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  Lotus Esprit X180R      

  Article Image gallery (13) 52591001 Specifications  
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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1991
Numbers built:3
Internal name:Type 106
Designed by:Peter Stevens for Lotus
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:April 08, 2013
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Click here to download printer friendly versionWorking with a very tight budget, Lotus decided to give the new Esprit SE some extra exposure in the United States. To this end a competition version was readied for the 1990 season of the Escort World Challenge. In this SCCA-sanctioned championship relatively few modifications were allowed, which helped to keep the cost down.

Two Esprits were pulled off the production line and were prepared for racing. Some suggest this took just one week. The engineers benefited from an existing lightweight development program, which saved considerable time. All unnecessary luxuries were stripped from the cars and the windows replaced by polycarbonate examples. This brought the weight down to less than 1,100 kg.

Further chassis modifications included the addition of a roll-cage. The stock suspension was addressed and equipped with Monroe shock absorbers. Larger brakes, normally found on the Lotus Carlton/Omega, were fitted, in combination with an ABS system that had been jointly developed with Lotus parent General Motors. The cars were fitted with a blue-printed engine, which produced around 300 bhp.

Known internally as the Type 105, the new Esprit racer was fielded by the US-based Pure Sports team. An integral part of the effort was multi-talented American driver Doc Bundy, who had previously raced a Corvette GTP and had also helped Lotus engineers with the development of an active suspension system. The second car was piloted by Bundy's compatriot Scott Lagasse.

Despite being developed with modest means, the Type 105 Esprits were immediately competitive. Between them, Bundy and Lagasse clinched six pole positions and won four of the eight World Challenge rounds, including a pair of one-two finishes. A crash late in the season cost Bundy the title, being beaten only by a Corvette, but finishing comprehensively ahead of rivals Porsche.

To make the most of the Esprit's competition success, a limited production road going version was launched late in 1990. Known as the X180R (X180 was the internal code for this generation Esprit), it featured some added amenities like glass windows and a heater. The X180R also featured some aero tweaks that as a result were homologated for the cars readied for the 1991 season.

Also known as the X180R, the 1991 specification Esprits were internally referred to as the Type 106. Three new examples were constructed, while the two existing chassis were updated. Among the changes compared to 1990 were a revised suspension geometry and an extended front splitter. The contract with Puresports had finished and the five Esprits were now fielded by Jack Ansley's newly founded LotuSport.

Bundy and Lagasse were back behind the wheel, joined by actors Bobby Carridine, Michael Brockman and Paul Newman. It was another successful year for the Esprits with Carridine finishing second in the World Challenge. Bundy was back in form in 1992 when the Esprit was campaigned in the IMSA Supercar championship. Bundy won three races and the driver's title. Lotus was narrowly beaten to the constructor's by Porsche.

In 1993, the team had to pay a 300 lbs price for the success, and the Esprit lost its competitiveness. Under various owners, the surviving cars were regularly dusted off and raced in contemporary events as late as the fall of 2000. Once again under the LotuSport banner, the Esprits are today regularly campaigned in historic events by both the current owners and original professional drivers like Bundy and David Murry.

Developed and built with a shoe-string budget, the Type 105/106 Esprits hold the distinction of being the Lotus racing car to win a major championship. Having been raced almost uninterrupted since 1990, they remain hugely successful.

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  Article Image gallery (13) 52591001 Specifications