So you want to race
|What is Lotus Challenge Racing? Since the first Lotus 7 of Colin Chapman appeared in 1957 and amazed the racing community with its brilliant performance from a relatively underpowered but genius design, Lotus Sevens have been attractive to sports car lovers and racing drivers all over the world. Even though very little has been changed on the cars since then it is more popular than ever. So too is the case here in South Africa.
The Lotus Register was founded in 1985 by Lotus car lovers in South Africa from where the Lotus Challenge as the racing platform for this club was initiated. Lotus seven replicas were welcomed into the fraternity and immediately showed why this design by Colin Chapman dominated club races and more. A road class (cars in full road trim) and a racing class was established to give everybody the opportunity to put their cars through the paces under conditions it was designed for.
But racing is racing and not before long Lotus 7’s became the quickest cars on the Regional Circuit. All this obviously came at a price and to compete on that level became very expensive.
This is where Lotus Challenge comes to play its very attractive yet affordable role. This is a series, based on a standard drive train, which has for nearly 50 years thrilled race drivers and enthusiasts alike. Lap times on any race track in a Lotus 7 will shame most highly tuned sports cars and even in endurance races is the car to back (or drive). The aerodynamics (class rules permitting) is improved by taking the headlights and windscreen off and set-up is fine tuned for track racing. This form of racing is not only very competitive and as close to single-seater racing you can get but also affordable due to the prescribed standard state of tune of the engine and a limitation on number of tyres per season (Two sets)
A full set of the rules and regulations can be obtained from the TLR web site (under racing): www.lotusregister.co.za.
Some basic guidelines to get you started:
Please refer to Rookie Info List
The most important answers before you ask!
Who can participate?
Any member of “The Lotus Register” with a valid racing licence from MSA.
What vehicles are used?
Championship cars are only Lotus 7 and replicas of the Lotus 7, motor is dependent on the class entered. See Regs for details.
When are races taking place?
An annual calendar with all the races for the year is provided by MSA which covers all the qualified Regional Races for this specific championship. Check the events calendar for more info.
When and where can one practise?
Some of the race tracks have dedicated practise days like Zwartkops on Wednesdays or on the day preceding a race when the track applicable is dedicated to competitors for practice. Very often special track days are organised by clubs or groups at race tracks to add some practise opportunities.
How expensive is a competitive vehicle?
Lotus Challenge Racing focuses on affordable, competitive racing and once a vehicle as the biggest single expense has been acquired should be one of the most affordable motor racing classes available.
Some rough estimates would be: Class L with a Ford Rocam motor anywhere from R60 000 to R120 000. Class C “Roadworthy” car, of which the motor is brand independent would be anywhere from R50 000 to R150 000. Class B car with a Toyota motor would be anywhere from R80 000 to R200 000. Class A with a competitive gearbox / engine combination would be anywhere from R200 000 to R1 000 000, dependant on budget.
Where can I find a vehicle to race with?
Lotus 7 derivatives are very popular and hugely in demand. As such, availability can be compared to that of any popular sports car and one should be able to source the right car in weeks from the normal trade channels. The Lotus Register website and Auto Trader are good places to start looking.
There is another very exciting alternative though-and that is to build your own Lotus 7! In South Africa there are mainly three suppliers that can help. They are Caterham, Birkin and Locost Formula (all their applicable contact numbers are supplied in this booklet).
Have a look on Gumtree / AutoTrader / Junk Mail for vehicles that might come up for sale.
How do I obtain a racing licence?
Complete the online application form from MSA (www.msaonline.co.za). Provide a medical examination form as supplied by MSA, depending on your age.
Who can build a car for racing?
Again- a Lotus 7 is a very capable racing car in standard trim and is very quick around a racing track. The old hands in the club will certainly provide valuable know-how to make your car even quicker once you are one of the boys! This means YOU can build a car.
Are there specific clubs I must belong to?
Yes- to compete one must belong to “The Lotus Register”.
What does a complete kit (suit, helmet etc.) consist of?
A certified helmet.
A certified Racing suit.
Fire resistant underwear (shirt & long-johns)
Hans device – or similar Neck brace (approved by TLR Racing committee)
Where do I find?
• An engine and gearbox
Engines and gearboxes are available from dealers in second hand spares. Contact numbers on the last page of this book.
• Tyres and rims for Lotus Challenge Racing
Tyres for the class B and L is prescribed Dunlop Type H1 and can be obtained from ATS. Refer to regs for more detail.
• A racing licence
Only from Motorsport South Africa (www.msaonline.co.za)
• The required numbers and display stickers
All these are available through the club, contact the racing chairman. Details at bottom of this page.
• The electronic engine management system
Various makes are available but it is advisable to opt for a more widely used system.
Spitronix / GoTech / Perfect Power / Haltech are just a few of the more popular brands.
• Odds and ends
The club (members) is a huge source of information and will assist where-ever possible to get you in your racing car. Visit the forum atforum.lotusregister.co.za for contact with other Lotus enthusiasts.
A very short history of the Lotus Seven
Very few cars have a history covered in glory such as the Lotus Seven and after more than fifty years is still capable of upsetting much more expensive and sophisticated machinery on the racetrack. Designed and manufactured by Colin Chapman (born in London in 1928), the Lotus Seven evolved from the extremely successful Lotus XI which won the Index of Performance at Le Mans of 1956 and set a speed record for its engine size.
The Lotus Seven was the first Lotus to be built for customers and a huge success in the club racing scene and its basic design is still today difficult to improve on. In 1973 Caterham Cars obtained manufacturing rights of the Lotus 7 from Lotus and is still today producing some of the most exciting Sevens available. Caterham called these cars the Super 7 as it was already then obvious that the cars’ fundamental design was nearly impossible to improve on. These were the first kit cars and became the basis of most of the later kit cars. Lotus was again at the forefront of automotive history by allowing all the parts of the car to be sold, plus the instructions to assemble it. This reduced labour costs and taxes dramatically and made the Lotus design philosophy – sports performance from a standard engine and simple design – available to enthusiasts all over the world.
Open classes have been dominated by Sevens all over the globe and in 1986 Caterham started a one make Super 7 championship in England which was followed in various countries. There are today many copies of the original Lotus Seven available, but the best ones are undoubtedly those that have kept the original Colin Chapman philosophy of performance through simplicity alive.
If this looks like fun, you should be on the track.
PlayStation is nothing compared to the real thing.
Books to read:
Going Faster – The Skip Barber Racing School
Build your own race car for 250 pounds – Ron Champion
Magnificent 7 – Chris Rees
Prepare to win – Carroll Smith
Tune to win – Carroll Smith
Drive to win – Carroll Smith
Web sites to visit:
Dave Hastie, Raymond Lomeau & Stuart Woolley for the photos.
Clive Wilmot for original content.
Pointers of people and places that are prominent in the Lotus Challenge Racing fraternity: