This weekend's European Grand Prix in Valencia is the 500th to be graced by the Lotus name, and the reborn team hopes to have something to mark the outing with on Sunday evening.
Although only the ninth race for the 'new' Lotus team, the Malaysian-owned outfit will be toasting the 500 landmark with founder Colin Chapman's son Clive and his family, as they pay tribute to the legacy Chapman Sr created with the launch of the Type 12 in 1956. That original car will appear alongside the current T127 challenger in the Valencia pit-lane this evening [Thursday].
Celebrating the 500th race across the whole race weekend, Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen will both carry a specially-created '500' logo on their engine covers, while the team's garages will also display the logo. Merchandise stands will feature special '500' team shirts and other memorabilia and the celebrations even stretch as far as the team motorhome, as catering staff put together a menu that will feature favourite dishes of Lotus legends, including Chapman and Sir Stirling Moss.
“Celebrating the 500th race will be an absolute honour, and will obviously be very special, but we're only nine races of the whole Lotus story," current team principal Tony Fernandes commented, "Really, this weekend is all about celebrating Colin Chapman's history, and thanking Clive, his mother Hazel, and all the people that have helped shape the Lotus legend.
"I'm thrilled that some of the people that were part of the original story are with us today, and I'm proud we've been able to take the total number of races Lotus has taken part in to 500 and beyond. Hopefully, we'll be celebrating 1,000 races one day, and can look back on a legacy that pays true homage to that we're celebrating this weekend – the legacy of Colin Chapman, his family, his cars and his team.”
Clive Chapman will carry the mantle of representing the original Lotus 'family' this weekend, and was delighted to accept Fernandes' invitation to be a part of the 500 celebrations.
“Of course, the 500th grand prix for the Lotus marque is a significant landmark, and it was nice that Lotus Racing thought to invite my mother to attend - after all, Hazel Chapman is the person with the closest association to Team Lotus history," he noted, "Much as she wanted to accept, regretfully she decided against it, so I'll be there with my family representing Classic Team Lotus and my father's legacy.
“The fact my mother won't be in Valencia this weekend made it all the more special that she was with all the Team Lotus F1 cars and the Lotus Racing T127 at the Classic Team Lotus Festival last weekend at Snetterton. It was a great moment for my family and me to see my mum and their grandma standing at the front of the 35 Lotus F1 cars, and then to be joined by the Lotus Racing drivers. The 'Valencia installation lap' conducted at Snetterton by the T127 was another highlight of the day for everyone there.
“Much as it is nice that Lotus Racing is celebrating 500th Grand Prix, I am sure the most important thing about the weekend for the team is that it is another race and the next opportunity to continue to make progress towards the established teams. It was exciting to watch Montreal qualifying, when Heikki almost pipped the Sauber, and I for one would swap the 500th landmark for the landmark of outqualifying an established team in normal circumstances. Fingers crossed!”