"In 1972 F1 gained a new World Champion, one that was younger than any had been before. Emerson Fittipaldi, the wonder kid from Brazil, had won the most prestigious title in motorsport before he’d even reached his 26th birthday. Fittipaldi "
Lotus & JPS
Ok, we know. There is a twisted, byzantine history to the whole Lotus story – and when you talk about Lotus Racing and Team Lotus etc, there’s even more layers of weirdness to negotiate. The quirky, idiosyncratic company history of Lotus is shot through with anomalies and inconsistencies – but something that is incontrovertible is the beauty, power and resonance of the Lotus GP cars, which, from 1972 to 1986, wore the black and gold livery of John Player Special.
The political incorrectness of tobacco sponsorship in F1 is probably part of the appeal. There was a time when the high tar cancer sticks dressed in the colour of death and trimmed in the lustre of filthy lucre was undeniably associated with everything manly, sexy – shot through with the tangy smell of cologne and tainted with the deadly glamour of F1.
The domination of team Lotus of course dated from way back in the early sixties, when drivers like Innes Ireland consistently won races and championships in Colin Chapman’s trademark lightweight designs. Sure, there was criticism about the structural integrity of Lotus racers, but victories eventually silenced most of those criticisms. And when gentleman Jim Clark came to represent and to trounce all others before his tragic death – Lotus was at the pinnacle of all things Formula One -albeit with the spectre of the grim reaper shadowing it like a bad omen.
The list of tragedies within team Lotus went on into the seventies – Jochen Rindt died in 1970 and clinched the title, and a list of other serious injuries plagued competition. How much the Chapmanesque obsession with lightness had to do with safety remains a controversial point of discussion – and one that will probably remain so for as long as there is a Formula One championship.
But the JPS Lotus team continued to attract dashing, glamourous drivers who knew how to pilot these black beauties to victory. Emerson Fittipaldi won the F1 Championship in his Lotus 72 in 1972, and American icon Mario Andretti won in ’78 – tragically the same year as Ronnie Peterson Died in hospital after complications from a crash at Monza. Elio DeAngelis cut a dash in black, as did a young Ayrton Senna in the turbo-tastic 1985 season (below) – achieving his first pole and scoring podiums along the way
There was something essentially of the times about the JPS Lotus team – not only the style of the drivers and the paint job of the cars, but something about the nature of innovation and uncompromising forward thinking. We doubt, even that anyone ever sparked up a fag having been inspired by a Lotus JPS – but there was an addiction to watching black and gold victories that fit in with the word as it was
With Kimi back at the wheel of an F1 car called a Lotus, perhaps the good times will roll again!
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