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How to buy a bit of proper Team Lotus

Maurice Hamilton September 2, 2014
Ayrton Senna drove the Lotus 99T to victory in Detroit in 1987 © Getty Images
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I was staggered to read that a pair of front wing end-plates from Ayrton Senna's Lotus 99T recently sold at auction in Los Angeles for $31,250. I mean, that must have been about half the value of the entire car in 1987.

Okay, I exaggerate but I do recall seeing a number of the yellow end-plates casually tossed on top of the concrete wall of the temporary pits in Detroit. The fact that the car actually won that race - a rare victory for the Camel Lotus Honda - and the legendary Brazilian was driving it doubtless put a couple of noughts on the value of the end-plates. But it does make you think.

What, I wonder, would a similar pair of end-plates from the 1988 Lotus 100T fetch? A fraction of the price, particularly when you consider Senna had moved to McLaren and the car was described by Lotus team boss Peter Warr as 'a heap of rubbish'.

Lotus had been going through a particularly grim period, a couple of early podiums having been the highlight of a season that reached a new low in Germany when Nelson Piquet, starting on slicks on a wet track, slid into the barrier on the first lap. At the next race in Hungary, he collided with a Minardi. Warr, in typically forthright fashion, sprang to the defence of his driver.

"This season has been demotivating and demoralising for the driver and for the team," said Warr. "We came to Hungary with an experimental set-up but we only had 30 minutes of practice in the dry on the first day and we learned that we had not got the magic solution. The car was worse.

"So, it was back to the original set-up for final practice. All we could do for the race was say: 'We're sorry Nelson, but this heap of rubbish happens to be the best we can do. You are one of the best, and the best-paid, drivers in the world - please do the best you can with it'."

The less-loved Lotus 100T scored a podium in Adelaide © Getty Images
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Piquet did indeed do the best he could, recovering from the collision to finish eighth and going on to wrap up the season with third place in Adelaide. It is one of the many colourful anecdotes in the career of Warr, who was the mainstay of Team Lotus, particularly following the death of Colin Chapman in 1982.

Peter Warr died of a heart attack in 2010. His family are in the process of clearing out and auctioning memorabilia (some of it signed by drivers of the day) spanning a fascinating period of motor sport that went beyond Team Lotus to include Walter Wolf Racing and Fittipaldi Automotive. The items are going under the hammer at Beaulieu on September 6 (lots 134 to 174).

Despite a chequered history in one or two cases, it's fair to say that even these items could no longer be considered a 'heap of rubbish'. They come from a time when the name Lotus represented a team with heritage and not a cosmetic bargaining tool shoved around the F1 entry list.

Maurice Hamilton writes for ESPN F1.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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A veteran journalist in the paddock, Maurice Hamilton has been part of the Formula One scene since 1977 and was the Observer's motor racing correspondent for 20 years. He has written several books as well as commentating on Formula One for BBC Radio 5 Live
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Maurice Hamilton writes for ESPN F1. A veteran journalist in the paddock, Maurice Hamilton has been part of the Formula One scene since 1977 and was the Observer's motor racing correspondent for 20 years. He has written several books as well as commentating on Formula One for BBC Radio 5 Live