This experimental Lotus is a one-off

13th April 2024
Adam Wilkins

The Lotus 41X was an experimental racing car that should have led to the Type 55 Formula Three car, but the team quickly realised that the Type 41 basis was outdated and that a clean-sheet design would be required. It therefore remained a one-off, but it did compete in the 1968 season with John Miles at the wheel.


The car aped its Formula One stablemates not just with the Gold Leaf livery but also with its wings. The aerodynamic addenda would later be outlawed in the formula but not until it had cut its unusual dash in the field. When the Type 55 programme was cancelled, the 41X was sold into private hands, quickly being exported to Italy where time took its toll on the car.

It was when Max Spaggiari bought the car that the process of taking it back to its 1968 spec began, something that his son Enrico has seen through to completion. The car is now UK-based, with Simon Hadfield Motorsport enlisted to prepare the car. The ethos has been to improve safety and reliability but to maintain the handling and performance that would be familiar to John Miles – albeit without the wings, which remain illegal. Enrico still has them and uses them for show purposes. Anybody who was at last year’s Goodwood Revival will have seen it in that set-up during the parade laps that celebrated the 75th anniversary of Lotus.

With the car now on its home soil, Enrico competes in the UK-centric Historic Formula 3 Championship which occasionally ventures onto continental Europe. Since completing the restoration in 2018, there have been some reliability issues to overcome. “Because these cars have high revving engines, they are under continuous stress and they are very fragile,” says Enrico. “Hopefully now we have fixed that and the car will be more reliable.”


That’s all the more important when you consider that the little 1.0-litre four-cylinder Holbay engine has such a small power band: the driver has to keep it operating between 8,000rpm and 10,000rpm. It’s crucial, therefore, to have the right gear ratios in the four-speed gearbox for any given circuit. Likewise, driver inputs must be smooth and considered in order to maintain momentum.

“You need to be clean and smooth through corners – the less you steer the quicker you are,” says Enrico. “It’s quite a demanding driving style – you have to concentrate a lot because when you have not much power and the other cars are the same, little mistakes are costly.”

Having started in historic motorsport with a Ford Mustang more than 20 years ago, Enrico made the move to single-seaters in 2008. He hasn’t looked back. “Single-seaters are the top level of racing car,” says Enrico. “Even a Formula Ford or Formula 3 car doesn’t need to have a lot of power because of how a single-seater is designed. The weight balance gives you the kind of feeling that no other car can deliver. Even compared to more powerful GT cars, single-seaters are definitely the best.”


Enrico favours racetracks that have fast, flowing corners so he feels at home here at Goodwood. “Goodwood and Donington are my favourites,” he says. “Fortunately in the UK you still have many race tracks that have kept to the original layout.”

Speaking to us ahead of qualifying at the 81st Members’ Meeting presented by Audrain Motorsport, he was hoping for a top-five position. “The grid is particularly competitive. There are at least ten very quick drivers who come from different categories of motorsport and some of them are professionals. I would be happy to be in the top five but I think that would be way to ambitious having seen the entry list.”

Ambitious, yes, but Enrico achieved his goal by qualifying fifth on the grid. He started alone on the second row and maintained that position when the chequered flag dropped.

The 81st Members’ Meeting presented by Audrain Motorsport is live now! You can watch every second of the action right here on our GRR live stream.

Photography by Joe Harding.

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