The 1981 Lotus Type 88B was banned from contemporary grand prix racing, yet like its illustrious forebears it carries a Team Lotus ‘win’ decal. Why? Because at the 2011 Festival of Speed, it was fastest in the Top 10 shootout, handing it a victory that Classic Team Lotus, which now runs the car in historic motorsport, feels it always deserved. It was driven in the demonstration of ground-effect F1 cars at the Members’ Meeting by Dario Franchitti.
Controversy has always followed the Type 88B, and its immediate forebear the Type 88. On the Type 88’s launch, Colin Chapman said: ‘I don’t want to upset McLaren but I have to tell them they are a little bit behind the times.’ You have to remember that McLaren had just unveiled the first composite monocoque Formula 1 car, the MP4-1.
Lotus’s Type 88 had been testing before the MP4-1s, and not only featured a composite monocoque construction but also the twin-chassis concept that overcame the pitch sensitivity and stiff suspension problems encountered as ground-effect cars became faster.
The Lotus’s composite construction has been somewhat overlooked by history when compared with the controversial twin chassis that led to the car being embroiled in a legal battle that resulted in it being excluded from the first three grands prix it entered. The revised 88B, which you see here, passed scrutineering for the 1981 British Grand Prix and practised, but was banned overnight.
Whatever its in-period record, the Type 88B is now allowed to compete in the FIA Historic Formula One Championship and is the pinnacle of Lotus’s ground-effect cars.
Photography by Pete Summers