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Lotus celebrates 500th race

2010-06-25 06:53
Valencia - Only Lotus could simultaneously boast of being the best of the F1 newcomers while also celebrating their 500th Grand Prix this weekend.

The sport has never needed much of an excuse to put on a party, however, and Lotus is no ordinary team. Such is the respect and enduring passion that the marque inspires that any cynicism would only be churlish.

The Cosworth-powered team has the number 500 on its trucks and green and yellow cars at the European Grand Prix, with the late founder Colin Chapman's son Clive a guest of honour in Valencia.

Italian Jarno Trulli, a driver who has been around the block in his 227 races for six different teams, left no doubt on Thursday about what it meant for him to be a part of the Lotus legend. "I still remember (team founder) Colin Chapman throwing his cap every time he was winning a GP, I remember Elio de Angelis, I remember (Ayrton) Senna, I remember many parts of this even though I was a very young kid," he told reporters.

"When I first visited the classic Lotus factory that was amazing.

"Walking in the factory I could feel and breathe something special inside there. The history it has gone through it, a lot of success, a lot of passion, it's special.

"You feel like the walls are talking to you and telling you things. It has never happened to me before.

"There were some beautiful cars, some that were going to be rebuilt and Clive was so passionate talking through what they were doing, what that car had achieved before, which driver.

"It was just like a kid visiting Disneyland. Even for me after 14 years in F1, when you walk in there and see those cars it's special."

Senna victory

It has been 23 years since Lotus last won a race, the 1987 USA-East Grand Prix won by Brazilian Senna, and 16 since the old team's final appearance.

The new team is Malaysian-owned, like the Lotus car company, but the links with the past are upheld with Chapman's old cap still kept on the pitwall ready for when it might next be tossed in the air.

Chapman, the engineering genius who died suddenly in 1982 aged just 54, founded the team in 1958 after building his first car in a workship behind his father's north London pub.

They went on to win seven constructors' titles, six drivers' crowns and 79 races.

Only Ferrari, McLaren and Williams have been more successful and started more races.

The team's greats include the late Britons Jim Clark and Graham Hill, Austrian Jochen Rindt - the sport's only posthumous champion - Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi.

Senna, who went on to become a triple champion, drove for them from 1985 to the end of 1987.

The revived Lotus, one of three new teams on the starting grid this season, has yet to score a point but they have made solid progress this season with a car designed by Mike Gascoyne.

Clearly the best of the new boys, they lapped their Virgin and HRT rivals at the last race in Canada before Valencia.

"I think we've done Lotus proud over the last eight races," Tony Fernandes, the AirAsia airline boss who has revived the Lotus name at a modern factory near the old one in Norfolk, told Reuters.

"For me it will be nine races but for Lotus the brand its 500," added the Malaysian, whose treasured possession as a boy was a model Lotus 33.

"I've always said this is a combination and amalgamation of two dreams. We are re-starting the Lotus name but we don't own the Lotus heritage."


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