Classic Team Lotus open weekend

Tony Cooper If you fancy a peep behind the scenes of the operational side of Classic Team Lotus - one of the great marques in Formula One’s illustrious and grand history - Clive Chapman is throwing open the doors of his Hethel-based workshops, near Wymondham, over the weekend of November 29 and 30.

Tony Cooper

If you fancy a peep behind the scenes of the operational side of Classic Team Lotus - one of the great marques in Formula One's illustrious and grand history - Clive Chapman, son of Lotus Cars and Team Lotus founder Colin Chapman, is throwing open the doors of his Hethel-based workshops, near Wymondham, over the weekend of November 29 and 30 (9am-3pm).

Originally founded in 1952, Lotus Engineering moved to Norfolk in 1966 but it was not until 1958 that Team Lotus graduated to Formula One racing where it soon made its mark. And when the company arrived in Norfolk, Team Lotus found suitable quarters in the former USAAF administration buildings at Hethel and operated from here until its move to nearby Ketteringham Hall in 1975.

When Clive Chapman established Classic Team Lotus in 1992, he thought it a good idea to revive the old workshops for its base. "Humble but historic might be the best description," says Clive. "We would, however, most probably be better off in a more modern facility. But there's something extra special about working on the cars in the same place be it 30 or 40 years later. And sometimes it's even with the same mechanics."

That's history for you and visitors to the open weekend can have a big slice of it. You'll be able to see a wide and exciting range of Classic Team Lotus racing cars either in a complete state or in various stages of restoration and maintenance.

Visitors will also have the chance to meet some of the mechanics.

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One of the longest serving is Bob Dance. A Lotus stalwart, he worked for Team Lotus from 1960 to 1969 and returned to the fold in 1976 remaining with the team to its demise in 1994. He was made chief mechanic for the F1 team at the end of the 1967 season and took charge of the Lotus Type 49 of Jim Clark and Graham Hill (Damon's father) at the non-championship Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama. He also worked for the likes of Mario Andretti, Ronnie Peterson and Mika Hakkinen.

Another Lotus anchorman to check out is Chris Dinnage, who joined Team Lotus in 1987 and became chief mechanic to Nelson Piquet, whose son entered Formula One racing this season partnering Fernando Alonso at Renault. He also engineered Ayrton Senna's Camel-liveried Lotus-Honda Turbo Type 99T and was also his number one mechanic. Nowadays, he's kept busy as team manager of Classic Team Lotus

The event is being held in association with a parts sale hosted by CTL's neighbour, Lotus Cars, who held a similar sale at the 60th anniversary Lotus event at Hethel in September. It turned out to be a rip-roaring success. CTL, too, will be offering sale items from its extended merchandise and memorabilia catalogue.

And if the weather permits Classic Team Lotus will have some smart F1 cars on parade and for a small charge you can have your family car taken alongside one. All monies collected will go towards a charity supported by the team.

Directions: Lotus Cars, Hethel, NR14 8EZ and/or go to www.grouplotus.com/cars/directions.html