Trained as a criminologist Roy Winklemann found employment as an investigator for the US Airforce before being employed by ‘the company’, assummed to be the CIA. During this time Roy had occasional outings as a driver in sportscars before setting up a team to run Dan Collins in a Chevrolet Corvette in Europe.
While founding a number of security related businesses Roy went on to run a variety of vehicles in Europe’s lower open wheel formula which culminated in him entering Jochen Rindt in a Formula 2 Brabham a combination which over 20 races dominating the formula in 1967 and 1968.
After his success with Jochen Rindt Roy Winkelmann disappeared from the racing scene through the 1970’s while he built up his diverse security empire, only to reappear in the US with a proposed Indy Car programme in the mid 1980’s. The plan was to compete with the unfair advantages of a works car and works motor rather than the customer route taken by almost all the teams except Penske, who made their cars available to customers.
Roy chose to hook up with his erstwhile partner Lotus and received assurances from Cosworth for a supply of works backed motors. The new car the 96T was built using current Formula One technology in the form of a carbon fiber monocoque, something that had yet to make an appearance at Indy, and rising star Al Unser Jr was signed up to drive the car for the 1985 season.
Under the direction of Gérard Ducarouge, Gene Varnier and Martin Ogilvy designed the Lotus 96T along similar lines to the Formula One Lotus Renault 97 T with which Ayrton Senna would win his first two Grand Prix in 1985.
However that is pretty much where the story ends because following the announcement, fearful of how a carbon fiber chassis would react to a secondary impact, USAC, organisers of Indy 500 moved to have carbon fiber banned from competition.
With rumours of the possible ban sponsors became impossible to sign up and the project came to a standstill without so much as the motor being fired up in the workshop.
Al Unser Jnr signed up late to join Doug Shierson for the 1985 and no more was heard from Winkelmann or the Lotus Cosworth 96T. The car, along with the Ferrari 637 among the most beautiful cars never to have been raced is seen here at last years Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Thanks for joining me on this “Still Born Beauty” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow for a feature on the 1962 Indianapolis 500. Don’t forget to come back now !