News


August 29th 2010:The next of our film festivals, called the Racing Lotus Film Festival, will take place on November 13/14 2010 at Eynsham Hall. It is called Racing Lotus and we will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Lotus 72, 40 year since Jochen Rindt's World Championship and 50 years since the first victory for the Lotus 18. Our guest speakers at the event include Peter Warr, Dick Scammell, John Miles and Bob Dance. More details at the Legends Film Festivals website.

July 3rd 2010:Wasn't able to get to Monaco this year, so the Goodwood Festival of Speed was my first event of the season. Usual suspects but one or two very interesting cars, particularly getting to see the 1965 ex-Jim Clark Indy 500 winner actually running, driven by Sir Jackie Stewart. Also the Huron with the DAF CVT transmission and the prototype Shadow Can-Am car with the tiny wheels and the footbox so small that the driver had to splay out his feet to operate the pedals! A few people get too carried away on the hill but it's a generally fun weekend, although a trifle too corporate nowadays for my tastes.

January 1st 2010:Just a quick update to say that Tales from the Toolbox is now published and should be available, as they say, from all good retailers...

November 12th 2009: Lotus F1 Racing car: first pictures! Today I visited the new Lotus F1 Racing team's factory at Hingham in Norfolk, which will be its base for at least the 2010 season before a planned move to a purpose-built facility at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia. Here are the first pictures of the monocoque of the car under construction in Germany. Two chassis are currently being built and the team will begin assembling the cars at Hingham as soon as they are completed.

First 2010 Lotus F1 Racing chassis under construction

It's very good news that the Lotus name is back in Formula 1 and that Lotus Cars owner Proton has given its blessing to the project and allowed the team to use the classic ACBC Lotus badge on all its materials.

October 13th 2009: Things are moving fast: Tales from the Toolbox is finished and with the printers and will be published towards the end of next month (see Tales from the Toolbox page).

Events I have visited since my last update included the Silverstone Classic (curiously lacking in atmosphere the day I went, Sunday) and the Goodwood Revival. Every time I visit Goodwood I reflect on just what a perfect venue it is for such an event, how well it is organised and the incredible attention to detail which makes the event so special. Unfortunately, the Silverstone Classic will always take place at Silverstone, which is a somewhat soulless venue at the best of times and needs a big, big crowd to fill it and give it atmosphere. The crowds this year were claimed to be at record levels but all I could see were swathes of empty grandstands. Perhaps they were elsewhere on the circuit...

My other research projects have been going slowly but I have extended my work on the 19 to include the 18 (F1, F2 and FJ) as it is relevant to the Racing Lotus Film Festival and might sit well with my material on the 19. If anyone knows of any film of Lotus 18s in action, I would be very interested to hear of it. Similarly, if anyone is aware of any film of Lotus 72s and/or Jochen Rindt in action, I'd also like to hear of that too.

July 8th 2009: I just don't know where the year has gone so far! Last week, I finally delivered the manuscript and photos for my new book of mechanic's anecdotes, Tales from the Toolbox, to my publisher, Veloce. If all goes well on the production front, it should hit the shelves in time for Christmas, in mid-October. I am very proud of this project, because it will benefit the Grand Prix Mechanics Trust, with 40% of the royalties from each book sold going to the Trust. Sir Jackie Stewart has agreed to write the Foreword as well.

Toolbox cover

The current (August 2009) version of Motor Sport magazine has one of my features, about Nino Vaccarella. He really was a charming man to interview. I had to wait a long time to speak to him but when I did he patiently answered all of my questions and more and more in English as time went on. He had a fantastic recall of events and cars, too. After the interview he was happy to be photographed as well. It really was a great honour to meet him and spend time with him, as he was something of a boyhood hero, with me having attended the 1973 Targa Florio as a 10 year-old. This was probably the high-point of the trip, which went downhill from there on... Firstly I drove a hot lap of the Targa course with my video camera running, only to get back round to the start/finish area, screech to a halt to review my work and find out that the battery ran out after about two minutes of filming. Then I had an embarassing encounter with Ciccio, who has made driving boots for the stars, including Vaccarrella, Elford, Andretti, Schumacher, Ickx et al. I won't bore you with the details but let's just say I got the wrong end of the stick about something he offered me and it was excruciatingly embarassing extracting myself from the situation. Then on the final day my wife, Gill, experienced terrible pain from gall stones while I was looking round the Targa Florio museum and only just made it home, in agony. Thankfully, she is fully recovered now.

This weekend just gone I visited the Goodwood Festival of Speed. For me, the highlight was actually seeing 'in the flesh' the 1965 Indy 500-winning Lotus 38 of Jim Clark, which has not been outside the USA since the day it won the race, having been transferred immediately into Ford's ownership. The car is now going to be restored by Classic Team Lotus, led by Bob Dance, who actually worked on the Indy team at the 1965 race, having been drafted in with Bob Sparshott from working on the Lotus-Cortinas in California following Bobby Johns' practice crash. Bob Sparshott ended up doing the signalling from trackside to Jim, an important job and one which he recalls now as quite frightening because it was a very low wall that wouldn't have afforded much protection in the event of an accident and the cars were passing them at probably 200mph...

The 1965 Indy 500-winning Lotus 38 of Jim Clark at Goodwood

Other Goodwood highlights were the vast number of Porsche 917s on display and on the hill, as well as countless Silver Arrows from Mercedes and Auto Union. Justin Law took FTD in a 7-litre Le Mans Jaguar, which can't be right as he beat a late 80s Formula 1 car up the hill. Come on you single-seater boys, you need to put in more of an effort...

I have also been asked to get involved in documenting the restoration by Hall & Hall of the Lotus 49 show car which has been displayed at Donington for many years. They are going to turn it into a runner. It is very original, built to the same spec as the two Tasman cars sent out for the 1969 series for Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt and was certainly originally intended as a race car, as it is properly put together and even has some wiring in it and some racing tweaks, almost as if it had already been used. I surmised in my Lotus 49 book that this car was probably based around the bare bones of what remained from Oliver's 49/6 that he crashed in practice for the French Grand Prix in 1968, although it is probably only the tub floor which survived, as the side skins are definitely new and unused. Anyway, an interesting project and I will try and keep up-to-date with progress by posting on this section.

The Lotus 49 show car 49/12

March 9th 2009: This Saturday, I organised the Legends of Le Mans Film Festival at Eynsham Hall. We showed three hours of archive film, plus had guest speakers including Le Mans winners Richard Attwood and Jackie Oliver, David Piper, John Wagstaff, Peter Riley and Richard Bray. The day was well-attended (we were almost full) and also featured a number of Le Mans-themed cars, including Wagstaff's multiple class-winning Lotus Elite, an MGA that competed in 1959 and 1960, a very good recreation of the 1969 winning JW-Gulf GT40 and a current example of the Superformance GT40 which is distributed in the UK by Nigel Hulme. All in all a fun day. We hope to do another event in 2010 - watch this space...

A line up of guests and cars at the 2009 Legends of Le Mans Film Festival

September 1st 2008: It has been a busy summer, with the Goodwood Festival of Speed, Silverstone Classic and Nurburgring Oldtimer Grand Prix to attend. Perhaps the most interesting thing to emerge from all these events was a visit to the racing car museum in Stavelot, near the old Spa-Francorchamps Grand Prix circuit. Walking around, I found a '1967 Lotus 49', which turned out to be a recreation completed earlier this year by Hall & Hall for Peter and John Morley. It is reported to use some parts discarded when Jackie Oliver's 49-R2 was converted to 49B spec between the British and German Grands Prix in 1968 (although how this can be proven I am unsure) and also has an early spec (but not running, I believe) DFV engine, as well as many period parts such as a ZF gearbox. It is a good copy, down to the exposed fuel filler cap which is unique to the real 49-R2 and the car even carries an official Team Lotus chassis plate reading '49/2', despite the fact that it clearly was not manufactured by Team Lotus! However, there is a crucial difference in the tub construction which will always allow this copy to be distinguished from the real 49-R2, which was subsequently renumbered as R11 by the works and sold to Pete Lovely, although retaining many of its individual characteristics. It is now in the hands of vintage racer Bob Baker in the US. I don't plan to make this difference public, but will record it for posterity, just in case the two cars get muddled up in the future! I was extremely disappointed with the way the car was portrayed in advertising when it was offered for sale. The car was presented as a 1967 Lotus 49, which it quite clearly is not, accompanied by a history of Lotus 49/2 which crucially made no claim to relate to the car being sold and there was no claim that the car being sold was 49/2. No history was given about the fact that the car had been built up in the 1990s and 2000s and was not, in fact, original. I'll leave you to make your own mind up on why someone should do that...

The recreation of Lotus 49/2 in the museum at Stavelot, August 2008

The recreated chassis plate of the car

February 25 2008: This weekend I organised the inaugural Jim Clark Film Festival with Gary Critcher. I focused on the venue, marketing the event, attracting guest speakers and admin, while Gary took on the huge task of editing all the film we had collected into two one and a half hour film shows. The event, which took place at Eynsham Hall near Witney, turned out to be a great success, with very complimentary feedback from both the paying guests and our guest speakers. We were privileged to have the ex-Jim Clark Tasman Lotus 32B, lent to us for the occasion by Classic Team Lotus, the ex-Jim Clark Elan 997 NUR, lent to us by Michael Schryver, and Malcolm Ricketts brought along the Lotus 58, which was a 'what might have been' exhibit, seeing as Jimmy was due to test this car at Zandvoort the day after the Hockenheim meeting at which he died.

Three ex-Jim Clark cars lined up outside Eynsham Hall

l to r Jack Sears, Sir John Whitmore, Peter Darley, Bob Sparshott, organiser Michael Oliver, Jim Endruweit, Len Terry, Bob Dance and Ian Scott-Watson

The film sessions covered many different aspects of Jim's career, from Formula 1 to racing the Lotus-Cortinas and his exploits at Indianapolis and included some rare colour footage of him on the day he died at Hockenheim. We also had a Gala Dinner on the Saturday evening, attended by more than 100 guests and all our guest speakers. We were honoured to receive messages of support from both Sir Jackie Stewart and Dan Gurney, both of which were very moving. You can find more information about the event, including photos, the tributes from Sir Jackie and Dan, and even a short YouTube video, on the event website at www.jimclarkfilmfestival.com. Gary and I hope to make this an annual event and are considering themes for the 2009 event at the moment - all suggestions welcome.


February 12 2008: I went into BBC Radio Oxford today to co-host the afternoon talk show with presenter Bill Heine. The main purpose of my visit was to talk about Jim Clark and to publicise the Jim Clark Film Festival but I ended up talking about Formula 1 in general, drug cheats in athletics and teenagers hanging round shops. Bill was a charming guy and, although he did not know a lot about motor racing, made me very welcome and I really enjoyed the experience. I have emailed Bill and told him I would be happy to go back.


November 10 2007: Since I am a member of the Historic Lotus Club and their Lotus 49 registrar, I decided to try and get to their annual dinner, which took place at the Apollo Hotel in Basingstoke. The dinner was held in conjunction with Club Lotus and featured a good contingent all the way down from Cambridgeshire. Although the room was quite cold when we arrived (due to the doors having been removed for an extended period of time while the Lotus cars on display in the hall were being moved inside) things soon warmed up, with rocket balloons flying everywhere. A very enjoyable meal was had by all and then the prize-giving took place.

Michael Oliver receiving HLC Writers Trophy from Bill Colson

I was delighted and surprised to receive the HLC Writers Trophy and was given my award by Type 15 Registar Bill Colson. During the evening, I also had the opportunity to have conversations with Dick Tarrant, who looked after the prototype Lotus 19 for Stirling Moss in 1960 and Ernie Unger, who worked for Lotus in the Hornsey days.


October 29 2007: I attended a lunch hosted by University College London (UCL) to mark twenty five years since the death of Colin Chapman. The event consisted of a display of Lotus road and racing cars in the quad of UCL, with a drinks reception followed by a dinner in the evening. The outside display was matched by one inside the college showing early Lotus design and concept drawings for the Elite (which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year), while the Lotus bicycle which took Chris Boardman to Olympic Gold in the cycling pursuit race at the 1992 Barcelona Games was also on display.

A star-studded line-up of guests included Chapman’s widow Hazel, his son Clive and daughter Jane, former World Champions John Surtees and Damon Hill, former Lotus drivers Sir Stirling Moss and Sir John Whitmore, Jim Clark’s early mentor Ian Scott-Watson, former Lotus and Cosworth director Mike Costin, ex-Lotus designers Len Terry, Ron Hickman and John Frayling, Graham Hill’s widow Bette and rival designers Eric Broadley, Patrick Head and John Barnard. Also present were a number of mechanics from the glory days of Team Lotus, including Bob Dance and Jim Endruweit.

Late afternoon line-up of Lotus racing cars in the UCL quad Jim Clark Lotus 32B Tasman car Afternoon line-up in the quad Early Lotus: a 1949 Mk II trials car Another view of the cars displayed in the quad A classic: Lotus Elite (Type 14) Lotus 72 chassis 5, along with a later ex-Senna car

The display in the quad featured more than 30 Lotus road and racing cars, including legendary Formula 1 cars driven by Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti and Ayrton Senna as well as classic road models such as the Seven, Elite, Elan, Europa, Esprit, Excel, Elise and Exige.

A noteworthy point in the evening was the announcement of the Colin Chapman Lotus Engineering Scholarship, jointly funded by Group Lotus and the Chapman family, cementing the already strong links between UCL and Lotus – Colin completed a civil engineering degree at the college.

Speeches were given by Malcolm Grant, President and Provost of UCL, Group Lotus CEO Mike Kimberley, Clive Chapman and ex-Team Lotus driver Sir John Whitmore. All in all a very enjoyable and entertaining evening.


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