A couple of years ago I visited Hethel for a tour of the Lotus factory and a visit to Classic Team Lotus just down the road. I can thoroughly recommend the experience if you are at all interested in the Lotus brand.  Our guide for the day was former Lotus F1 driver Martin Donelly.  Martin is a great guy and was very frank about his short career in F1, first with Arrows and then with Lotus. His F1 career came to an end in a horrific crash in 1990 during qualifying at Jerez. Martin was lucky to survive the terrible head, lung and leg injuries he suffered.  Today he is a brand ambassador for Lotus.

Martin Donnelly's battered helmet and steering wheel show the force of his near fatal crash at Jerez in 1990

Martin Donnelly’s battered helmet and steering wheel show the force of his near fatal crash at Jerez in 1990

Classic Team Lotus still occupies buildings close to the old Team Lotus facilities and is run by Colin Chapman’s son, Clive. Whilst the team owns a number of historic Lotus racing cars they also restore and fettle others for their owners. What is remarkable is that many of the staff used to work for Team Lotus. Indeed when Martin was showing us round the garages he introduced us to his former race mechanic who now worked for Classic Team Lotus.

Lotus Workshop

The crowded workshop of Classic Team Lotus. In the foreground is Jim Clark’s 1964 F2 Championship winning Lotus 32. Next to it is a Lotus 23 and behind it is the revolutionary Lotus 88 from 1981. The Lotus 88 was the first composite monocoque F1 car and featured ground effects and twin chassis. It was banned before it had a chance to race.

Lotus Mansell

Nigel Mansell raced this Lotus 92 with little success in 1983. It was, however, a revolutionary car – the first F1 car to feature active suspension.