Like the photo’s featured in the Ferrari T2 post a couple of months ago today’s photo’s come courtesy of my school friend Sven Platt and were taken at the 1976 British Grand Prix.
The 1976 Lotus 77 was a second attempt at replacing the Lotus 72 after the underwhelming Lotus 76 was abandoned in 1974. Like the 76 the 77 featured an extremely narrow chassis, but with Lotus 72 style side pods which extended back to the leading edge of the rear wheels for the radiators.
Novel features for the Lotus 77 when it was first seen included air intakes that ran the length of the cockpit, in board brakes, that were mounted between a pencil thin chisel nose and the front wheels, and rocker arm suspension that was fully adjustable to meet the requirements of any track.
By the start of the European season non championship races the cockpit side air intakes for the motor were blanked off and replaced with a conventional airbox. The ‘adjustacar’ suspension proved difficult to set up but was retained, while by the Belgian GP the inboard front brakes were abandoned. At the Dutch Grand Prix an oil cooler was mounted in the nose to move some weight forward of the front axle line.
At the start of the 1976 season drivers came and went like a game of musical chairs, Ronnie Peterson was the incumbent #1 driver and Mario Andretti returned for a one off guest drive, after a six year break in the second car. After qualifying 16th and retiring with accident damage Ronnie swapped places with new boy & countryman Gunnar Nilsson who had been scheduled to drive for the March team. Andretti returned to Vels Parnelli team just in time for it to fold after the 1976 US Grand Prix West. British Formula 5000 champion Bob Evans was given two Grand Prix races at Team Lotus while Nilsson made his Grand Prix debut in South Africa. After failing to qualify for the US GP West Evans was dropped from the team and after trying out the Wolf Williams FWO5 in a non championship race freshly out of work Mario Andretti signed on as the Lotus #1 driver !
After Andretti rejoined the team Nilsson scored a couple of thirds during his rookie year while Andretti went a little better scoring two thirds and winning the thrilling final race of the season run in a monsoon that decided the championship between Niki Lauda and James Hunt that should make a thrilling climax to Ron Howard’s current film project ‘Rush‘.
The three Lotus 77’s, never known as John Player Special II’s as the sponsors might have hoped, were retired from top line competition at the end of 1977, however that was not quite the end of the story as once again David Render, swapping his Lotus 76, and getting hold of Andretti’s Japanese GP chassis, #R1, and using it as an effective hillclimb and sprint machine.
Thanks for joining me on this “The Adjustacar’ edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be reviewing last weekends Simply Italian event at the National Motor Museum in which a GALPOT regular won a prize ! Don’t forget to come back now !