Colin Chapman described the Lotus Ford 80 at it’s launch in the Kentagon at Brands Hatch in 1979 as the best looking Lotus he had ever built. Reigning World Champion Mario Andretti said it would make the Lotus Ford 79 with which he won the 1978 World Championship look like a London Bus.
Unfortunately the car with the revolutionary venturi under the nose and a second under the rest of the body and with out the usual wings front and rear proved to be a bit of a handful with unpredictable handling once it started running on the track and it was only a matter of time before Colin Chapman and his engineers were removing the skirts that sealed the airflow beneath the nose and fitting conventional front wings to aid the aerodynamic poise and balance of the car.
The whole point of the design was to make the Lotus 80 faster down the straights than the Lotus 79 by not having any wings fitted at all. However all was not lost at Brands Hatch, as seen in Sven Platts photo below, the car was only used as a spare, but in the next race the Spanish Grand Prix Mario Andretti qualified a respectable forth behind the two hitherto dominant Ligiers that were the most effective copies of the previous seasons Lotus 79 and the more powerful Ferrari 312 T4 of Gilles Villeneuve.
Patrick Depaillier won the Spanish Grand Prix in his Ligier from Carlos Reutemann, in the Lotus Teams older Lotus 79, who finished ahead of Mario in the Lotus 80. The Spanish Grand Prix turned out to be the highlight of the Lotus 80’s short life, at Monaco Mario could only qualify 13th and at the French GP where a heavily revised second Lotus 80 was tested Mario qualified 12th but he retired with suspension and brake issues from each of these races respectively.
The final appearance of the Lotus 80 was at the British Grand Prix at Silvestone where I took the photograph below. Mario practised in the car but decided he was better off with his year old Lotus 79 which by now was swamped by new designs which emulated it and the more powerful, ultimately 1979 championship winning, Ferrari T4s.
I believe these photographs all show the same chassis namely Lotus Ford 80 R1 which today appears to be owned by Manfredo Rossi a member of the Martini Rossi family that sponsored team Lotus in 1979.
Thanks for joining me on this “Definitely Not The Right One” edition of ‘Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres’ I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !