GOODWOOD CELEBRATES SA GRAND PRIX IN EPIC LOTUS ANNIVERSARY

By Graeme Hurst with images by Graeme Hurst & Goodwood.com

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South African petrolheads arriving at this year’s Goodwood Revival in the UK over the second weekend in September were stunned to be welcomed by Afrikaans sponsor advertising in the main pits.

‘Die Wereld Se Gunsteling Vonkprop’ on the Champion sign and ‘Prestasie Brandstof’ on a fuel poster were likely lost on the bulk of the annual three-day, step-back-in-time race meeting’s visitors but elicited a chuckle from those ‘in the know’.

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The SA theme for the pits display area at the historic Chichester race circuit was adopted as part of the event’s 75th anniversary celebrations for Lotus. The racing marque’s success on the track was massively boosted by Jim Clark after he secured his first World Championship in 1963 at the South African GP in East London. It was the season closer and the last of seven (out of 10) race victories for the famous Scotsman that year.

The top-of-the-podium finish that year was in effect a welcome dose of karma for Clark, who narrowly missed out on his World Championship the year before at the same circuit when his Lotus 25’s engine lost oil pressure, gifting both the race and driver’s crown to rival Graham Hill in a BRM.

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Clark’s V8-engined Lotus-Climax 25 from the ’63 season was just one of 75 examples of the Lotus marque involved in a daily track display of both race and road Lotus cars. Also taking part was the Lotus-Climax 21 that he scored his first three wins with in Formula 1 fixtures: the Rand GP, the Natal GP and the South African GP – all in 1961 – before it was sold to Ernest Pieterse who was South African Champion the following year.

Although not part of the display, the Revival fittingly had another link to the SA Grand Prix with the inclusion of the Lotus-Climax 21 which South African and privateer entrant Neville Lederle brought home in sixth place back in ’62 (see Classic Car Africa June and August 2019) in what was his one and only F1 race. Now owned and campaigned by Brit Alex Morton, the Lotus-Climax 21 took part in the Glover Trophy which celebrates 1.5-litre Grand Prix cars that raced between 1961 and ’65.

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Other standouts in the Lotus celebrations included the Lotus 77 and 79 F1 cars – memorable for their iconic black-and-gold JPS livery in the heyday of tobacco company sponsorship of F1 and the intriguing Pratt & Whitney Lotus 56B – the gas-turbine F1 car that saw action in three F1 races in 1971.

The anniversary of the famous racing brand – born out of marque founder Colin Chapman’s efforts to make his Austin 7 go faster and handle better back in 1948 – was one of several celebrations at this year’s Revival, which also marked the 100th anniversary of Cobra creator Carroll Shelby’s birth as well as the centenary of the first Le Mans 24 Hours race.

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Fittingly, Le Mans was won by Shelby in 1959 in an Aston Martin before health issues saw the Texan turn his hand to sports car manufacturing, delivering two motorsport icons: the Shelby Cobra and the Ford GT40.

Next year’s Revival takes place from 6-8 September. See Goodwood.com for more.

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