Grand Prix Championship
Donington, 9th-10th August 2003
Lotus Esprit World took up Esprit Owner Dan Collins invite to the Thoroughbred Grand Prix Championship, UK round at Donington Park on the 10th August 2003. Dan was introduced to Lotus Esprit World after finding his Esprit. The last European V8 to roll of the production line at Hethel on the site. Someone had seen it on the site and had called Classic Team Lotus to ask about the graphics on Dan's Esprit. Team Lotus then informed Dan about his car being on the site.
After an email conversation, confirming the story about Dan's Esprit, Lotus Esprit World was invited to come along to the only UK race for the Thoroughbred GP cars. Dan owns and races a Lotus 91 GP Car from 1982, which was originally driven by Nigel Mansell. Lotus and Formula 1 fans alike will remember the 91 chassis as an important landmark in the history of the marque. Dramatically, Elio de Angelis beat Keke Rosburg in the Williams FW08 by a mere five hundredths of a second to win the 1982 Austrian Grand Prix. It was Elio's first win, the 150th Ford Cosworth DFV victory and the third closest finish in F1 history. Sadly it proved to be the last time that Colin Chapman would welcome one of his famous cars across the winning line.
This particular type 91 chassis was the last in a batch of 10 produced by the Norfolk based team. Designed by Martin Ogilvie and Peter Wright, the carbon fibre monocoque design was the first in F1 to be made in-house. The tub proved to be about half the weight and twice the stiffness of an aluminium design. The fact that all ten of the original design still survive today is testament to the fantastic strength of composite chassis that remain the foundation of F1 safety.
Chassis number 10, which Dan races, made its debut with Mansell driving at the US Grand Prix in Las Vegas. For the 1983 season the chassis was incorporated into the active suspension type 92 design. Amazingly chassis 10 was resurrected during the 1984 season to end its career as a type 94T with works Renault V6 turbo power.
Classic Team Lotus, the Works historic motorsport team, returned chassis 10 to its roots as a type 91. It has been raced in TGP since 1995 by Urs Eberhardt, Steve Hitchins and Dan Collins. Dan made his debut in TGP in 2001 and has achieved steady progress up the grid as he has learnt about Historic F1 and the challenging circuits.
The 10th August 2003 will be remember as the first time the UK's temperature hit 100 degrees since records began. Well at Donington Park, it was definitely not the hottest day. Before the TGP cars had even rolled out of the paddock, the first few spots of rain appeared, washing out one of the SuperKart races.
The TGP cars tackled the thunder and lightening on the warm up lap which was closed followed by a massive down pour. This was to last for around 30-40 minutes and soaked the track, making driving very difficult, as Dan found out.
Unseen by Lotus Esprit World, Dan failed to complete the first lap, coming off somewhere before the corner I was standing on. With the rain still pouring down, a few others found the side of the track coming up a little too fast!
The race was stopped after around 4 laps, due to the poor track conditions. I was back in the paddock (keeping dry) and waiting for Dan's Lotus to return.
It seems Dan had found some grass somewhere and had broken the front suspension. This meant he would be unable to race any further. After about 40 minutes and race was restarted to complete the race, with the two times being added for the final standings.
Dan was unable to bring his Esprit to the race, but I did spot another one park near the straight. An F-Reg Blue Turbo in what looked like very good condition. If the owner didn't know about this site, they will now, as I left a card on the windscreen.
Lotus Esprit World left Donington Park after the TGP race a little damp. I enjoyed the day, as I've never seen Grand Prix cars before and was amazed by the noise and speed (even in the wet). I wish Dan luck in the rest of the seasons races.