The impressive way in which the Lotus 78 outran all its rivals in Spain and Belgium suggests that Colin Chapman and his team of technicians have come up with something that the other teams haven’t got: and it is not simply the driving of Mario Andretti and Gunnar Nilsson, it has got to be more than that. Whatever it is Chapman is unlikely to tell anyone, or Frank Williams and the rest of the world will try and copy it. The Lotus 25 monocoque, the Lotus 49 stressed-engine layout, the Lotus 72 chisel-nose, side-radiator layout were all copied. The unfortunate part is that quite a few people at Team Lotus must know the real truth about how the Lotus 78 and its drivers have ‘come together with all systems go’. If any of them leave and join another team they will obviously take that knowledge with them.
Whether their new team will be able to translate the knowledge into reality is another matter. This business of drivers and engineers moving from one team to another has been part of motor racing since the beginning of grands prix in 1906, and even before, but it is still sad to see it happen.
On the question of whether a team can make good use of information, I was talking with the other little man in motor racing, Bernie Ecclestone, and we agreed that success in racing is something like 80 per cent luck and 20 per cent skill. We also agreed that some teams, given the 80 per cent luck, do not have the 20 per cent skill to turn it into success, while others can stand there holding the 80 per cent luck and not realise it. As he went off to tend to his Brabham-Alfa Romeo team he said “we’re still waiting to get our hands on that 80 per cent”. I always see eye-to-eye with Bernie Ecclestone – I can’t avoid it at our respective heights – but I do not always agree with him. On this occasion, though. I did. Yours. D S J
Denis Jenkinson was our famous Continental Correspondent for more than 40 years.