The Lotus Register has over the years enjoyed a spirit of healthy competition. this has typically taken the form of races, sprints, gymkhanas and rallies. One of the main reasons for owning a Lotus is competition, and many TLR members use their cars very successfully, taking part in various events in different parts of the country. Members regularly compete in other club events such as the Krugersdorp Hillclimb – organised by the MG Car Club – and historic rallies held under the auspices of SAMCA. The Lotus Register Rally, once a highlight on the historic rally calendar, has fallen away in recent years but a small, highly committed group of TLR members continue to keep the club presence felt in other events of this type.
While these successes were admirable, some drivers cherished a dream of putting together a track racing formula to cater specifically for Lotus. In 1995, a group of members approached TLR committee and requested them to investigate the feasibility of setting up a Lotus racing class for local events. Oscar Marucchi and Iain Pepper took responsibility for analysing many options and consulted experts, John Barty and Roger Pearce, who gave valuable input and advice. So it was that the racing series was born – inspiration having come from the Caterham Challenge in UK.
This was met with great enthusiasm from The Lotus Register and in early 1996, the first race was held at the Zwartkops raceway outside Pretoria. Kelvin Reynolds, a senior executive in the computer industry, persuaded the distributors of Lotus software that they could benefit from the alignment of names between software and cars. Financial support was forthcoming and the fledgling racing series was named “The Lotus Notes Challenge”.
The first year was essentially a development period which saw the concept of handicap racing being fine-tuned to ensure that all competitors had an equal opportunity of being successful. The racing committee also focused on developing driving skills with a view to broadening the base of racers among ordinary club members. That year and average of fourteen competitors participated in each of six races which were held at the Zwartkops and Midvaal race tracks.
By 1997, an extra race at the Kyalami Grand Prix circuit had been added to the championship and participants averaged 26. Welcome innovations were the international flavour brought by competitors from Zimbabwe and Botswana and the presence of two lady drivers. The international connections developed further when several of our drivers made their way up north, to take part in an invitation race held at Donnybrook in Harare, Zimbabwe.
By 1998, another event had been added at Lichtenburg and later on at the Goldfields Circuit in Welkom (which has now been rebuilt and is called Phakisa ). The start to the 1999 series was very exciting when several of our top competitors traveled to Killarney circuit in Cape Town to take part in the Historic Racing event with David Piper and his racing team from Europe. TLR drivers from Gauteng were able to compete against very distinguished company and acquitted themselves very well against the international drivers who fielded some superb and highly developed machinery.
A further dimension was added when it was decided to introduce a scratch championship based on first across the line in both race and road class.
By the end of 1999, there were approximately 30 active competitors in the challenge, including competitors from Zimbabwe and Botswana.
The racing has developed a fine spirit of comraderie among participants and spectators alike and many of our drivers have developed to the extent that they participate in (and often win) other events on race days such as those for historic racers.
There is no doubt that without the support of sponsors, the series would not have achieved such growth. Apart from Lotus software, makers of car care lubricants Wynn’s added their weight to the series, along with NGK spark plugs, Mastercraft Tools and Fram filters and more recently SABAT Batteries (Historic Tour sponsor linked with Lotus Challenge).