A Day at Hethel........
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A Lotus on Irish Streams

The phone rings and a familiar voice booms out……

”Hey Man. What are you doing next Wednesday?”

It is my favourite Dutchman, Mark Koense, recently turned publisher and editor of RTL GP magazine.

Well it turned out that on Wednesday I was going to visit the Lotus Factory at Hethel, Norfolk to shoot the ex-Elio de Angelis Lotus 91, chassis 8, as it happened.

Clive Chapman, son of Lotus founder Colin, and Le Patron of Classic Team Lotus had arranged for a short session on the Hethel test track, where so many famous and ground breaking cars had been put through their paces.

Prior to the test session we had the chance to get a taste of a Lotus Exige around the lanes near Wymondham. The Toyota powered 2 seater represents true Lotus values of being totally hardcore in every respect, from the near slick tyres to the noise, to the shattering performance and amazing agility. A couple of hours gave us a strong desire to drive one for a week or two using only A and B roads.

But the real reason for visiting Norfolk still awaited us and back at Lotus HQ the Classic Team Lotus truck had made its short journey from the workshop to the track. There in the sunlight glistening black and gold was the 91, elegant and refined.

Back in 1982 the Lotus 91 represented a return to basics for the team with a simple efficient concept. The experimental Lotus 80 and 88 models that preceded the 91 in the years 1979 to 1981 had not maintained the aerodynamic advantage evident in the World Championship year of 1978 with the Lotus 79. Up against the powerful turbo powered Renaults and Ferraris the Lotus 91 exclusively used a short stroke Cosworth DFV in a lightweight chassis constructed of carbon fibre. Add to this the use of carbon brakes and an early form of active suspension system and the result was competitive car particularly at the high-speed tracks. The highlight was de Angelis taking a narrow win at Osterreichring and Lotus made it to 5th place in the Constructors’ Championship.

The sound of a DFV firing into life indicated that we were ready to do our stuff (or at least Frans was in the cockpit). Under the beady eye of Clive Chapman and his crew, the Flying Fag Packet took off and Hethel once again echoed to the rising revs of a SERIOUS V8. Six laps later Frans hops out of the car with a broad grin on his face, the adrenaline still pumping, and a story in the bag.

Then it was back to the Classic Team Lotus workshops, a cornucopia of racing heritage and memorabilia, and a stack load of Lotii being worked on.

The combination of the JPS Lotus, Hethel and the late spring sunshine was just about perfect………..Enjoy the pix.

John Brooks
December 2007

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