Lotus 81

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  • This handsomely presented ‘Essex’-liveried Lotus Formula 1 factory team car assisted the much admired – and much missed – Italian racing driver Elio de Angelis to his seventh-place finish in the 1980 FIA Formula 1 Drivers’ World Championship table, and late that same season was also campaigned by his legendarily-successful 1978 World Champion team-mate, Mario Andretti, to finish sixth, scoring yet another World Championship point, in the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. The car went on into the 1981 season, successfully contesting a further five World Championship-qualifying Grand Prix races in the hands of its elegant and stylish regular driver, Elio de Angelis.

Overall, this Team Essex Lotus works car contested no fewer than sixteen Grand Prix races, finishing half of them in World Championship points-scoring positions during one-and-a-half seasons of active duty – quite a remarkable record for any modern era Formula 1 car.

This 3-litre Cosworth-Ford V8-powered Lotus Type 81 was built new by Team Lotus in its magnificent English country house workshops at Ketteringham Hall, Norfolk, through January/ February 1980. The prototype Lotus 81 in its bright Essex Petroleum livery was unveiled at a dazzlingly glitzy launch party funded by American entrepreneur David Thieme’s Essex organisation in the Paradiso Latin night-club in Paris – the new car being lowered from the ceiling amidst clouds of dry-ice vapour and a deafening rendition of the British national anthem!

The Lotus 81 was an evolutionary development of the epochal Lotus 79 ‘ground-effects car’ which had carried Mario Andretti to his decisive Formula 1 World Championship title in 1978. The new car’s aluminium-honeycomb monocoque chassis was essentially that of the short-lived Lotus 80 model, but used new suspension with two-element fabricated top rocker-arms at the front raked back as on the previous ’80 Mark 2’ to shorten the wheelbase some 2 inches. The sidepods were notably robust – Colin Chapman typically using them as a seat in the pitlane while he discussed matters with his drivers. They were Andretti again, beginning his fifth season with the team, accompanied by 22-year old newcomer, Elio de Angelis.

The entire upper section of the Lotus 81’s body was moulded in one piece. Rear end design was notably clean with the rear suspension uprights submerged virtually flush within the wheels to cause minimum aerodynamic interference in that critical area. All four disc brakes were mounted outboard – all coil-spring/ damper suspension units inboard.

With the change of sponsorship from Martini-Lotus 1979 to Essex-Lotus 1980, the cars’ chassis number style was altered, from using ‘ML’ prefixes in’79 to ‘EL’ for 1980. Traditionally, however, the regular Team Lotus chassis serial form of car type number followed by individual chassis number prevailed – as in ‘81/3’ offered here.

The original chassis ‘3’ emerged brand-new to serve as the team’s spare car during the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami. It was then used by young Elio de Angelis at Long Beach, California, where it was crashed heavily and completely rebuilt under the same chassis number. The car ran in the very next Championship round, the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder, being classified 10th after crashing on the 70th of 72 laps. Here in Monaco the young Italian spun, had to push his car to restart the engine, then stop at the pits to have his seat belts tightened before continuing to finish a delayed ninth.

This is the car in which Elio de Angelis finished third in that season’s controversial Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama, north of Madrid, headed only by Alan Jones’s Williams FW07B and Jochen Mass’s Arrows A3. But that race was declared to be illegal and demoted from World Championship status since the drivers involved had refused to pay summary fines resulting from a dispute during the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder one month previously. Ferrari, Renault and Alfa Romeo had boycotted the race, but it had always been an article of faith for the legendary British team chief Colin Chapman that his Team Lotus organisation contested every available Formula 1 race.

Elio de Angelis went on to use chassis ‘3’ for much of the remaining season. After retirement in the French Grand Prix the car was used as the team’s spare during the British GP meeting at Brands Hatch. For that event the Type 81 monocoques had been stiffened with raised cockpit sides. ‘3’ was raced again by De Angelis in the German Grand Prix at Hockenheimring, being classified 16th after having been forced to stop after 43 laps due to a seized wheel bearing.

Fortunes improved in the Austrian Grand Prix on the demanding, swooping Osterreichring circuit in the Styrian foothills of Austria, where Elio de Angelis – a cultured young man and an accomplished classical pianist in addition to his undoubted skills behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car – scored another World Championship point by securing sixth place. During qualifying on this difficult circuit, his new English team-mate Nigel Mansell drove chassis ‘3’ to qualify for a place on the grid after having failed to do so with his assigned chassis ‘8’.

De Angelis retired chassis ‘3’ from its next race – the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort – but then bounced back to terrific form with fourth place – scoring three more World Championship points – in the Italian Grand Prix which was run that year on the demanding Imola circuit rather than at its traditional home, the Monza Autodrome. This car was then consigned to spare car duties for the Canadian Grand Prix on the Isle Notre Dame circuit in Montreal, but it was hastily prepared for Mario Andretti to take over when that race had to be restarted following a first-lap multiple accident at the first attempt. Mario was forced to retire from the restarted race, but he liked chassis ‘3’ and retained it as his race car for the following World Championship round which was the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, in which he finished sixth to secure yet another World Championship point.

Team Lotus retained these Type 81 cars for the start of the following season, and in February 1981 chassis ‘3’ went to war yet again, this time on the South African circuit of Kyalami, being driven home into an excellent third place by Elio de Angelis, which would have scored yet more points towards the new season’s Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship titles but for yet another boycott by the Grande Costruttore group of F1 constructors. This led the FISA governing body to deny such status to the race, before the famous Concord Agreement brought peace (temporarily) to the sport! Team Lotus had developed their startling new ‘twin-chassis’ Type 88 car in time for the United States Grand Prix West at Long Beach in March that year, but it was prevented from starting the race due to scrutineering disputes and so Elio de Angelis raced chassis ‘3’ yet again, though failing to finish.

This much-raced car was then deployed yet again for de Angelis’s use in the following Brazilian Grand Prix at Jacarepagua, Rio de Janeiro, where he finished well in the points yet again – this time fifth overall. The car’s consistent pace and – by contemporary Formula 1 standards – reliability, was demonstrated once more in the Argentine Grand Prix at Buenos Aires, in which its young Italian regular driver again scored an FIA World Championship point, finishing sixth.

Team Essex Lotus’s next appearance was in the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder, in which De Angelis scored yet another fifth place finish, after which this car was retired (at long last) from front-line duty and replaced by the further developed Type 87 model.

This historic Formula 1 Lotus-Cosworth 81 is offered here with freshly rebuilt DFV engine, the restored chassis, Hewland FGB transmission and electronics having also been restored. The mechanical rebuild is documented and all parts have been crack tested. Every attempt has been made to preserve the car’s cosmetic authenticity, with original paint and Essex livery and even the 1980 timing device in the cockpit, complete with original batteries and air bottle!

This spectacularly-liveried, classical 3-litre ‘Cosworth’ Formula 1 car offers full ground-effects aerodynamic design plus an heroic works team racing history. It is the product of perhaps the most charismatic and iconic of all British World Championship-winning racing teams. It has been campaigned by three truly great names from motor racing history, including two World Champions – Mario Andretti and Nigel Mansell – and that most popular and charming gentleman driver, and Grand Prix winner, Elio de Angelis. In the right hands it could also prove extremely competitive against its peers in the relevant Historic classes on both sides of the Atlantic. There is little more any enthusiast could desire. Local taxes will be liable should it remain in the EU.

This handsomely presented 'Essex'-liveried Lotus Formula 1 factory team car was campaigned by both Elio de Angelis and 1978 World Champion team-mate, Mario Andretti during 1980-81. Thiss Team Essex Lotus works car contested no fewer than sixteen Grand Prix races, finishing half of them in World Championship points-scoring positions -a remarkable record for any modern F1 car.Its aluminium-honeycomb monocoque chassis was essentially that of the short-lived Lotus 80 model, but used new suspensions The original chassis '3' emerged brand-new as the team's spare car during the South African Grand Prix before being crashed by De Angelis at Long Beach, California. The car ran in the Belgian and Monaco GPs and Elio de Angelis finished third in it in that season's Spanish Grand Prix.

In the Austrian GP he scored a World Championship point with sixth place and during qualifying Nigel Mansell drove this car - chassis '3'. De Angelis later took fourth place - scoring three more World Championship points - in the Italian GP at Imola while Mario Andretti drove it to finish sixth in the United States GP.

De Angelis drove in the 1981 South African GP to finish third, followed by fifth in Brazil and sixth in Argentina. The Belgian GP saw De Angelis finish fifth, after which this car was retired from front-line duty. This Formula 1 Lotus has been campaigned by three truly great names from motor racing history, including two World Champions - Mario Andretti and Nigel Mansell - and that most popular and charming gentleman driver, and Grand Prix winner, Elio de Angelis. In the right hands it could also prove extremely competitive against its peers in the relevant Historic classes on both sides of the Atlantic.

Cette Lotus F1 d'usine élégamment présentée sous les couleurs de l'écurie Essex a été pilotée par Elio de Angelis et son coéquipier, le Champion du Monde 1978 Mario Andretti, en 1980 et 1981. Cette Lotus du Team Essex n'a pas disputé moins de 16 Grands Prix en terminant dans les points à huit reprises, performance remarquable pour une F1 moderne. Son châssis monocoque en nid d'abeille d'aluminium était essentiellement celui de l'éphémère Lotus 80, mais avec de nouvelles suspensions. Le châssis n°3 original alors neuf fut la voiture de réserve de l'écurie au GP d'Afrique du Sud avant d'être accidenté par de Angelis à Long Beach, en Californie. La voiture courut le GP de Belgique et le GP de Monaco et, à son volant, Elio de Angelis termina troisième du GP d'Espagne.

Dans le GP d'Autriche, il marqua un point au Championnat du Monde en terminant sixième. Aux qualifications, Nigel Mansell avait piloté cette voiture (châssis n°3). Plus tard, de Angelis prit la quatrième place et marqua trois autres points au GP d'Italie à Imola tandis que Mario Andretti la menait à la sixième place du GP des Etats-Unis. De Angelis la pilota au GP d'Afrique du Sud 1981 où il termina troisième, au GP de Brésil (cinquième) et au GP d'Argentine (sixième). Au GP de Belgique, de Angelis finit cinquième, après quoi la voiture cessa d'être engagée en première ligne. Cette Lotus F1 a été pilotée par trois grands noms du sport automobile au plus haut niveau dont deux Champions du Monde, Mario Andretti et Nigel Mansell, et ce charmant gentleman-driver, et vainqueur en Grand Prix, que fut Elio de Angelis. Dans de bonnes mains, cette voiture pourrait encore se montrer extrêmement compétitive face à ses rivales dans les catégories historiques qui la concernent des deux côtés de l'Atlantique.



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