The Lotus 56B is the Formula One version of the “Son of Silent Sam” Lotus 56 Indy challenger that came within a couple of laps of winning the 1968 Indianapolis 500 with Joe Leonard at the wheel.
This Formula One version of the Lotus 56 was a fresh chassis built with additional fuel capacity, it was unusual to make scheduled pits stops of fuel back during Grand Prix races in the 1970’s, and with additional wings front and rear to aid the considerable traction and handling advantages of the the all wheel drive transmission.
Just as at Indianapolis in 1968 the Pratt and Whitney STN6/76 had to be considerably detuned to meet the regulations which tried to keep it competitive with the 3 liter / 183 cui piston motors in use at the time.
56B R1 had four non-championship outings before taking part in three Grand Prix. The upshot was that the car was the class of the field in wet conditions, where it’s weight disadvantage was minimised but it struggled to make the top half of the grid in dry conditions.
Three drivers were given a shot in the car, Emerson Fittipaldi, Reine Wisell, and Dave Walker. Fittipaldi managed the cars only finish at the 1971 Italian Grand Prix where he qualified a lowly 18th on the grid and came home 8th well ahead of expectations for the car which was never to be seen in a Grand Prix again.
Regular followers of GALPOT maybe wondering why the car is painted Gold and Black instead of the by now traditional Red, White & Gold of the Gold Leaf Team Lotus.
In 1970 Jochen Rindt had been killed in an accident at Monza driving a Gold Leaf Team Lotus 72. Fearing legal repercussions from the notoriously slow and fickle Italian authorities investigating Rindt’s accident Colin Chapman took steps to avoid encumbrance or at worst arrest by opting to keep a low profile by entering just the one car in place of the usual two in the 1971 Italian Grand Prix.
To further keep the Italian authorities off his trail he entered the Lotus 56B under the World Wide Racing banner and had the car painted in Gold and Black, weather this was to obscurely promote the John Player Special brand which was owned by the same, Imperial, tobacco company as Gold Leaf remains unclear, though in 1972 Imperial switched the brand being promoted by Lotus to John Player Special whose black and gold colours are echoed on the current incarnation of Lotus on the Grand Prix grid.
Thanks for joining me on this “World Wide Racing” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !