Thursday, January 23, 2014
One of the most exciting exhibits at the recent Autosport International Racing Car Show was the partially restored Lotus 72/5 heavily damaged by Emerson Fittipaldi in 1973.
The iconic car, almost exclusively raced by the Brazilian, hadn’t been seen for four decades and took centre stage on the Classic Team Lotus stand at the National Exhibition Centre.
“I have really enjoyed the painstaking restoration to date and am keen to show off the skill of all those involved,” revealed Clive Chapman, managing director of Classic Team Lotus.
The fifth of nine cars was manufactured in 1970 and first raced in the red and white Gold Leaf colours with Fittipaldi winning the US Grand Prix that year.
Famous victories followed, in the black and gold paintwork of JPS, in the 1972 Austrian and Italian Grands Prix which ensured that Fittipaldi, who was the first in a long line of Brazilians to journey to Norfolk to pursue their motorsport careers, was to become the youngest ever world champion.
A dramatic win at Montjuic Park in Spain was the perfect start to the 1973 season, but then it was the end of the road for 72/5 at Zandvoort in Holland when Fittipaldi crashed in qualifying for the Dutch GP.
“Given my father’s constant focus on the future and the team’s perennial battle for more space, it is extraordinary that this car survived for so many years,” reflected Chapman.
The wreckage languished in the Team Lotus stores, somehow surviving numerous clear-outs, until last year when the team decided to have a go at repairing the tub. Miraculously, the badly damaged left-hand side was recovered and the decision was made to rebuild the car. Every care is being taken to preserve the originality of what is such an important part of Team Lotus history.
With reference to the original design drawings and with expertise from Team Lotus personnel of the period, the car is being rebuilt to exactly as it raced to Grand Prix and World Championship victory.
The monocoque has been reunited with one of its original engines and the gearbox is also period. A lot of the running gear is original and has been condition-tested as fit for purpose.
“We have appreciated the interest of enthusiasts at the Autosport show, especially whenever we present relics from the stores and we decided to let everyone see where we have got to with this exciting project,” said Chapman.
n It’s sad to report that Brian Branson, a regular Snetterton racer in the 1970s driving a Lotus Elan and a Modified Sports Car Champion, died last week. The Bee Bee Racing and Recovery of Horsford proprietor recently returned to racing, sharing a BMW M3 with his son in endurance events and was at Snetterton in October, supporting son Bryan competing in the British Motor Heritage Four Hour Relay Race,
Looking frail, Brian was still full of life remarking on how he was looking forward to restoring a newly-acquired Lotus Elan 26R.