Lotus 56

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STP-Lotus 56
Joe Leonhard in the Lotus 56 at the 2011 Goodwood Festival of Speed

The Lotus 56 was a four-wheel drive gas turbine racing car built by the British motorsport team Lotus in 1968 .


The Lotus 56 was developed in 1968 to replace the Lotus 38 with which Jim Clark won the Indianapolis 500 mile race in 1965. Chief designer Maurice Philippe created an innovative racing car in an extreme wedge shape that was powered by a Pratt & Whitney ST6 gas turbine. So that the thrust of the gas turbine could be brought to the ground, the 56 was also given four-wheel drive.


The first test drives with Jim Clark at the wheel were successful, but Clark had a fatal accident with the Lotus 48 in a Formula 2 race in Hockenheim in the spring of 1968 . Substitute Mike Spence had a fatal accident during qualifying for the 500-mile race with the 56th. He lost control of the car, hit the concrete wall of the track and was hit on the helmet by his right front wheel. A few hours later he died of severe head injuries in the hospital. Lotus Graham Hill, Joe Leonard and Art Pollard registered for the race .

During training, the turbine was only run at 80% of the possible power. The pilots had to brake hard before each corner so that the turbine could rewind to full power when the pedal was released. Through this process, the full turbine power could be called up on the straight and the delayed response of the turbine could be prevented. With an average speed of 274.49 km / h, Joe Leonard also promptly put his 56 on pole position . This trick had to be dispensed with in the race because the braking before the corners had led to irregular driving and the brake discs would not have lasted for 200 laps. Before the race, however, there was strong criticism of the turbine cars. Aircraft engines should not replace conventional piston engines. The officials therefore insisted that the three Lotus had to start with normal premium gasoline and not be allowed to use the special aviation gasoline. The reduced performance and the delay of the turbine in heavy traffic slowed down the three Lotus sustainably. Joe Leonard took the lead for a short time, but all three cars retired due to defects. Leonard was ranked 12th and Pollard 13th. The United States Automobile Club banned both turbines and all-wheel drive in 1969 and the Lotus 56 was no longer developed.

formula 1

Colin Chapman took over the all-wheel drive technology in the Lotus 63 and had the Indy replacement car converted for Formula 1 . The car was used in a number of races in 1971 . Emerson Fittipaldi drove the car in the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch . In practice, Fittipaldi set a superior best time in the rain. In the race, this time on a dry track, the Brazilian couldn't get past a midfield position. The second Lotus works driver Dave Walker drove the car at the Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort . Walker had already moved up from 22nd to tenth place when he lost the track and had to give up. Fittipaldi still drove the 56 at the Italian Grand Prix , where he finished eighth, and at a Formula 5000 race in Hockenheim, which he finished in second place behind Frank Gardner . Then Chapman gave up work on the four-wheel drive and gas turbine for good and focused on developing the Lotus 72 .


  • David Hodges: A – Z of Formula Racing Cars. Bay View Books, Bideford 1990, ISBN 1-870979-16-8 (in German: David Hodges: Rennwagen von A – Z after 1945. Motorbuch-Verlag, Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-613-01477-7 ).

Web links

Commons : Lotus 56  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Anthony Pritchard: Lotus. The Competition Cars. Haynes Publishing, Sparkford 2006, ISBN 1-84425-006-7 .