I thought it would be fun to look back on the journey our Lotus 20/22 has been through over the last 18 months.
So where to start, I guess this all came about as I was at the Goodwood Members meeting in April 2021 sitting in the grandstands watching some great historic cars battling it out wheel to wheel when it dawned on me that I had a race license so why am I in the stands watching when I could be on track joining in the fun so that was when I started looking into historic race cars to buy.
So I thought as a Lotus enthusiast in an ideal world I’d love to race a Lotus, then I came across a few affordable single seaters, now bearing in mind that I’d never driven a single seater before that really appealed then I saw an advert for this stunning 1961 Formula Junior, after a few calls with the seller and going to see the car we agreed a price of £45,000 which I thought was an absolute bargain to get into Historic racing, especially in a Lotus, and hopefully open doors to race at Goodwood etc, but the sad truth was that it turns out there are no bargains in historic motorsport and I was about to learn a very costly lesson.
The first time we met our soon to be Lotus 20/22, love at first sight
So the next step was to get it’s FIA papers which make it eligible to race in the Formula Junior championships all over Europe, basically meaning it needs to be inspected by a qualified FIA Historic inspector to make sure it is basically the same spec as it was when built in 1961 by Lotus. The car looked stunning so I thought it would breeze through but that was not to be the case, the inspector said it was a nice car but it does need a few jobs doing, that didn’t sound to bad I thought but it turned out that as it had raced all it’s life in America, very successfully it should be said, winning at Indianapolis and Watkins Glen to name a couple, it had never had to comply with FIA regs so over the 60 odd years it had become a bit of a Frankenstein car.
So with a long list of jobs to do I thought the best people to speak to would be Classic Team Lotus, as if anyone should know what to do it would be them, and in all honesty to have the work done by CTL seemed like the right thing to do. So we dropped the car of there in September 2022 for an inspection and quote, what came back was quite a surprise, welcome to the world of Historic motorsport.
Basically CTL quoted me 300-400 hours work + a full engine and gearbox rebuild + many, many parts would need replacing, well that was a bit of a shock so I had 2 options really, sell the car on and recoup my money or dive in and put the car right. After some thought I decided that for one I really wanted to race a 60’s single seater Lotus and it seemed like the right thing to do to actually return it to its former glory when actually built by Lotus all those years ago so I gave CTL the go ahead with the goal being to get it ready with FIA Papers to race at the Silverstone Festival August 2023.
Here she is at Classic Team Lotus (Love the 1st pic, our stripped chassis between Jim Clarks Lotus 25 and Ayrton Senna Camel F1 Car, here’s hoping some of their speed can soak into our chassis)
Engine rebuild underway
So fast forward 12 months and I’m delighted to say that after a lot of work, and invoices, in early August she finally got her FIA papers and is now eligible to race which is great news, thanks to Classic Team Lotus for doing a brilliant job, the car looks brand new now and I’m really happy that I decided to stick with her and return her to her former glory.
Here she is finished, what a beauty
Shake Down Day!
Last Monday was a big day as after 18 months since buying her it was shakedown day and I finally got to drive her and my first ever single seater, to make it even more special it would be on Lotus’s own test track at Hethel where so many of the greats have driven, Oh yeah and it just happened to be that Grand Prix winner Johnny Herbert would be there shaking down a Lotus 30 that he would be racing at the Goodwood Revival, no pressure then. I must say that Johnny is a lovely guy, really happy to chat and discuss all things motorsport, mad to think that both me and Johnny were on track at the same time shaking down historic Lotus’s, it really is a mad world.
Well I have to say our little 20/22 really didn’t disappoint, she is such a joy to drive, it felt a little weird to start with as you sit in a very laid back position and the pedals are very close but after a few laps I started to feel much more comfortable. I am sure that when driving down the back straight at Hethel I went through a time warp and was transported back to 1961 as it was just like all that old onboard footage we have seen with the small steering wheel and the camera shaking and those narrow front wheels but I was the driver, amazing stuff. I only did around 15 laps but I could really feel the potential and I can see this is where I will be racing for many years to come, needless to say I was smiling like a Cheshire cat when I got out.
Next stop is 4 days at the Silverstone Festival at the end of August, basically a test day on the Thursday, Qualifying on Friday then a race on Saturday and another on Sunday, with a 65 car grid of Formula Juniors it will be an amazing experience, I have no expectations as I’ve still got a lot to learn with this car so will treat it as a bit of a shake down really and look forward to doing a full season of the UK Formula Junior championship next year.
As you can see it has been a bit of a journey so far but the real fun is just about to begin, can’t wait.