New Zealand Classic Car - - Motorsport Flashback -

Roly’s Lotus

Roly Le­vis was very much a Brab­ham man — he im­ported a BT6 for the 1964/’65 sea­son then fol­lowed it with his highly suc­cess­ful BT18, which not only helped him on his way to an­other Na­tional For­mula ti­tle but also the 1966/’67 Gold Star as well. Roly’s se­cond Gold Star came with his one full sea­son in a BT23C — a pukka For­mula 2 car with the mel­liflu­ous 1.6-litre four-valve Cos­worth. That was 1968/’69, and Roly was back the fol­low­ing sea­son — but only briefly, be­cause, af­ter crash­ing at Bay Park in the Oc­to­ber, he qui­etly called it quits.

Prior to the Brab­hams, Le­vis spent the 1963/’64 sea­son in a Lotus 22 in which he’d scored a soli­tary point, but, long be­fore the sea­son had ended, he was al­ready plan­ning how to get him­self into a Brab­ham. The ‘22’ went to Len South­ward for his highly promis­ing pro­tégé Kerry Grant.

Sa­loon car mae­stro Bryan Innes was aboard the Lotus in 1965/’66, and it drifted through var­i­ous other hands be­fore end­ing up in the garage of a young Christchurch air­craft en­gi­neer called Kerry Rout. It re­mained in Kerry’s care for over four decades un­til be­ing ac­quired re­cently by Auck­land racer Noel Wood­ford.

The restora­tion of this Lotus back into the black-with­red-nose-and-wheels liv­ery run by Roly is nearly com­plete and will be the sub­ject of a full fea­ture in an up­com­ing is­sue. Be­fore then, there are some dots still need­ing to be joined.

My wife de­rives great en­joy­ment from the ances­tory. com web­site — I think she’s back into the early 1700s, and, just when she thinks the end of the road has been reached, more in­for­ma­tion seems to come through. What Noel has be­ing try­ing to do is com­plete the ances­try of his Lotus; in com­par­i­son to build­ing a fam­ily tree, the task should be dead easy — af­ter all, the car has been here

The ex–roly Le­vis Lotus 22 when owned by Jonathan Wil­liams

since De­cem­ber 1963 and all own­ers while in New Zealand can be ac­counted for.

But the stum­bling block, that Noel is con­fi­dent is solv­able, is the his­tory of the car prior to fu­ture– Fer­rari F1 driver Jonathan Wil­liams first rac­ing it in July 1963, by which time it was a year old. Noel be­lieves he knows the story, but be­fore the dots can fi­nally, and con­clu­sively, be con­nected, he needs a mini break­through. He’s on the trail, and by the time his baby is the sub­ject of a full NZ Clas­sic Car fea­ture, Noel’s con­fi­dent he’ll have com­pleted his rac­ing- car ver­sion of an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dig. The key to the mini break­through may just come from F1 — not F1 ‘ back in the day’, but F1 2015-style.

You’ll have to wait for the full ex­posé — al­though I can’t help but won­der if Roly, on that day in De­cem­ber 1963 at Auck­land Wharf when he watched his pride and joy be­ing off­loaded, could have ever imag­ined how much re­search time would be spent try­ing to un­ravel the first 12 or so months of the car’s life.

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