1970-75 seems a long time ago in any sort of talk about modern motorsports technology, but this bright new book by the highly-respected motor-journalist Pete Lyons brings the subject into very sharp focus.

LACar.com Book Review:

1970-1975 Formula 1 Greats LOTUS 72

By Pete Lyons
Forward by Emerson Fittipaldi
Ervo Publishing July 2019
Westrow House, Holwell, Sherborne, Dorset, UK
ISBN 978-1-910505-33-5
372 pages, 370 photos, 11.25” x 9.5”
$79.95 USD

Review by Doug Stokes
Photos courtesy of the publisher and the author

Six years … 1970-75 seems a long time ago in any sort of talk about modern motorsports technology … but this bright new book by the highly-respected motor-journalist Pete Lyons brings the subject into very sharp focus. Particularly in terms of the times and the temperament that which were evolving so quickly in both the ranks of the professional drivers and the new breed of race car designers.

CIRCUITO DEL JARAMA, SPAIN – MAY 01: Emerson Fittipaldi, Lotus 72D Ford during the Spanish GP at Circuito del Jarama on May 01, 1972 in Circuito del Jarama, Spain. (Photo by LAT Images)

The vaunted Lotus 72 is the poster child here … the sleek, knife/wedge design finally and forever coated in an ominous black with dashing gold highlights that’s evermore emblazoned on the mind’s eye of generation of motorsports fans as some fantastic, foreboding, all-concurring conveyance for a dark knight.

Ahead of it’s time? No, not really, not if you’re Colin Chapman the free-thinking designer, technical genius, and hat-throwing cheerleader for the company that he named for a fragile, exotic flower and that never wilted under pressure.

Colin Chapman (GBR) Lotus Team Owner.
Austrian Grand Prix, Rd 12, Osterreichring, Austria, 18 August 1974.

He’s the guy who brought lightness and multifunction to race car design, his race cars were always on the leading edge of design … sometimes even running a bit in front of it and failing, but always looking for the that edge. The 72 was a shining example of his hitting the sweet spot. Fast, light, and (relatively speaking for a Chapman design) durable.

The Lotus 72 went to battle in 74 Championship Grands Prix over the six year period that this book covers winning 20 of them as well as securing World Championship titles for both Jochen Rindt and Emerson Fittipaldi.

This top-notch book then, is the race-by-race, driver-by-driver, iteration by iteration story of a truly remarkable racing car that took its place prominently in the lives and careers of a number of Formula One drivers … some icons and a few forgotten.

(L to R): Ronnie Peterson (SWE) Lotus 72E, who retired from the race, passes fifth placed Clay Regazzoni (SUI) Ferrari 312B3, in his T-Car, during practice. Austrian Grand Prix, Osterreichring, 18 August 1974. BEST IMAGE

And all that’s part of the great charm of Lyons’ work here. Each of the Lotus drivers chronicled here is given his due.

Of course two-time World Formula One Champion Fittipaldi is centered here* … but the work of lesser-remembered names of F1 drivers like Ronnie Petersen, Jacky Ickx, Reine Weisell, Graham Hill, John Miles, Dave Walker, Dave Charlton, John Watson, and Jim Crawford is well-documented the text as well as in the great photos (of every Lotus 72 in every race that one of them ever ran by the way!) which author Lyons tags with captions that, in many cases, are short, “insider” stories all by themselves.

Jackie Stewart (GBR) Tyrrell 005 led eventual winner Emerson Fittipaldi (BRA) Lotus 72D for many laps before slowing with handling problems at Austrian GP, Osterreichring, 13 August 1972

And then there’s Pete Lyons’ unique voice … his work has always been articulate, knowledgeable, accurate, and eminently readable … and all of those accolades are in full effect here in “72”.

Just in case I didn’t make it clear earlier, Lyons was in on-site and in attendance for the great preponderance of the 6 years of motorsport that he reports on in this very special book … first as the US correspondent for Britain’s Autosport magazine and then as then as the Formula One editor for AutoWeek.

1973 Spanish Grand Prix. Montjuich Park, Barcelona, Spain. 27-29 April 1973. Ronnie Peterson (Lotus 72D- Ford), retired, leads Denny Hulme (McLaren M23-Ford), 6th position, Francois Cevert (Tyrrell 006-Ford), 2nd position and Jackie Stewart (Tyrrell 006-Ford), retired, action. World Copyright: LAT Photographic. Ref: 73ESP

Below are a few lines of Lyons’ “tech” talk about the 72: (Remember that this book is, at it’s heart, a love letter to one of the most quintessential Formula One cars of all time, whose look and bearing some 40-on years later still commands attention.)

“… Let us step back from details, take in the whole, and appreciate this remarkably graceful, beautifully crafted Lotus.

Complex compound curves formed the exterior fuselage, the monocoque’s painstakingly shaped aluminum panels fixed with aircraft-type flush rivets to smooth airflow over the surface. Inside, intricate steel subframes were works of welder’s art forever hidden under the alloy panels they supported.

MOTORSPORT IMAGES: Lotus 72C 1970 detailed overview. (Illustration by Giorgio Piola/Motorsport Images)

Affixed to this sculptural piece, hand-made components expressed in metal the invisible mathematical grace of load paths out to suspension, steering, powertrain and other systems and elements, every one fundamental to function, each at once very light and very strong.

The overall impression is of myriad disparate parts, each with a vital job to do, somehow doing it in harmony with its close neighbors. An exquisitely musical dance of devices.”

Damn, I sorely wish that I could express my feelings about anything, (metal, flesh or otherwise) that well. Readers of this review will have to content themselves with the above or, of course they could always:

BUY THE BOOK: If the above description has you in need of acquiring a copy of “Lotus 72” for your own personal library or a (very) special gift, the very best copy of an important book like this is one that has been in the hands of the author and that he has personally inscribed (to you and/or to the person that you’ll be gifting with it).

… That’s not always easy to do, sometimes not even possible. Happily, in this case, Pete Lyons will personally inscribe your copy (as well as that gift edition).

A quick visit to the Lyons lair (www.petelyons.com) will get that transaction under way and (if you’ve not been there before) also open up your appreciation of great motorsports writing and brilliant photography.

The author and the work, “1970-1975 Formula 1 Greats LOTUS 72” (photo by Lorna Lyons)

In the world of road racing Lyons has (in the jargon) “been there … written about/photographed that” and his “Catalog Raisonne” is remarkable and replete with both interesting books, great photos, and some v. stunning big format calendars.

Purchasing Pete Lyons’ work from him directly is a true “insider” experience and, at least from this writer’s perspective, something that continues and celebrates the process. I recommend it. – DS

*Fittipladi’s forward for this book is a short, but highly-detailed personal glimpse into his own dealings with Colin Chapman and his time spent driving for the Lotus Formula One team.