The Early Years: 1990's and beyond
Team Lotus becomes Classic Team Lotus
The four year sponsorship by Camel came to an end in 1990 and the team faced a massive financial challenge. Despite the Team Lotus name and the return of Honda engines it was unable to secure the all important main sponsor for the millions of pounds that had become necessary. Even so the team continued on and succeeded in designing, manufacturing and competing in the incredibly demanding F1 environment. In a bold move it signed Mika Hakkinen who proved to be a great talent. The striking Type 107 that raced in 1992 was followed by the 1994 Type 109 that displayed real potential in the hands of Johnny Herbert at Monza. Sadly this proved to be the last hurrah. The 1994 Japanese GP was the last Team Lotus Grand Prix entry.
Mika Hakkinen at Monaco 1991
In all Team Lotus manufactured about 1500 single seat racing cars and many more sports racing cars. Most were sold to privateers to race during the 60s. From the Type 25 onwards Team Lotus manufactured 127 Formula One chassis.
Classic Team Lotus was established in 1992 by Team Lotus International Limited, the entrant of the Team Lotus Formula One racing cars up until its demise in 1994. Clive Chapman and Manning Buckle established a business around the history of Team Lotus up to 1990 that the Chapman family had been careful to protect. Chris Dinnage was Team Manager (Team Lotus since 1982) and was joined by his contemporary Nick Yallop (Team Lotus since 1981). Eddie Dennis (Team Lotus 1967 to 1978) also participated.
The objectives of Classic Team Lotus were stated as ‘To celebrate and perpetuate the Spirit of the Marque’. The principle aspects of the business were the Classic Team Lotus Register, Historic Motor Sport service, the Classic Collection, Licensing and Memorabilia. It was designed as a commercial venture although also it was intended to service the Works Collection established by Colin Chapman and Team Lotus.
The workshops were initially established in the old Team Lotus buildings at Hethel in what had become redundant stores. Tons of original spares acquired a new significance and are stored offsite.
The Classic Collection has benefited tremendously from the establishment of Classic Team Lotus. A lot of cars are now running. All of them are configured correctly and are well looked after. To help with maintenance costs the cars are rented out for shows and special events.
Classic Team Lotus has endeavoured to promote the Marque at every opportunity. VIP and media visitors to Group Lotus Cars frequently include Classic Team Lotus in their visit. CTL is pleased to help journalists and film crews featuring the Team Lotus history.
Although the Works Collection contains many of the most important chassis it is when a famous driver gets in that high profile moments occur. Classic Team Lotus has run its cars for Andretti, Herbert, Mansell, Fittipaldi, Dumfries, Barrichello, Oliver, Charlton, Villeneuve, Kovalainen, Trulli, Johansson, Bruno Senna, Donnelly, Piquet Jr, Franchetti, Perez Sala, Miles, Bell, Stewart, Damon Hill, Lord March and even The Stig. Generally this has been great fun for driver and team and it does create a lot of attention. Long may it continue.
Classic Team Lotus has grown to the point where it needed a new purpose built workshop that could incorporate a display area for the Works Collection and an archive for the all the original design drawings and engineering records. In 2015 a new facility was built adjacent to the old workshops in Hethel and CTL moved to a new home. Celebrating Team Lotus is a great way to remember the history of the team which is important and valuable. Hopefully it will inspire a redoubling of efforts to create a Heritage Centre that will celebrate and perpetuate the Spirit of the Marque long into the future.