Lotus 97T

Lotus 97T

by Luca Dal Monte

It’s the first Lotus driven by Ayrton Senna, and that alone would make it a special car. And naturally, it’s the Lotus with which the Brazilian champion achieves his first victory in Formula 1. But the 97T is also the last Lotus of Elio De Angelis and the single-seater with which the Italian driver achieves his last victory in Formula 1. The season is 1985. The livery is once again the iconic black-yellow/gold of John Player Special.

Gerard Ducarouge designs the 97T starting from the previous year’s car (95T) and taking some elements – especially aerodynamically – from the 96T project for the American Cart Series. On the 97T, the first aerodynamic appendages appear, designed to improve the airflow around the sides of the car. The French engineer positions them between the front wheels and the side pods.

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Elio De Angelis: It’s the sixth and final season with Lotus for the Italian driver. His second and final career victory is achieved at Imola at the end of an emotionally charged San Marino Grand Prix. Elio finishes third in Brazil and Monaco, fourth in Portugal, and scores points in all the races he finishes. He secures pole position at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Ayrton Senna: The Brazilian is the first driver Lotus hires after the death of Colin Chapman. He wins his second race and wins it his way, starting from pole position and also setting the fastest lap in the race. He will win again at Spa and finish second twice, at Zeltweg and Brands Hatch in the European Grand Prix. He finishes third at Zandvoort and Monza. But during the season, Ayrton also secures seven pole positions and three fastest race laps. With 38 points, he leads his teammate in the Drivers’ World Championship standings.

Our model cars:

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The engine is the 1.5-litre Renault turbocharged V6. The French power unit will be the only thorn in the side of a highly competitive car that feels particularly comfortable on slow circuits but is also formidable on mixed ones. Reliability issues and, above all, fuel consumption will hold it back on fast circuits.

In the hands of two highly skilled drivers like Senna and De Angelis, the 97T model is extremely competitive and wins three of the sixteen races it participates in. But in addition to the three victories, there are also nine podiums, eight pole positions, and three fastest race laps. At the end of the season, the 97T ranks fourth in the Constructors’ World Championship standings.

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