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
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.