1987 brought about several changes for the Lotus team firstly their hitherto sponsor John Player Special withdrew from the sport and secondly their hitherto engine supplier Renault followed suit.
Fortunately for Lotus Williams, who had an exclusive contract with Honda for the supply of motors in 1986, let the 1986 World Drivers Championship slip away by allowing their drivers Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell to take points off one another by refusing to issue team orders or nominate one over the other as preferred winner. This did not go down well with Honda or their preferred driver Nelson Piquet.
As a consequence Honda came to an arrangement with Lotus to supply year old 1986 motors to Lotus for 1987 and at the same time did a deal with McLaren to supply top spec motors for the 1988 season with Ayrton Senna as their preferred driver. Meanwhile Senna was partnered by Saturo Nakajima in the Lotus team at the behest of Honda whom Honda had tried unsuccessfully to place at Williams in place of Mansell in 1986.
Furthermore Lotus managed to secure sponsorship from the new big spenders on the Formula One block Camel.
Despite being already down on power on the Williams team thanks to the year old motors being used, Gerard Ducarouge took the brave decision to use active suspension on the 99T which although offering advantages to consistent ride height, pitch and roll added 25kgs/55lbs in weight an required 5% of the motors power to keep it working.
By the end of 1987 Senna had won two races, just as he had in ’85 and ’86, both on street circuits at Monaco and Detroit. The Detroit race would prove to be the last victory for a car built by the Lotus team founded by Colin Chapman. With 57 points, two more than in ’86 Senna finished 3rd in the World Championship in 1987 while Nakajima’s additional 7 points helped Lotus secure third in the Constructors championship.
The 1987 season marked a high point for Team Lotus since the death of Colin Champman in 1982 and from there until 1994 when the team founded by Chapman made it’s final appearance in the sport.
Players in Japan and the United States of the Gran Turismo 3 game will be familiar with the Lotus Honda 99T which was given the alias “F687/S”.
Thanks for joining me on this “F687/S” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to came back now !