Lotuses are best known for their delicacy and agility, but just sometimes they benefit from a bit of bulking up. These things are all relevant, but the wide-arched look of the 23C adds muscle to the usually slight and lithe Type 23 form.
The Lotus 23C doesn’t need muscle to beat muscle cars
Only six Lotus 23Cs were built. They were assembled towards the end of the 23’s life to keep it competitive with the increasingly powerful opposition. The changes were quite small in number: the wheel arches were widened to allow for bigger wheels and tyres (the former being upgraded to six-stud), the previously enclosed rear wheels were opened and the front suspension was borrowed from Formula 3.
Tony Best’s 23C is believed to be the only example in the UK, and its outing at Goodwood is the first time it has ever raced on this side of the Atlantic. In another first, driver Ed Thurston hadn’t been around Goodwood prior to SpeedWeek presented by Mastercard.
“The circuit’s mega,” he said. “I’m still building up speed.”
With only two half days of testing completed – one at Goodwood, the other at Blyton Park – the 23C arrived at SpeedWeek still requiring some development. “We’re still miles off optimal, but it will be great,” said Ed. “It’s going to be a quick car in a year’s time when it’s fully developed.”
Tony was equally happy with the car’s pace at this early stage in its set up and development, telling us: “When you see them going around in the same company as the Lola T70s and the GT40s you appreciate how quick they are. It’s a giant killer really.”
It was the car’s originality that appealed to Tony, and it’s something he’s keen to preserve. “Visually, it’s just as I bought it,” he says. Except, that is, for the FIA approved roll-over bar, a regulatory requirement. Under the skin, it has undergone an engine and gearbox rebuild.
The car’s practice session came to a premature end when contact with a stricken Porsche send Ed off the circuit. The damage was repairable in time for the race, where the 23C had earned a place on the fourth row of the grid. Unfortunately, a mechanical failure (undiagnosed at the time of writing) led to the car’s retirement from the race.
In both performance and reliability, there’s some work to do… but the team came to SpeedWeek knowing that. On the plus side, they’ve been encouraged by the pace the car showed in the Whitsun Trophy, a race dominated cars like the Lola T70, Ford GT40 and McLaren M1.
Photography by James Lynch.
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