Lotus 49 Formula 1


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The Ex-Graham Hill, Richard Attwood, Joakim Bonnier, Dave Charlton
1968-69 Lotus-Cosworth Ford Type 49B Formula 1 and Tasman Racing Single-Seater
Chassis no. 49B-R8

On June 4, 1967, Formula 1 motor racing's entire world was turned upside down by what transpired in the Dutch Grand Prix race on the seaside sand-dune racing circuit at Zandvoort. The British Lotus team had arrived for that Grand Prix with two brand-spanking new Formula 1 cars in their transporter. Star driver Graham Hill had immediately qualified his on pole position for its debut race. On race day he had led before his new Cosworth-Ford DFV engine failed, whereupon his team-mate Jim Clark had taken over, set fastest lap, and ran away to an utterly dominant victory. The brand-new Lotus-Ford Type 49 had completely re-written 3-litre Formula 1's contemporary performance standards.

In the Zandvoort pit lane, engineer Tony Rudd, running the rival BRM team with its super-sophisticated – but heavy and fuel-thirsty – H16-cylinder engined cars studied these sleek, svelte new Lotus-Fords. He would later recall his feeling of dismay as he studied the latest concept from Colin Chapman and Maurice Phillippe of Team Lotus, and from Keith Duckworth and his engine specialists at Cosworth Engineering. Rolls-Royce-trained Tony Rudd admitted: "I realised that, for us, it was all over".

In effect only nine Lotus-Ford 49s were built (and rebuilt again) under twelve chassis numbers, from 1967-69. In three seasons the 49 won 12 World Championship-qualifying Grand Prix races (a win ratio of 35% and comfortably more than any of the seven other Grand Prix car manufacturers/teams during this period) while the Cosworth DFV V8 engine became the first Formula 1 unit ever to score 100 victories, and ended up with 155 to its credit.

The Lotus Type 49 chassis tailored to that engine comprised in effect a forward fuselage only, providing fuel tanks and cockpit and carrying the front suspension and nose-mounted cooling radiator. That stressed-skin fuselage ended in a vertical bulkhead behind the driver's seat section. The engine was then bolted rigidly to the back of this forward 'tub', the DFV V8 unit's cast-aluminium casings and cylinder heads doubling as the rear-half chassis structure, to which the gearbox and suspension members locating the rear wheels were attached. The entire design was minimalist, weight-saving to a fault – and it would become the blueprint for definitive Formula 1 design into the 1970s.

Colin Chapman's Formula 1 Lotus concepts had set the pace in pinnacle-level motor racing technology since 1960 with his first rear-engined design, the standard-setting Lotus Type 18. In 1961 he had shrunk the Formula 1 car concept into the lay-down seat 'hypodermic needle' form of the 4-cylinder Lotus Type 21. In 1962 his fertile and innovative mind had launched the stressed-skin 'monocoque'-chassised and Climax V8-engined Lotus Type 25. That family of Formula 1 cars carried Jim Clark and the Lotus marque to World Championship title-winning top honours in 1963 and 1965 and set the performance standards of the time throughout the final four years of 1½-litre Grand Prix racing, 1962-65.

The replacement 3-litre Formula 1 category had then been introduced for 1966-69 and, with new chief designer Maurice Phillippe, Colin Chapman had conceived – with Ford money and Cosworth engine expertise – the Lotus Type 49 for 1967.

Since this now legendary Lotus design then saw frontline service through no fewer than four Formula 1 seasons, 1967-1970, the Type 49 also became one of the longest-lived of Grand Prix car designs, campaigned not only by such superstar World Champions as Jim Clark and Graham Hill, but also by subsequent World Champions Jochen Rindt and Emerson Fittipaldi.

Only six of these transcendant Formula 1 cars survive today. It is many years since any became available via public auction sale, but Bonhams is delighted to offer here the ex-works Team Lotus car number '49-R8'. This is the last Lotus to be sold from the collection of the late, sorely missed British-born Formula 1 Lotus collector and racer, the long-time Australian-domiciled Hon. John Dawson-Damer.

Never before offered at auction, '49-R8' now offered here was built in October 1968 specifically for new double-World Champion Graham Hill to drive in the Tasman Championship races in New Zealand and Australia during January-February 1969. Tasman Formula racing catered for single-seater racing cars with engines of no more than 2½-litres capacity, and to meet this requirement Cosworth produced a small number of conversion kits to present their highly successful new 3-litre DFV V8 power unit in 2.5-litre 'DFW' Tasman trim.

With such a power unit bolted on to its forward three-quarter-length monocoque chassis, Graham Hill drove the John Player Gold Leaf-liveried works Lotus 49 'R8' brand-new in its debut race, the January 4, 1969, New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe, Auckland, but was forced to retire. He also failed to finish in its second outing, the following weekend at Levin, like Pukekohe on New Zealand's North Island.

The ferry trip to the South Island then brought better fortune, Graham Hill in 'R8' now offered here promptly finishing second in the Lady Wigram Trophy race at Christchurch on January 18, and the following weekend placing second yet again at Teretonga, Invercargill – the world's most southerly motor racing circuit.

The 1969 Tasman Championship series then took the International circus – including Team Lotus stars Graham Hill and new team-mate Jochen Rindt - to Australia, where on February 2, 1969, at Lakeside, Brisbane, Graham finished fourth in 'R8' in the Australian Grand Prix for Tasman Formula cars.

The final round of that 'down-under' Championship took place at Melbourne's Sandown Park circuit on February 16, with Graham Hill in 'R8' taking sixth place overall. The car was then loaded onto a surface ship for return freight to the Northern Hemisphere, where in the Spanish Grand Prix both high-winged Lotus 49Bs of Jochen Rindt and Graham Hill were very badly damaged in separate accidents, both triggered by rear-wing strut failure over the same high-speed brow on Barcelona's Montjuich Park circuit.

While Graham Hill emerged unhurt from his Spanish incident, team-mate Jochen Rindt was severely concussed and was unable to drive in the following Monaco Grand Prix on May 18. Team Lotus was also severely embarrassed by lack of an instantly-available car to replace Rindt's 'R9', effectively written-off at Montjuich, as their No 2 team entry at Monte Carlo. Consequently, 'R8' was rushed off the ship from Australia, hastily fitted with a Formula 1-spec 3-litre DFV engine, and hustled down to Monte Carlo for substitute driver Richard Attwood to use in the race.

He had absolutely shone there for the BRM team the previous season, setting fastest race lap and finishing a strong second behind Graham Hill's winning Lotus 49B – chassis 'R5'.

In the 1969 Monaco GP – driving 'R8' virtually unchanged from its hard-used Tasman Championship form - Richard Attwood finished a fine fourth (and also the distinction of fastest lap), in a race again won by Graham Hill's sister Lotus 49B, this time 'R10'. With Swiss driver Jo Siffert third in entrant Rob Walker's private Lotus 49B – chassis 'R7' – three of the Hethel-built British cars had featured amongst the top four finishers in the world's most punishing Formula 1 race.

At Gold Leaf Team Lotus's Hethel works in Norfolk, England, 'R8' was then adapted to latest Type 49B specification and raced again by charismatic Graham Hill nursing a sick 'R8' to finish 7th in the 1969 British Grand Prix, on July 19.

Meanwhile, Colin Chapman had launched a new 4-wheel-drive Formula 1 design – the Lotus Type 63 – that he fully intended to serve as the aging Type 49 design's new-season replacement. However, the 4WD cars proved heavy and clumsy in service, leaving both Graham Hill and the always outspoken Jochen Rindt deeply unimpressed. Given the choice they would always prefer the conventional (and proven) rear-drive Type 49Bs, so to prevent them having the choice Colin determined to sell Team's 49s – 'R8' going to the veteran Swedish owner/driver Joakim Bonnier.

He had the car repainted in his Swiss-derived overall red livery with white central stripe, and on August 3 1969 he campaigned it in the German Grand Prix on the Nurburgring, only to retire with a fuel leak. He then crashed the car during practice for the Oulton Park Gold Cup race in England on August 16, the damage being repaired at Hethel prior to Bonnier selling the car to visiting South African national F1 driver Dave Charlton for 1970.

Charlton then used 'R8' in South African Team Gunston tobacco brand livery to clinch the first two of his six consecutive South African national Formula 1 Championship titles, 1970-75. The car won nine qualifying rounds in his 1970 national campaign, and four more through 1971. His first season's victories were scored in the Highveld '100' at Kyalami, the Coronation '100' at Roy Hesketh, followed by the Natal Winter Trophy there, the Coupe Gouvernador Generale at Lourenco Marques, Rand Winter Trophy at Kyalami, False Bay '100' at Killarney, Rhodesian GP at Bulawayo, Rand Spring Trophy at Kyalami and the Goldfields '100' at Welkom.

This extraordinarily successful campaign was then followed in 1971 by Dave Charlton and 'R8' winning another Highveld '100' at Kyalami, Coronation '100' at Hesketh, Bulawayo '100' and the South African Republic Festival race back at Kyalami, Johannesburg.

Old 'R8' was then campaigned to the end of 1972 by South African drivers Piet de Klerk and Mayer Botha, before eventually being acquired, dismantled and in damaged condition, by Australian-resident, the Hon. John Dawson-Damer. He painstakingly restored it to raceworthy condition and it is today the last of his renowned eight-strong Dawson-Damer Lotus Collection – six of which were sold by Bonhams in Sydney in 2008.

The car has been in operational condition and demonstrated in Australia in recent years. It will of course require inspection and probably overhaul for any historic competition. Please also note that, as the car has been brought into the UK for sale from Australia, the Lotus will be subject to 5% import tax on the hammer price – should it stay in the EU.

By every standard, Colin Chapman's Lotus 49 concept is an absolute landmark in Formula 1 design. It simply raised the bar for every rival manufacturer, and its Cosworth-Ford V8 engine became by far one of the most successful in all motor racing history. Now chassis 'R8' offers its impeccable provenance as having begun life as Graham Hill's 1969 Tasman Championship then British GP car, it was used by that wonderful driver Richard Attwood to finish fourth in the 1969 Monaco GP, and private owner Dave Charlton drove it to become multiple South African national Champion. Add the excellent extra cachet of the car now being offered here direct from the illustrious Lotus-specialist Dawson-Damer Collection and 'R8's iconic status is set in stone.

The late John Dawson-Damer was respected worldwide for his knowledge and love of Lotus cars and his passion for motor sport and our sale of his rare Lotus 49B is a momentous moment – in which your bid can star.