When GRR recently visited the Norfolk headquarters of Classic Team Lotus, the operation that lovingly preserves and promotes the famous British race team and its legion of game-changing and world-beating Formula 1 racers, we were treated to a fascinating insight into the discovery, almost by accident, of ground-effect aerodynamics – in a motorsport context.
Clive Chapman, boss of Classic Team Lotus and son of the marque’s pioneering founder Colin, gives us a superb and easy-to-follow science lesson, explaining via Bernoulli’s Principle, how aircraft ground-effect theories, or what he calls the ‘unfair advantage’, were applied to Lotus’ Type 78 F1 car following Chapman Sr’s root-and-branch review of F1-car design.
Design genius Chapman sent Peter Wright, one of his senior engineers charged with improving aerodynamics, to Imperial College, London, with a brief to make the best use of its windtunnel. During his experiments, the perfect storm of maximum downforce and minimum drag was created.
As you’ll discover in the film, the way in which Wright discovered what was going on as the car’s sidepods got closer to the ground in the windtunnel is fascinating.
The result, Chapman Jr explains, was best summarised by Lotus driver Mario Andretti, who said: ‘The Type 78? Well, I’ll tell ya: it’s like it’s painted to the road!’
Enjoy the science lesson that’s interspersed with some superb footage of several great Lotus machines in the Classic Team Lotus workshops and in action on the hill at the Festival of Speed. The recreation of the great Andretti/Peterson battles of 1978 is a particular favourite among all those who witnessed it a few years ago. The sight of ‘Ronnie’ leading ‘Mario’ in the JPS Lotus train, before swapping places half-way up the hill brings back great memories of a dominant period for Lotus.