At England’s Snetterton Circuit in early May, three JPS Team Lotus Type 79s took to the track together for the first time ever. Thirty-three years after winning the 1978 Formula One World Championship, Classic Team Lotus ran three JPS Type 79s, chassis 1, 2 and 3. This never happened in period.
On behalf of American owner Paul Rego, Classic Team Lotus has undertaken a complete restoration of chassis 79/1, which was driven by Mario Andretti in testing and practice throughout the 1978 season, then raced by Jean-Pierre Jarier in the USGP at Watkins Glen. Rego’s driver, Doc Bundy, was at the wheel for testing prior to airfreight back to the States in time for the Legends of Motorsport event at the Barber Raceway.
Chassis 2 and 3 are part of the Classic Team Lotus Works Collection. Chris Locke, as patron of chassis 2, contributed to its restoration, and the car is fitted with his engine. Chris Dinnage, Team Manager of Classic Team Lotus, was at the wheel, while chassis 3 was driven by Clive Chapman, son of Lotus founder Colin Chapman. Also on hand were a number of the 1978 Championship-winning team members, including designer Martin Ogilvie and chief mechanic Eddie Dennis.
The Type 79 dominated the 1978 World Championship to such an extent that the team would sandbag their cars in qualifying so that their advantage did not appear too great. The shape of the underside of the car in relation to the track surface created a venturi profile that, together with the all-important sliding side skirts, created a lot of downforce for relatively little drag. Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson finished 1st and 2nd on four occasions, at a time when such a result was rare.
In 79/2 Mario won the Belgian GP and Ronnie won the Austrian GP. In 79/3 Mario won the Spanish, French and German GPs. He won the Dutch GP in 79/4, but that car was unable to attend the Snetterton festivities. The Type 79 has topped two polls for “Most Beautiful F1 Car Ever,” and was chosen as the best technical design in a survey of F1 designers.