Lotus Cosworth 77 (1976) Engine 3000cc V8 Cosworth, at the 2012 Goodwood Festival of Speed. RK

Lotus Cosworth 77 (1976) Engine 3000cc V8 Cosworth, at the 2012 Goodwood Festival of Speed, by Robert Knight -

The Lotus 77 was a Formula One racing car designed by Colin Chapman, Geoff Aldridge and Martin Ogilvie for the 1976 Formula One season. The car was a stop-gap means to an end for Lotus, who were fighting back after the failure of the Lotus 76 and the obsolescence of the Lotus 72 in 1975.

The Lotus 77 featured a slimmer, lighter monocoque design over the 72, but was similarly powered by the Cosworth DFV. It featured improved aerodynamics and repositioned radiators to aid better cooling. The front brakes were initially inboard, in line with its predecessors, but were moved outboard in a more conventional design part-way through the season. The suspension was designed around a series of rocker arms instead of the usual set up of wishbones. The idea behind the new system was to set the suspension up for a specific track, taking into account ride height and road surface, and the 77 was dubbed 'The Adjustacar' as a result. It worked in a fashion, but inexperience with such an infinitely adjustable car meant that optimum settings were often not achieved. Drivers Mario Andretti and Gunnar Nilsson reported the steering and ride were occasionally vague and unresponsive and that the car lacked straight-line speed. Andretti did not care for the car, proclaiming it to be a 'dog.' This motivated Lotus to accelerate research and create the stunning Lotus 78.

After a slow start to the season, the 77 proved to be best of the rest behind Ferrari, McLaren and Tyrrell. Andretti worked hard to develop the car, and from mid season onwards, the 77's performance picked up. It was however best suited to tracks with long corners such as Anderstorp, where Andretti led easily before engine failure put him out. At Zandvoort and Mosport Park tracks he finished on the podium. Colin Chapman vetoed Andretti's request to race the Lotus 78 at Zandvoort, so Mario reluctantly raced the 77 until the end of the season. The final race was run in monsoon conditions at Fuji Speedway in Japan. Andretti drove a clever tactical race to win by a lap from Patrick Depailler and new world champion James Hunt. Andretti was glad to put the 77 aside to concentrate on developing the 78 for the 1977 Formula One season.