MARCH 1965 Be­fore Can-am came Group 7 — big-en­gined sports cars com­pet­ing at a time when For­mula 1 mo­tors were re­stricted to 1500cc, nor­mally as­pi­rated

New Zealand Classic Car - - CONTENTS - Team Lo­tus at the Brick­yard


It seemed as if Colin Chap­man could do no wrong in the early to mid 1960s. Has one man ever had so much in­flu­ence over as many forms of mo­tor rac­ing in such a con­fined pe­riod of time? By the time he turned 30, on May 19, 1958, Lo­tus was a two-car F1 team. Stir­ling Moss won the 1960 Monaco Grand Prix in a Lo­tus, and the works team took its first world cham­pi­onship victory in Amer­ica at the end of 1961, cour­tesy of Innes Ire­land, whose re­ward was to be dumped from the team while fel­low Scot, Jim Clark, was el­e­vated to team leader.

As well, Chap­man in­tro­duced the lit­tle Lo­tus 23 sports, Lo­tus For­mula Ju­niors in­vari­ably ran at the front of the pack, his ground-break­ing Elan was in­tro­duced, and if all of this wasn’t enough, he wheeled out the lat­est F1 car. The Lo­tus 25 fea­tured mono­coque con­struc­tion at a time when space frames ruled. This, com­bined with the jewel-like Cli­max V8 and the emerg­ing bril­liance of Clark, meant Lo­tus was soon em­bark­ing on a ma­jor win­ning streak.

Not con­tent with dom­i­nat­ing For­mula 1, Chap­man spent the May of 1962 at In­di­anapo­lis, and it gave him an idea — the up­shot be­ing that, as well as in­tro­duc­ing the mono­coque to For­mula Ju­nior, and com­bin­ing with Ford to give the world the Lo­tus-cortina, he and Clark came oh-so-close to win­ning the Indy 500 at their first at­tempt in 1963.

With Clark crowned as the youngest world cham­pion to date it seemed that if the car was painted green and yel­low, it would prob­a­bly win. The term ‘rid­ing the crest of a wave’ un­der­states the enor­mity of Chap­man’s achieve­ments. By now he was 35, and seemed to have a Mi­das touch.

Wild Dreams

Most com­pa­nies would have been de­lighted if they’d been able to match the achieve­ments of Lo­tus in 1964 — but they paled com­pared with the team’s suc­cesses in 1963 as Clark and Lo­tus lost their world cham­pi­onship crowns to John Sur­tees and Fer­rari — but only just. As well, de­spite start­ing that year’s Indy 500 from pole and lead­ing 14 laps, suc­cess at the Brick­yard proved elu­sive.

But if Lo­tus per­for­mance in 1963 was be­yond the wildest dreams of most rac­ing car com­pa­nies, 1965 was some­thing else. Half a cen­tury ago, Clark and Lo­tus started the year by clinch­ing the Tas­man Cham­pi­onship, they won the Indy 500 in May and had sewn up the world cham­pi­onship long be­fore the fi­nal rounds. Clark hadn’t man­aged to win back-to-back Bri­tish Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onships, but the new Lo­tus 35 was good enough to win a hand­ful of For­mula 2 races.

Ev­ery­thing that Chap­man touched turned out to be a win­ner. Well not quite — cars that we would come to know as Can-am sports rac­ers com­bined Amer­i­can grunt and noise to Bri­tish au­di­ences who had be­come ac­cus­tomed to For­mula 1 en­gines be­ing re­stricted to 1.5 litres, and nor­mally as­pi­rated. Power out­puts were a frac­tion of what was of­fered by the hairy-chested sports cars, and it was clear that crowds liked the noise and spec­ta­cle of the stock-block V8s.

By 1964 Chap­man was well en­trenched with Ford, via its Cortina/in­di­anapo­lis ini­tia­tive plus F2 and F3, and given

that a suit­able en­gine al­ready ex­isted com­bined with the fact that Lo­tus had suc­ceeded in ev­ery­thing else, it was only log­i­cal that a strong chal­lenger could be pro­duced. Be­sides, in ad­di­tion to the fab­u­lous 23, Chap­man’s pre­vi­ous sports cars (the Lo­tus 19 and 19B) had been par­tic­u­larly handy de­vices.

Called the Lo­tus 30, the new car was pow­ered by the 4.7-litre (289ci) ‘Mus­tang’ V8 — Clark de­buted it at Ain­tree in April 1964, but was beaten by Bruce Mclaren in the Zerex Oldsmo­bile in a com­bi­na­tion that con­tin­ued to be the one to beat.

Un­de­terred, Chap­man re­leased the Lo­tus 40 for 1965. Lola and Mclaren pro­duced their T70 and M1A mod­els re­spec­tively, but Clark re­lied on the 30 to kick the sea­son off 50 years ago this month at Sil­ver­stone, beat­ing the Sur­tees-driven Lola-chevrolet in a field that fea­tured Hill and Mclaren in Oldsmo­bile-pow­ered M1AS.

In April, Clark — still in the 30 — beat Mclaren at Good­wood, and it looked as if Lo­tus would sweep clean all be­fore them in yet an­other cat­e­gory, un­til a cou­ple of things hap­pened. Lola and Mclaren kept on de­vel­op­ing — and Chap­man un­leashed the 40, a car for­mer Fer­rari/brm and Honda F1 driver, Richie Ginther, fa­mously de­scribed as be­ing “… the same as the 30 but with 10 more mis­takes.” Those early suc­cesses proved to have given false hope.

In­deed, Team Lo­tus never won an­other ma­jor sports-car race, while Denny Hulme proved sheer grunt wasn’t ev­ery­thing by win­ning the pres­ti­gious Tourist Tro­phy in early May driv­ing a 2.0-litre Cli­max-pow­ered Brab­ham BT8. Later that month Bruce won his first race on Bri­tish soil in a Mclaren at Sil­ver­stone. Mclaren’s new un­der­study — Chris Amon — won the 50-lap­per at Sil­ver­stone in July. Ev­ery­one was back for the next bi­gen­try event at Brands Hatch at the end of Au­gust. Sur­tees even­tu­ally won from Mclaren and Jackie Ste­wart, also in a Lola, while the Lo­tus chal­lenge ended in a crash in heat two af­ter fin­ish­ing a dis­tant eighth in the first heat.

As a re­sult, Chap­man left Group 7 rac­ing — the fore­run­ner to Can-am — to Lola, Mclaren and oth­ers, mean­ing that big-bore sports-cars rac­ing would be the only branch of mo­tor rac­ing that Lo­tus com­peted in and failed to con­quer. It meant Chap­man was hu­man.

How­ever, with Lo­tus out of the equa­tion, the fledg­ling cat­e­gory pro­vided an ideal spring­board for a new com­pany to shine. Bruce Mclaren Mo­tor Rac­ing was barely a year old, but al­ready its founder had as­sem­bled in Colin Bean­land, Wally Will­mott, Tyler Alexander, How­den Ganley, Bruce Harre, Johnny Muller and Chris Amon — plus Eoin Young — just about the most tal­ented, hard­est-work­ing and skilled bunch of young guys that was pos­si­ble. And, with the ex­cep­tion of Tyler, ev­ery one of them was a Kiwi.

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