Lotus Renault 97T – (540851872):
Gerard Ducarouge was the chief designer for the 97T, and the car itself was put together by Team Lotus for use in the 1985 Formula One World Championship. It was to be the successor of the 95T, and the car was powered by the turbocharged 1.5-litre Renault EF15B V6, capable of producing 810 horsepower at 12,500 kilograms. As an entirety, the car weighed just 540 kilograms, allowing it to be manoeuvrable and extremely agile.
The 97T was of generally simple design, as it used many elements from the defunct Lotus 96T Indycar project. The aerodynamics were also enhanced by something called ‘bargeboards.’ These were slotted between the front wheels and the side pods, and they greatly improved airflow around the side of the car. Ducarouge also managed to side-skirt the ban on winglets seen on rear wings of older Formula One cars by instead placing them on the rear edges of the side pods.
Perhaps Lotus’ biggest feat of 1995, however, was the signing of the legendary Aryton Senna, from the Toleman team. He was brought in to replace Nigel Mansell who had signed for Williams. The 97T proved to be effective during the season, taking eight poles, seven with Senna, and three victories. Senna’s first win came in spectacular fashion in the Portuguese Grand Prix, where he managed to win by over an entire minute in awful monsoon conditions. That particular race demonstrated the prowess and versatility of the 97T, and it marked the start of an albeit brief return to success for Lotus, similar to the 1960s and 70s.
The 97T had arguably the best handling of any Formula One car in 1985, and it was best suited for tight, slow street circuits such as Monaco and Detroit. Its carbon fibre bodywork was coated in a glossy back and gold livery, and in the hands of Senna, it was certainly a force to be reckoned with.