We managed to get hold of a Team Lotus member from the 1960s – Tony Rudlin, himself a racing driver at one time, who was team manager for the Formula 2 effort at Lotus, and got to see the very best and worst of the great marque during changing times for the team! We asked him a few questions about his time there and the team itself.
Q: How much of a revelation to the team was the Cosworth engine?
Tony Rudlin (TR): Cosworth was God. Well Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth were. Keith was more stay at home and get on with the job while Mike liked to get into the factory and work alongside mechanics and Team Managers. My best moment? A flight in Mike’s Bell Helicopter.
Q: Do you think that Colin Chapman would have approved of the technological leaps in modern F1?
TR: I think CC would have been bemused by the way Grand Prix is run these days. His idea of racing was you got a driver who showed promise, Peterson, Fittipaldi etc, and build a car calculated to win races and fall to pieces on the finishing line. He had very little time for politics and, until Jimmy Clark hit the tree, even less time for the safety aspects of racing. And he would have gone potty about all the stupid in-car instruction from non-drivers in the pits.
Q: Which driver for Team Lotus did you most enjoy working alongside?
TR: What do you mean by who was the most accessible? Jack Oliver was OK but a bit obsessive, Clark was quiet and friendly and Graham Hill could be a bit gritty if things weren’t going right. For instance, Montjuich 1968. Race Control had forgotten to order a little thing like fuel. Jack was stressed, Clark didn’t even seem to notice, Graham made arrangements to siphon fuel from road cars. And Chapman? He was obsessed by why his cars weren’t the fastest in practice.
Q: What do you think was the biggest leap forward you saw for Grand Prix racing during your time as manager?
TR: Painting the cars in sponsors colours instead of colours associated with their home country? I think I’m right in saying that Player’s (the tobacco company which produced Gold Leaf) gave Lotus £50,000 for the first year’s sponsorship and they didn’t know what to do with it. But I think the sexiest car to ever exit the pits was the Lotus 72E.
Q: Is it true that Graham Hill held the best post race parties?
TR: Graham Hill was always a party waiting to happen. I remember one party, from my fading memory I pluck Enna as the venue, after Graham, slightly smashed, jumped on a long table and shimmied along it. Half way along he went down on one knee for dramatic effect. When he stood up the stem of a wine glass was jutting from his knee. It didn’t faze him until I pointed it out. He simply pulled it out and went on with the dance. (Read MR MONACO. Graham Hill Remembered By Tony Rudlin. Often cited as the worst book ever written about Motor Racing.)
Q: Did you prefer the British Racing Green or Gold Leaf colours?
TR: I’m afraid – neither. The green and yellow was a mite old fashion and the red and white too garish. I plump for the Black and Gold of the 72.
We’d like to thank Tony for taking the time to answer our questions for Lotus Week!