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  Lotus Esprit S1 Group 5      

  Article Image gallery (28) 79/0102G Specifications  
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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1979
Numbers built:1
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:January 23, 2024
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Click here to download printer friendly versionOnce the bread and butter of Lotus, sports car racing was no longer part of the British company's racing activities from the late 1960s onwards. Privateer racer Richard Jenvey nevertheless believed the Lotus Esprit had the potential to take on the successful BMW 320 in the Group 5 category. He set about independently creating a competition version of the mid-engined production car with the aim to race at Le Mans in 1979.

Support from Lotus was very limited but Jenvey did receive a chassis and bodywork through the back-door. During a restoration in the 2010s, it was discovered that it was actually the second Esprit chassis built. Used for the test and development work, it was clearly surplus to requirements by the time Jenvey started his project. He used the chassis as the basis for the Group 5 racer but the bodywork was sold on.

The steel backbone of the production was used with a separate spaceframe grafted on to support the engine and gearbox. Like the road car, Jenvey's Group 5 car used the Lotus Type 907 four-cylinder engine. The all-alloy unit was equipped with twin overhead camshafts and a pair of Weber carburettors. The Hewland gearbox and rear suspension was carried over from a March Formula 1 car. A new set of bodywork was moulded with wider wheel-arches to clear the massive slicks. As per the Group 5 regulations, the roof and doors were identical to the road-car parts.

Although the Group 5 Lotus Esprit was entered for several races during the 1978, the car did not appear until the 1979 Dijon 6 Hours. With Polaroof backing, it was raced by Jenvey himself and Richard Mercer. The car reportedly handled beautifully but the production-based engine proved its achilles heel. At 240 bhp, it was both down on power and also lacked reliability. The car was raced in the World Championship at Dijon, Silverstone and the Nürburgring but faced reliability issues at every outing. Jenvey opted to scratch the Le Mans entry and race a Lola prototype instead.

Jenvey continued to field the car into the 1981 season in on both sides of the British Channel but with limited success. It was retired at the end of the year and retained by Jenvey, who later create Jenvey Dynamics, which supplies a variety of race parts. The Group 5 Esprit remained in the corner of Jenvey's shop until 2013. It was acquired by two Lotus enthusiasts and has since been restored to full running order for historic racing.

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  Article Image gallery (28) 79/0102G Specifications