Before We Lose Track

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Colin Chapman and Maurice Phillippe put their heads together in 1969 to scheme up a Formula One car using the standard package of Cosworth V8 engine and 5-speed Hewland gearbox, knowing that neither of these would give them any advantage over their rivals who were using the same components. Therefore all their thoughts were directed to gaining advantages in other ways. These included torsion-bar springing in place of the “standard” coil-springs; side-mounted radiators to improve cooling air flow, save the weight of plumbing to a front radiator, improve the weight distribution and allow a slim chisel-nose; inboard brakes were mounted at the front to improve the unsprung weight, as well as inboard brakes at the rear. There were many more detail design improvements over the Lotus 49, which was their previous Fl model and the new Lotus 72 appeared in 1970 and became a trend-setter which was copied by many other designers. It was not an instant success, needing numerous modifications to make it work satisfactorily, but this did not take long and for five, seasons it has been the car to beat.

A total of nine cars has been built, some of them undergoing such complete rebuilds as to almost become different cars, but the basic identities have been retained and are as follows:

72/R1—Prototype. Raced by John Miles in 1970. Finally scrapped.

72/R2—Driven by Jochen Rindt and won four races in 1970. Destroyed in fatal accident to Rindt at Monza 1970. Remains are still impounded by the Court in Italy.

72/R3—Factory team car sold, to Dave Charlton in South Africa. Later sold to Alex Blignault.

72/R4—New car sold to Rob Walker for Siffert to drive. Now in Brazil as a permanent Show car owned by the Fittipaldi brothers.

72/R5—Factory team car. Written off at Zandvoort in 1973 by Emerson Fittipaldi. Reborn and raced by him later. Driven by Jacky Ickx in 1974 and still in works team.

72/R6—Factory team car in 1973. Sold to Team Gunston in South Africa in 1974.

72/R7—Factory team car in 1973. Sold to Team Gunston in South Africa in 1974.

72/R8—Factory team car driven by Ronnie Peterson in 1973 and 1974. Still in Team Lotus.

72/R9—Probably the last Lotus 72. Completed as a factory team car for 1975.