The lost gamble

A Team Lotus Formula Junior car has resurfaced after more than half a century tucked away in a Turinese workshop following an infamous bet. The intriguing car will soon return to action, as Simon Arron explains

Lotus 22 garage

Jonathan Fleetwood

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It’s hard to imagine a comparable situation in the modern era. Were it to arise, the most likely outcome would be lawyers insulating their bank accounts with another dense layer of notes, but that’s not always how the world worked in 1962. When prominent German writer Richard von Frankenberg used his Auto Motor und Sport column to outline suspicions about the engines the factory Lotus 22s had been using during its successful Formula Junior campaign – notably during a race at the Nürburgring – team boss Colin Chapman responded not with litigation, but with a bet. He agreed to take the car you see here to a venue of his accuser’s choice, repeat the race-winning speeds of earlier in the season and then have the car stripped for technical inspection. If he was vindicated, he’d collect £1000 and von Frankenberg would retract his allegations.

Lotus 22 mechanic

Andrew Hibberd wants to faithfully restore the Lotus as if it had just dropped out of its ’60s heyday

Jonathan Fleetwood

As editor Bill Boddy predicted – correctly – in a Motor Sport editorial (December 1962): “It is not known definitely at the time of writing whether von Frankenberg will choose Monza or the Nürburgring for the test, but probably he will insist on the former where car rather than driver determines lap speeds.” Before the Monza run on December 2, von Frankenberg – who claimed to have proof that Lotus had used oversized 1450cc engines – called the situation “the greatest disgrace in international motor sport”, to which Lotus responded: “The greatest disgrace in international motor sport is that this libellous attack should ever have been published.” Boddy added: “We await with interest complete vindication of the British flag, the Germans having proclaimed that ‘it will take a long time to overcome the lack of confidence in the English’.”

 

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