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Lotus 72 by Pete Lyons

A great book about a great car

If you love Lotus race cars (I do) and the Lotus 72 in particular (I do), you’ll love Lotus 72 by Pete Lyons. The Lotus 72 set the basic design direction for Formula One cars to this day. Low frontal area for good aero and side radiators for good weight distribution is still the basic setup. That Lotus followed up the game-changing and winning Lotus 49 with another game-changing and winning car in the Lotus 72 was simply astounding.

The fertile mind of Colin Chapman along with the design talent of Maurice Philippe produced a formidable single seat car. It won a world championship in its first season and another two years later. The car was still winning in its 5th season and was still somewhat competitive in its last and sixth season! Powered by the same Cosworth DFV engine like so many other F1 cars of the era, the Lotus stayed on top of the game despite the stiff competition.

A very illuminating story

The 380 pages of Lotus 72 by Pete Lyons is told in a very different format. In essence this is a picture book of the Lotus 72 with elongated photo captions. They are a race by race tale of results, development and the many drivers who drove the cars.

The book begins with the 1970 season as the car first appeared in the red and gold of cigarette maker Gold Leaf. It startled the rest of the teams with its wedge shape, novel aerodynamics, inboard brakes and torsion bar suspension. The car proved both quick and fragile in its initial guise driven by Jochen Rindt. This is something that would identify the car throughout its racing life. It didn’t finish its first two races and the car was put aside for the next race at Monaco. Rindt would win a thrilling race on the last lap with his trusty old Lotus 49.

It would take two more races for the 72 to take its first win at the Dutch Grand Prix. Ironically, that was the venue of the first win for the Lotus 49 in its first race! Rindt would win the next 3 races in the 72 as well, sending Rindt on the way to the World Championship. Sadly, it was a posthumous championship. A brake failure pitched Rindt’s car into the barriers hard at Monza, killing him. The 72 would win one more race in 1970, the first win for Emerson Fittipaldi at the USGP at Watkins Glen.

lotus 72 by pete lyonsThe 1971 season was less successful as the car proved unreliable at various points in its elegant new black and gold livery of John Player Special cigarettes. However, it would all gel in 1972 for the car, Mr. Fittipaldi and the team.

The magic year of black and gold

The Lotus 72 obtained real street cred in 1972. Emmo would win 9 races in all, 6 GPs and 3 non-championship races. In the face of enhanced competition from Tyrrell, McLaren, Ferrari and others, Lotus proved superior. The next year would have wedge-shaped, mid-radiator designs elsewhere on the grid.

The car won more races in 1973 and almost another championship. More wins followed in 1974 but none in 1975 at the end of the car’s life. Six competitive seasons with one design hasn’t been done since.


If you love Lotus race cars, JPS colors, Emmo, Ronnie Peterson and all the other drivers, read this book. If you build Lotus F1 models, you need this book.

Lotus 72 is a pretty fast read due to the unique format. Pete Lyons was there as a journalist and photographer in this period, and his insight is poignant and humorous in equal amounts. The photos are wonderful and the writing easy to digest.

You can find Lotus 72 by Pete Lyons on the Lyons website (autographed if requested), from The Motorsport Collector, or from your favorite bookseller.

More great books by Pete Lyons and others can be found here. More motorsport happiness can be found here.