This Lotus 15 won the first ever Sussex Trophy

06th September 2022
Adam Wilkins

The very first Goodwood Revival, held in 1998, provided one of the most memorable Sussex Trophy races we’ve seen. It was won by Robert Brooks, driving this very special Lotus 15 that had returned to Goodwood after first racing here in the 1950s at the hands of Graham Hill among others.


It was to be a dramatic return to the Motor Circuit, which began when Frank Sytner in his Lister Knobbly made an aggressive move away from the start causing substantial bodywork damage that left Brooks’ Lotus 15 with a large piece of aluminum sticking up into the air, warranting a black and orange flag. Speaking years later, Robert recalled: “The flag went out while we were up at Lavant. Essentially if I did see it, I don’t remember.” The combination of grit, sheer determination and perhaps a little red mist was enough for Robert to fight his way to victory. It was a reprise for the very car that had raced in the 1959 RAC TT.

Following Robert Brooks’ untimely death in August 2021 aged just 64, James Wood took the wheel of this now-legendary car, hoping to recreate that 1998 win. Testing looked promising: Wood was consistently setting times that, it transpired, would have been good enough for pole position. Hopes were high that the Lotus would at least challenge for victory, but things are rarely that simple in historic motorsport.

Between testing and race day, the driveshafts were replaced and there was no time for any testing after the suspension was put back together. “It should have been identical theoretically and geometrically, but it wasn’t,” says James. “I wasn’t confident in being safe to pass people with the car being less predictable than it should be, so discretion was the better part of valour. I just left the space and waited for an appropriate time where usually I could have driven past, or out-braked and turned in. I qualified quite badly and therefore got stuck behind some more powerful cars, but I made three or four places and I made and then lost one to Ollie Bryant in another Lotus 15. We live to fight another day.”


The result was an eighth-place finish at a lap time similar to that which was good enough for victory back in 1998. “I made three or four places and I made and then lost one to Ollie Bryant in another Lotus 15,” says James.

While the Lotus may have been out of sorts for the Revival in 2021, it’s usually a machine that James really enjoys. “The car is wonderful, really nice to drive,” he told us. “They’re a very light weight Chapman design, 500kg and nearly 200bhp (203PS, 149kW) pulling about 140mph here when the set-up is right. Fordwater corner in testing I was going through at 132mph at the apex and 101mph turning into Madgwick. The minimum corner speed at Madgwick is 91mph with 111mph at the exit, but if you’re held up at all you’ve lost that run out.”

Winning the 2021 Sussex Trophy in Robert’s memory would have made for neat book-end to the 1998 victory, but we’re sure we’ll see this Lotus 15 at the front of the Goodwood field again.

Photography by Jordan Butters.

  • Revival

  • Revival 2021

  • Revival 1998

  • Lotus

  • 15

  • Lister

  • Knobbly

  • Sussex Trophy

  • Robert Brooks

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