Greg Thornton wins Masters Grand Prix Championship with Classic Team Lotus

Many congratulations to Greg Thornton for winning the FIA Masters Post 1978 Championship. An excellent first season racing his type 92.

Greg was consistent throughout the season and competed in all eight of the GP Masters events – Barcelona, Brands Hatch, Dijon, Silverstone, Nurburgring, Zandvoort, Spa and Jerez.

Parc fermé was a happy place for Classic Team Lotus at Jerez
Parc fermé was a happy place for Classic Team Lotus at Jerez

 Congratulations to the lead mechanic Ted Fiddy who, together with his CTL colleagues, did a great job to help Greg achieve his win.

The celebrations did not stop there; last season”s champion Andrew Beaumont came third in the FIA Masters Pre 1978 Championship in his type 76 (making him 2nd in the FIA Masters Pre 1978 Championship), 4th in class in his type 24 and Dan Collins had his first Masters F1 podium in his type 91.

Well done to mechanics Lewis Cullington, Tim Gardner and Kevin Smith for running reliable and fast cars and supporting the drivers throughout the season.

Look what Classic Team Lotus got for Christmas

Classic Team Lotus has welcomed back to its original Team Lotus workshops at Hethel the extraordinary Lotus type 56 which in 1968 so nearly won the World’s greatest race; the Indianapolis 500.

Lewis Cullington, Clive Chapman, Tim Gardner, Roger Yallop, Sapphire Whitbread, Kevin Smith, Ted Fiddy, Chris Dinnage, Steve Allen, Bob Dance
Lewis Cullington, Clive Chapman, Tim Gardner, Roger Yallop, Sapphire Whitbread, Kevin Smith, Ted Fiddy, Chris Dinnage, Steve Allen, Bob Dance

Extraordinary is the word for this wedge shaped, gas turbine powered, four wheel drive rocket ship. In 1968 Colin Chapman had already established a reputation for innovation in motorsport but, even so, the World was amazed by the type 56.

The gas turbine produced ideal horsepower for the oblong shaped Indianapolis circuit. It did not need a traditional cooling radiator and this enabled a striking wedge shape which reduced both drag and positive lift over the bodywork. Four wheel drive gave outstanding grip in the days before wings.

If it was amazing just to look at then when it was on the track it blew everyone away, by flying past with barely a whisper from the turbine engine, normally used in aircraft. The drivers were quite intimidated to begin with, by the creaks and groans of a racing car which normally were drowned out by a roaring engine.

Dick Scammell, Fred Cowley, Colin Chapman, Andy Granatelli, Arthur Birchall, Graham Hill, Jim Pickles, Billy Cowe, Doug Garner, Hywel Absalom, Basil Bacon
Dick Scammell, Fred Cowley, Colin Chapman, Andy Granatelli, Arthur Birchall, Graham Hill, Jim Pickles, Billy Cowe, Doug Garner, Hywel Absalom, Basil Bacon

Team Lotus built four type 56s at Hethel; tragically one was written-off in a fatal testing accident for Works driver Mike Spence. The Andy Granatelli STP Racing team ran two cars – for Joe Leonard and Art Pollard – while Team Lotus ran the remaining Works car for Graham Hill. Leonard and Hill qualified on the front row and looked good for victory. But winning the Indy 500 is never easy and so it proved, with an off for Hill – due to suspension failure – and a fuel pump failure for Leonard – with just nine laps to go.

Clearly the Lotus type 56 was set to dominate Indy car racing and the authorities were not keen on the prospect. After much political manoeuvring the rules were changed to limit the power of gas turbine engines such that they were rendered uncompetitive. Happily the significance of the cars means they survive to this day.

The new American owner has made the excellent decision to return his 56 to running condition and elected to send her home for restoration by Classic Team Lotus. Team Manager Chris Dinnage will work together with Lewis Cullington and Bob Dance to return the car to how she was on raceday, 45 years ago. Bob Dance actually worked on the car in period and is looking forward to helping Lewis complete what will be his third Team Lotus Indy car restoration. Meanwhile the engine is being restored by Vince Granatelli, the son of STP Racing founder Andy.

Clive Chapman, Managing Director of Classic Team Lotus: “I am delighted that Classic Team Lotus has been entrusted with this exciting project. December 2013 is the 20th anniversary of the company and restoring such an important example of my father’s work is an ideal way to recognise this landmark. Celebrating the memory of the cars, the drivers and the team personnel from Team Lotus history is what we are about; bringing this innovative car alive again will be an emotional moment. Furthermore it’s nice that Vince and I are working together on a car which meant so much to our Fathers.”

Classic Team Lotus springs a surprise at Autosport International The Racing Car Show 2014

At Autosport International The Racing Car Show 2014 Classic Team Lotus has revealed one of the greatest ever Team Lotus F1 chassis which has not been seen for decades.

The fifth Lotus type 72 was manufactured by Team Lotus in 1970 and was raced almost exclusively by Emerson Fittipaldi. Emerson raced it in Gold Leaf colours to win the 1970 USGP, thereby securing Jochen Rindt’s posthumous World Championship. (Inside the fuel bays and along some panel joins the original red paint is still in evidence.) Famous victories with 72/5 in the 1972 Austrian and Italian Grands Prix made Emerson the youngest ever World Champion. A dramatic win at the legendary Montjuic Park circuit was the perfect start to the 1973 season, but then it was the end of the road for 72/5 at Zandvoort, when Emerson crashed heavily in qualifying for the Dutch GP.

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The wreckage languished in the Team Lotus stores, somehow surviving numerous clear-outs, until last year when the team decided to have a go at repairing the tub. Miraculously the badly damaged left hand side was recovered and the decision was made to rebuild the car.

Every care is being taken to preserve the originality of what is such an important part of Team Lotus history. In particular the majority of the monocoque is intact and it is still in its original paint, along with some of the original bodywork. With reference to the original design drawings and with expertise from Team Lotus personnel of the period, the car is being rebuilt to exactly as it raced to Grand Prix and World Championship victory. The monocoque has been reunited with one of its original engines and the gearbox is also period. A lot of the running gear is original and has been condition tested as fit for purpose.

Clive Chapman, Managing Director of Classic Team Lotus: “Given my father’s constant focus on the future and the team’s perennial battle for more space, it is extraordinary that this car survived for so many years. I think it is a mark of the sentimental attachment that my father, the driver and the team had for her. (The 1973 film ‘If You’re Not Winning You’re Not Trying’ includes a nice moment when Colin Chapman explains to wife Hazel about Emerson’s emotional attachment to his favourite car). I have really enjoyed the painstaking restoration to date and am keen to show-off the skill of all those involved. We have appreciated the interest of enthusiasts at the Autosport show especially whenever we present relics from the stores and we decided to let everyone see where we have got to with this exciting project.”

As we move into the start of 2014 we would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and we hope to see you at an event or at the workshop throughout the year. We will be starting the season off with testing at Croix en Ternois before heading off to the 72nd Members’ Meeting at Goodwood.

Click here to see the 2014 racing calendar 

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