Celebrating Lotus’ Chapman years at the Goodwood Revival

08th September 2023
Simon Ostler

One of our major celebrations this year at the Goodwood Revival was that of Lotus, founded by Colin Chapman in 1952. So significant is the celebration, that we’re extending our time period beyond the closing of the Motor Circuit in 1966, as we celebrate ‘The Chapman Years’, which sadly ended in 1982. This weekend has been a commemoration of his life in motorsport, as we revel in the glory of some of his most famous road cars, and successful Formula 1 cars.


Goodwood played host to an extraordinary number of Lotus cars, such was the success of this legendary marque through the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The list seems to get better the further down you get. The Mk1 is a faithful recreation of a car long lost, which is plainly and obviously, a heavily modified Austin 7.

Even in his opening forays, his focus was on extreme lightness and superior handling. The car’s bodywork was built from thin aluminium and plywood, and the suspension was heavily modified. It’s a pattern that would continue throughout his life in engineering, of constant iteration and obsession with improvement. It's scarcely believable to think that less than 30 years of racing and development would lead Chapman from this humble Austin to the incredible ground-hugging twin-chassised Lotus 88, that was so advanced and so clever, it was banned from F1.

The little Mk1 joined the Mk2 on track – a curious contraption in part resembling a hodge-podge jacked-up 7 that we know and love while also looking kind of like a tractor. The Mk3 is Chapman's signature semi open-wheel design homing into view, albeit with not so 7-like face.

A few years later, after perfecting his craft in a number of other Lotus projects, Chapman developed his first production car. The Lotus MkIV. Roughly 110 were built, they weighed just 432kg powered by a 50PS Ford straight-four engine.


It was only a matter of time before Chapman turned his attention to motorsport, and it was indeed in 1958 that Team Lotus entered its first grand Prix with the Lotus 12, it was the first single-seater designed by Chapman. There was also the Lotus 15, a two-seater sportscar that made its debut at Goodwood in the Sussex Trophy in ’58, with a certain Graham Hill in the driver’s seat.

The primary focus was always F1, though, and next came the Lotus 18, Jim Clark’s first F1 car, which he raced across the 1960 and ’61 seasons and finished on the podium on a number of occasions. Although it never won a grand prix, it set the platform for what would become a dominant force for much of the next decade.


2023 Goodwood Revival timetable

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Team Lotus’ first win did come in 1961, but courtesy of the Lotus 21 and Innes Ireland. But it was overshadowed by what was possibly the greatest car of the era, the Lotus 25. Over four seasons and 49 entries, the 25 won 14 grands prix in the hands of Jim Clark, its peak being the absolute domination of the 1963 season where Clark won seven of the ten rounds. These utterly stunning cars, the epitome of Chapman’s extreme lightness philosophy, took to the Motor Circuit several times over the weekend, both during our Lotus celebration and for the Glover Trophy.

Skip forward a few years and we have the Lotus 49, which saw the majority of its success under the guidance of Jim Clark, and 1986 world champion Graham Hill, the final championship success for Lotus in the 1960s.


Into the '70s, Lotus immediately returned to the top of the rostrum with a combination of the 49, and the Lotus 72, a car that in various forms won drivers’ and constructors’ championships in ’70, ’72 in the hands of Jochen Rindt, Emerson Fittipaldi, and a further constructors’ triumph in ’73. The Lotus 72 remained in service until it was replaced in 1976.

Towards the end of the decade, Chapman and his Lotus team brought ground effect to Formula 1, and finally perfected it in 1978, with the Lotus 79. Possibly one of the most iconic Lotus cars of all time, Mario Andretti drove it to world championship glory. It was incredible to see it out on our track in celebration of Chapman.


2023 Goodwood Revival entry list

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In many ways, the Lotus 79 signalled the peak of Lotus in Formula 1. They would never again win a world championship, but the innovation of Chapman continued unabated. The Lotus 88, aforementioned, was truly ground-breaking. It was never allowed to race, but its concept was proven in practice. It was a twin-chassis model, designed with the sole purpose of developing ground effect while circumventing new regulations drawn up by the FIA to ban it. Chapman fought valiantly as to the legality of his car, but ultimately it was deemed not so and never made it onto a Formula 1 grid. We have no such rules here at the Goodwood Revival, so the Lotus 88 made its way onto the Motor Circuit, with Clive Chapman, Colin’s son behind the wheel.

It wasn’t all about Formula 1 during the Chapman years. Lotus also built Formula Junior cars, notably the Lotus 22 and 27, and sportscars in the form of the Lotus 30.


All of these beautiful, legendary cars took to the circuit over the course of the weekend at the 2023 Goodwood Revival, along with a number of other sportscars and one-off examples from Chapman's early years as a developer and car builder. 

The Lotus 75 celebration parade was a hugely memorable moment, as we looked back at a true pioneer of motorsport, Colin Chapman and his Team Lotus.

Photography by Pete Summers and Joe Harding.

  • Revival

  • Revival 2023

  • Colin Chapman

  • Lotus

  • 12

  • 15

  • 18

  • 21

  • 25

  • 49

  • 72

  • 79

  • 88

  • 22

  • 27

  • 30

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