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  Lotus 80 Cosworth

  Article Image gallery (18) Specifications  
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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1979
Numbers built:2
Designed by:Colin Chapman / Martin Ogilvie
Predecessor:Lotus 79 Cosworth
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:October 17, 2005
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Click here to download printer friendly versionNever shy to experiment, Colin Chapman replaced his championship winning Lotus 79 with a new racer that took ground effects design not one, but three steps further. Whereas the previous F1 racers relied on both ground effects and wings to provide the downforce, the new Lotus 80 was a wingless design. Another striking difference was the change in livery from the traditional black and gold of John Player Special to a green and red with Martini sponsors.

Constructed for the 1979 season, the 80 was technically very similar to its predecessors with an aluminium monocoque and the Cosworth DFV engine. Special care was given to clear as much space as possible for the underbody Venturis. Clearly visible were the re-routed exhausts that exited on top of the gearbox instead of somewhere out the back. Chapman figured that the removal of all wings would reduce drag considerably with the extreme underbody aerodynamics making up for the loss in downforce. A number of small aerodynamic devices were added front and rear to allow for some adjusting.

In testing the new long nose equipped with skirts proved to be the design's weak spot and was easily damaged. For the next test the Lotus 80 had grown a rear wing and the long nose was discarded. At its first outing, in the season's opening Race of the Champions, a rear wing was also added to the package. What now remained of the revolutionary design were the unusually shaped side pods, which ran all the way from the front wheels to the rear wing. An oil spill problem forced World Champion Mario Andretti to drive an older Lotus 79 in the race.

The debut of the now winged 'wingless wonder' came in April 1979 when Andretti qualified fourth and finished third in the South African Grand Prix. In the following races an accident and a suspension failure proved fatal for the Andretti driven Lotus 80. His teammate Carlos Reutemann continued to use the 79 and within the team the switch to the old 79 by Andretti was heavily discussed. Not one to give in easily, Chapman prepared the unfortunate 80 again for his team leader to drive in the French Grand Prix. The problems persisted and Andretti was forced to retire, and so was the Lotus 80, indefinitely.

It is easy to discard the Lotus 80 was a complete failure, but to explore the limits of ground effects, experiments like the 80 were necessary. Sadly there is little room for experiments like there was in the 1960s and 1970s, so we have to make do with evolutions rather than revolutions. Longtime enthusiast Sidney Hoole restored and prepared Andretti's Lotus 80 to race in the FIA Thoroughbred Grand Prix championship. It is seen here in action at the 2005 Silverstone round where it again did not prove very competitive.

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  Article Image gallery (18) Specifications