Lotus & Its Racing History
by Louis Rix
Lotus is one of Britain's most venerable and respected sports car manufacturers; although over the years it has also achieved considerable success in the competitive racing circuit. Lotus founder Colin Chapman was a key proponent in its entry into this field and his aspirations were sustained long after his death three decades ago.
Chapman was involved in the production of single seater racing cars as early as 1952, although his work on F2 vehicles during this time was not carried out for Lotus. As such it was not until the Lotus 12 emerged in 1956 that the company really got into the game.
The Lotus 12 was powered by a front mounted engine and like many subsequent models from this manufacturer it put the emphasis on weight reduction in order to make the most out of its available power.
The first race involving the 12 was held the following year, although a mechanical failure meant that it was not exactly a fairytale debut for Lotus on the track.
By 1958 Lotus has moved from F2 into full F1 with its 12, although drivers Cliff Allison and Graham Hill did not find themselves on any podiums during these early stages.
Lotus built the 16 as a slightly more refined racer than its predecessor, while the arrival of the 18 saw the engine shift backwards to the middle of the vehicle along with a whole range of other updates to the suspension and other technical aspects, improving the potential of the team to achieve racing victory.
1959 Lotus 16
The reputation of the company and its F1 cars began to grow as it introduced new models annually, allowing many drivers to win Grand Prix events for their teams.
In 1965 Lotus managed to win the championship with Jim Clark at the wheel of a 33, which passed the chequered flag in first place on no less than six occasions during that season.
During the mid to late 1960s Lotus began to focus its attention on F3, because this category had become particularly important and so it saw an opportunity to show its skill with cars like the 41.
In 1967 Lotus managed to secure exclusive season-long access to a new Cosworth engine and designed the 49 to go with this powerhouse. It would go on to help Graham Hill to win his second World Championship and was also instrumental in race wins for other legends of the track.
The early 1970s proved to be a fruitful period for Lotus in racing, as it managed to win the Constructors' title in 1973, although by the following year it was apparent that its 72 vehicles were beginning to lag behind the competitive curve.
Lotus managed to come back strong towards the end of the decade, with its 78 proving to be a technically strong car coupled with an impressive team of drivers.
The final Grand Prix Lotus which founder Colin Chapman saw win a race before his death was the 91, which was essentially a stiffer, stronger and lighter iteration of the 87.
By the mid 1990s, Lotus had ducked out of the Grand Prix circuit, although it was resurrected in 2010 and by 2012 was able to call itself Lotus F1, with the Team Lotus name preserved.Thank you to Louis Rix, automotive enthusiast and marketing director at Netcars.com for contributing this great article. Louis writes & contributes too many motoring websites and also financial sites .