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  Lotus Esprit GT1
 

  Article Image gallery (20) 114-002 Specifications  
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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1996
Numbers built:3
Internal name:Type 114
Designed by:Lotus GT1 Engineering
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:March 30, 2017
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Click here to download printer friendly versionFor the 1996 season, Lotus decided to step up to the GT1 class. This move coincided with the launch of the the new V8-engined Esprit road car, which was a much more suitable base than the earlier four-cylinder equipped Esprits used with some success in GT3 and GT2. To develop the new racing car, a separate entity, Lotus GT1 Engineering, was established. Among its employees were many engineers that had worked for the recently folded Team Lotus Formula 1 squad including Martin Ogilvie.

Following the GT1 regulations to the letter and spirit, the Esprit racer featured the same steel backbone chassis that was also used for the production cars for two decades. Further structural rigidity was added by the tubular steel roll-cage. At the front, the suspension consisted of double wishbones, while the rear end featured twin trailing arms. Penske-sourced triple adjustable gas-pressurised dampers were fitted on all four corners. The braking system complete with six-pot callipers was supplied by AP Racing.

Supported a steel tubular subframe was a further developed version of the very compact 3.5-litre V8 that had been developed for the new Esprit V8 road car. Fitted with a single turbo and breathing through a mandatory restrictor, the all-aluminium unit produced around 550 bhp. Replacing the Renault-sourced gearbox, which was the road cars' weak link, was a newly developed Hewland six-speed gearbox. With its transverse layout, it was compact and helped keep the weight inside the wheelbase for an optimal balance.

Along with the new V8 engine, the Esprit had also received an updated exterior design, penned by Julian Thompson. This was carried over in the racing car, with the body crafted in lightweight carbon fibre composites. The front featured a sizeable splitter, while further downforce was supplied by a full-width wing mounted on the tail of the car. The completed car tipped the scales at just 900 kg.

Lotus Racing entered a pair of Esprit GT1s in the 1996 BPR International GT Championship. The cars were faced with a new generation of GT1 cars that were built more to the letter of the regulations rather than the spirit, conceived as racing cars first and then converted for road use to meet the homologation requirements. Among them was the Porsche 911 GT1, which was run as a full factory effort and with a budget that far exceeded Lotus' modest means.

The two Esprit GT1s struggled throughout the year both lacking pace and reliability. A rare highlight was the Silverstone 4 Hours where the car shared by Jan Lammers and Perry McCarthy finished second overall. At the end of the season, Lotus decided to set the Esprits aside in favour of a new Elise-based GT1 racer. One of the Esprits was later raced in the GT2 class but with little success.

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  Article Image gallery (20) 114-002 Specifications