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13 de janeiro de 2022

1970-75: Lotus 72-Ford


Antonio Eiras

The first image that comes to mind when I remember the beginning of my passion for Formula 1, almost 50 years ago, is that of the stunning JPS-Lotus 72-Ford, driven by my youth hero, Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi.


With this car Fittipaldi won his first Drivers' World Championship in 1972 and also, the following year, the first GP race that I remember having followed, live on TV, the Spanish GP at the Montjuich circuit. I felt a mixture of enthusiasm and fascination for this motorsports’ new world that I wanted so much to discover.


The car was designed by Maurice Phillippe and Tony Rudd, under the supervision of Colin Chapman, with two guidelines: to create a bodywork that would develop the greatest downforce, on a chassis that best used the new soft Firestone tyres.


Thus, a radical cut was made with the old Lotus 49 and the bodywork was inspired by the Lotus 56, the gas turbine car, which ran at Indianapolis in 1968. The wedge profile was accentuated with the radiators on the sidepods and a generous three profiles’ rear wing.


The riveted aluminum monocoque wedge-shaped chassis used double wishbones with torsion bars and dampers at the front, and parallel top links with a lower wishbone, twin radius bars and with torsion bars and dampers at the rear.


To reduce unsprung weight and wheel heat, in order to improve the efficiency of Firestone's soft tyres, disc brakes were inboard, placed inside the front chassis, and, at the rear, close to the Hewland 5-speed gearbox.


The Ford Cosworth DFV, 2993cc V8, naturally aspirated engine, which delivered around 440HP at 10,000rpm, was, as in its predecessor, connected to the rear bulkhead of the chassis, with structural functions, as it served, with the gearbox, to support the rear suspension.


The new Lotus was introduced during the 1970 season and, after early changes in the suspension geometry and with an innovative overhead airbox intake for the engine, it proved to be extremely competitive and allowed the British team to win the Constructors' and Drivers' World Championships, this posthumously, for Joken Rindt, who died in an accident at the wheel of a Type 72 during practice for the Italian GP at Monza.


For 1971 the Lotus 72 was changed in the suspensions, adapted to the new tyres, and in the lubrication system. The season was disastrous for the team, which was dispersed with the Type 56B F1 turbine car project and did not win a single race.


In 1972, the Type 72 debuted one of the most beautiful and visually successful decorations, with a black background painting with golden fillets and letters that transfigured and immortalized the JPS-Lotus. Emerson Fittipaldi made the best of his good form and the high competitiveness of the Type 72 to win five GP and 3 non-championship events, winning his first World Championship title, and the team its fifth Constructors' Championship.


For the following year, Lotus hired the Swedish Ronnie Peterson to accompany Fittipaldi and, although the Type 72 remained very competitive, despite the change to GoodYear tyres and the consequent suspensions’ changes, the dispersion of efforts between two top drivers, led to the loss of the Drivers' Championship to Jackie Stewart, although the team had won its sixth Constructors’ World Championship.


A new and innovative Type 76 was designed for 1974. Fittipaldi's departure to McLaren, dissatisfied with his new status in the team, and the failure of this new model, forced Lotus to keep the Type 72 in activity, and only the exceptional Peterson's abilities have achieved the last three victories of this model. During this season, as well as the following year, the Type 72 proved unsuitable for GoodYear's new tyres, designed for the latest models of rival teams.


The Lotus 72's career came to an unglorious end in 1975, an extremely difficult year for the team, which was struggling financially. The following year, the Type 77 and a new pair of drivers would ensure the resurgence of the team, which was preparing a technical revolution, in absolute secrecy.


During the 6 years he represented the team, nine chassis where built of the Tipo 72, that entered 96 races, having won 25, 20 GP races, and won 3 Constructors' and 2 Drivers' World Championships.


It is, by many, considered the most iconic Formula 1 car ever.


For me it will always be at the beginning of a never ending passion for motorsport.

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