Just add lightness: 10 Iconic Lotus Formula 1 cars
We recently had the chance to blast around in Lotus’ latest 2014 Exige S. It was a fantastic little machine, true to it’s roots and it really got us thinking about legendary Lotus boss Colin Chapman’s philosophy of ‘add lightness, innovate, win’. This same ideal is still alive and well in the DNA of today’s Lotus road cars, something all too rare amongst most modern-day manufacturers’ mantras. To celebrate, we’re looking back on ten of the most iconic Lotus Formula One cars, a staggering eight of which took Chapman’s philosophy to first place in the World Championship.
For now we’re indulging in a little bit of Lotus nostalgia, but we’ll be talking a little bit more about the awesome little Exige S soon. If you want to sample the race-bred glory right away, click to test drive a Lotus in Australia here. To arm yourself with the latest offers and all the information that you’ll need when pitching to your significant other and to work out exactly which car you need and how many go-faster bits you can order it with, download a brochure here.
For now, it’s time to look at ten of the machines which shaped Lotus as we know it today:
The lightweight and lean Lotus 18 was the car that took Lotus to the winners’ circle for the first time, courtesy of plucky privateer Rob Walker Racing and genius wheelman Stirling Moss on the streets of Monaco in 1960. Innes Ireland gave the works team its first win later that year, at Watkins Glen, before Moss cleaned up in Monaco again in ’61.
The magnificent monocoque machine in which Jim Clark scored 14 GP wins over four seasons, including his dominant 1963 title year. The Scot and the yellow-and-green Lotus remains for many the greatest driver/car combination in the history of Formula 1.
A more powerful, wider-tyred development of the all-conquering 25, the 33 helped Jim Clark to his second world title in 1965. Had it been more reliable, it might well have made Clark’s mid-60s stats even more impressive.
With the all-new, Ford-funded, Cosworth-built DFV engine that would quickly became the ultimate off-the-shelf F1 powerplant bolted to the rear bulkhead, the 49 won first time out with Clark at Zandvoort in 1967. Its upgraded successor, the 49B won on its debut, too – at Monaco in ’68.
The innovative 72, with its wedge shape, inboard brakes and side-mounted radiators, first appeared in 1970 and, via its B, C, D and E successors, was still racing at the end of ’75. A hugely successful and iconic machine in Gold Leaf then JPS livery, it secured wins and titles with Jochen Rindt and Emerson Fittipaldi and helped secure Ronnie Peterson’s Super Swede status.
Taking advantage of full ground-effect aerodynamics, the stunning JPS-liveried 79 blew – or was it sucked? – the opposition away immediately, with a debut win at Zolder in 1978. Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson took a one-two in the drivers’ title that year, despite Peterson losing his life in the antepenultimate race, with Lotus taking a crushing constructors’ championship victory.
Showcasing Chapman’s free-thinking genius, the twin-floor 88 was conceived to circumvent the ban on sliding skirts that helped seal air under the floor to increase downforce. It was entered for the British GP in 1981 but banned, much to the chagrin of Chapman, who was convinced it was legal, so remains an unraced Lotus.
How could a car that allowed Ayrton Senna to pulverise the opposition in the rain at Estoril for his maiden F1 win in 1985 not be on anyone’s list of favourite Lotus cars? The Renault-turbo car, in JPS colours, with that yellow helmet poking out of the cockpit remains one of the trademark images of 1980s F1.
In garish yellow Camel colours for just one season, the 99T, now powered by a Honda turbo engine, gave Senna the first of his six wins at Monaco in 1987 and also marked the first victory for a car with active suspension. Lotus had experimented with the computer-controlled set-up in 1983 with the 92 but it finally came good four years later.
So-called to mark 20 years of success at Enstone, where Benetton and Renault had won world titles, the 2012 E20 was an effective tool from ‘new Lotus’, as the team had become. The E20 gave Kimi Raikkonen, back after a stint in rallying, seven podium finishes and victory under the lights in Abu Dhabi.
Post sponsored by Lotus Cars
Images: The Cahier Archive