1981 Lotus 88B

1981 Lotus 88B

  • Designed with an ingenious twin-chassis construction, the inner chassis holding the cockpit
  • The monocoque body was mostly made from carbon fiber, one of ground breaking designs in the early 1980s
  • Only 2 units were produced
  • Due to FIA regulations, the car was never officially raced in F1 and has gained an almost mythical status as a racing car
  • The car is part of a private collection owned by Mr. Katsuaki Kubota, winner of the Historic Monaco Grand Prix raced with Classic Team Lotus Japan
  • Powered by a Ford DFV engine
  • Chassis No. 88B/2 (Primary chassis), No. 87/2 (Secondary chassis)
  • In race ready condition

Team Lotus developed Lotus 88B for the 1981 F1 Championship. It had a unique twin chassis structure, but is legendary because it was retired before it actually appeared in a race.

The Colin Chapman-led Team Lotus constantly brought innovative ideas to F1 since joining the F1 circuit in 1958, but the most shocking idea was applied to the Lotus 78, the Ground Effect Car, announced in 1977. This technology, by shaping the bottom of the ponton’s side panel into an inverted wing-shape (venturi structure) and closely pressing it against the road surface created down force.

After this, the ground effect car became the trend in F1 racing as all the constructers followed this lead. New problems occurred due to the enormous downforce created by this new technology such as the rigidity of chassis and porpoising which is when the irregularity of the road surface causes changes in the downforce thus increasing the pitching of the car body.
To solve these problems, the suspensions were stiffened to reduce posture change but this caused new problems such as increased physical stress on the drivers. FISA regulated the minimum ground clearance to 60mm and prohibited the sliding skirt, tightening the rules on the ground effect car.

Team Lotus developed two new technologies to solve these issues.

The first new technology, developed in corporation with DuPont Chemical, is the light weight, highly rigid carbon monocoque chassis. This was achieved by sandwiching Nomex with carbon Kevlar skin (Because the announcement was several days after McLaren it was not the first in F1).
The second is the twin chassis. The primary chassis consists of the upper cowl, under body and rear wing and the secondary chassis consists of the monocoque, tire and suspension and power train, which they combined the two chassis above the spring/damper unit in an upright position. This technology allowed, when the car surpassed a certain speed range (said to be above60km/h), for the primary chassis to sink and create constant downforce and at the same time, the secondary chassis can fully utilize the mechanical grip, thus realizing the ideal composition.

When it became known, other teams opposed this new technology. Even though they passed the car inspection and was able to participate in the practice run, due to opposition, they were shunned from racing in the actual race at the Long Beach GP. At the Brazil GP it was the same but at the Argentina GP, they could not even pass the car inspection.

So by moving the cooling fan and its related equipment to the primary chassis, Team Lotus entered the England GP with this modified version of the 88B. They were able to participate in the free practice by passing the inspection, but received complaints again and were banned to race.

After this, Team Lotus discontinued the development of type 88. This experience led to the implementation of the active suspension.

This example is one of only two 88/88B that was produced. Car No.2 was registered for Nigel Mansell. Primary chassis number is 88B/2 and secondary chassis number is 87/2.

After this example was retired from racing, the Chapman family stored it at their place for a long time. But starting 2008, the car was driven by Katsuaki Kubota in the FIA master’s series, winning races at places like Hockenheim and Montsa proving its high potential.

The car was brought to Japan, and the car ran many classic events including 2012 JAPAN LOTUS DAY, and Takuma Sato drove a demo run at F1 Japan GP in 2015 with this car. The car has the necessary FIA HTP documents to enter the Historic F1 Race and maintains ready to race condition.



Chassis No. JPS87/2 JPS88B/2