Friday, 2 June 2017

Lotus Esprit GT1

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis



Lotus were having a hard time in the early 1990s. Production of the leggy Excel and FWD Elan had ended, the number of franchised dealers had almost halved, and they'd been unceremoniously dumped by General Motors. The Lotus F1 team had gone bankrupt, so Group Lotus found themselves without a single motorsport outlet with which to promote their sports cars. What they needed was a fresh new racer... so they took the venerable old Esprit and reworked it into a brutal GT1 monster. Makes sense, right?

The resultant Esprit GT1 was a mixed bag of fortunes: it was able to keep up with the McLaren F1 GTR, but was blighted by reliability issues too. It never became a poster boy for the genre, and many are surprised nowadays to learn that the Esprit GT1 was even a thing. This particular one was run by Lotus in 1996 before passing into privateer hands the following year; in the fourth race of the '97 season it suffered extensive crash damage, and ultimately had to endure the ignominy of being a spares car for its sister Esprit in the 1998 Le Mans 24hr. Such was its fate from then on, in fact, endlessly picked over for parts to keep the more together cars in action... until, that was, the day five years ago when the car was bought by marque enthusiast Peter Downes. He's been methodically piecing it back together, chasing up the correct period GT1-spec parts, and reckons before long it'll all be finished and ready to race. Looking pretty damn fine so far, isn't it?

Spotted at 75MM - more pics here.










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