite the fact that the Italian did not win a race. When Nigel Mansell departed at the end of the year the team hired Ayrton Senna. The Lotus-Renault 97T was another sold achiever with de Angelis winning at Imola and Senna in Portugal and Belgium. Senna scored eight pole positions, but only two wins (Spain and Detroit) in 1986 but at the end of the year the team lost its JPS backing and replaced it with Camel. Senna's skills attracted the attention of the Honda Motor Company and when Lotus agreed to run Satoru Nakajima as its second driver a deal for engines was agreed. The Ducarouge-designed 99T featured active suspension but Senna only won twice: at Monaco and Detroit. The Brazilian moved to McLaren in 1988 and Lotus signed up Nelson Piquet from Williams. The Lotus-Honda 100T was not a success and Ducarouge decided in mid 1989 that he was going to return to France. Lotus hired Frank Dernie to replace him. With the new normally-aspirated engine regulations in 1989 Lotus lost its Honda engines and had to use Judd V8 engines. In the middle of the year Warr departed and was replaced as team manager by Rupert Manwaring while Tony Rudd was brought in as chairman after the arrest of Fred Bushell on charges related to the Delorean affair. At the end of the season Piquet went to Benetton and Nakajima to Tyrrell. A deal was organized for Lamborghini V12 engines and Derek Warwick and Martin Donnelly were hired to drive. The car was not a success and Donnelly was nearly killed in a violent accident at Jerez. At the end of the year Camel withdrew.

Former Team Lotus employees Peter Collins and Peter Wright organized a deal to take over the team from the Chapman Family and in December the new Team Lotus was launched with Mika Hakkinen and Julian Bailey being signed for the 1991 season. Bailey was soon replaced by Johnny Herbert and a deal was struck for the team to use Ford V8 engines in 1992. The team was short on money and this affected performance but it did well, Hakkinen scoring 11 points and the team finishing fifth in the Constructors' title. Hakkinen moved to McLaren in 1993 and after his replacement Alex Zanardi crashed heavily at the Belgian GP Herbert was joined by Pedro Lamy. The team scored 12 points despite the tight budget and finished sixth in the Constructors' Championship.

Unfortunately debts were mounting and the team was unable to develop the Lotus 107, which had been designed by Chris Murphy. The team gambled on success with Mugen Honda engines. Herbert and Lamy struggled with the old car. The Portuguese driver was seriously injured in an accident in testing at Silverstone and Zanardi returned. The hope was that the new Lotus-Mugen Honda 109 would save the day. In an effort to survive the team took on pay-driver Philippe Adams at the Belgian GP. At Monza Zanardi was back in the car and the new 109 was ready. Herbert qualified fourth but at the first corner he was punted off by the Jordan of Eddie Irvine. The following day the team applied for an Administration Order to protect itself from creditors. Tom Walkinshaw pounced and bought Johnny Herbert's contract, moving him into Ligier and then Benetton.

In October the team was sold to David Hunt, brother of James. Mika Salo was hired to replace Herbert. In December, however, work on the design of a new car was halted and the staff laid off. In February 1995 Hunt announced an alliance with Pacific Grand Prix and the history of Team Lotus came to an inauspicious end.

sources: various websites and books and GrandPrix.com Encyclopedia