01 November 2016: The Lotus 79 was the first Formula 1 car ever to fully exploit the potential of ground-effect aerodynamics, enjoying phenomenal racing success in 1978.
Now, almost 40 years since the car made its racing debut, a new manual from publisher Haynes gives fans an unprecedented look at the technology that underpinned its performance. It also examines the history of the car, its operation and the drivers whose job it was to tame it.
The Haynes Lotus 79 Owners’ Workshop Manual, produced in full collaboration with Classic Team Lotus, provides a comprehensive insight into the anatomy of the car, with a particular focus on the ground-effect technology.
The Lotus development team, led by Peter Wright, was making full use of the latest rolling-road wind tunnel at Imperial College, London, working on nose design and cooling with the Type 78, when engineers noticed that the car was being sucked to the floor.
The design was creating underbody downforce and, with development work to strengthen the sidepod ‘skirts’ that were critical to channelling the airflow, the result was a Formula 1 car that not only went on to win the World Championship for Drivers for Mario Andretti, but also the Constructors’ title for Team Lotus.
The first race with the Type 79, at Silverstone, was not a success and early testing was hampered by poor reliability but, once these problems were resolved, the car went on to dominate the 1978 season, with Andretti and Ronnie Peterson securing four 1–2 finishes.
Written by motoring journalist Andrew Cotton, the manual features exclusive interviews with 1978 World Champion Mario Andretti, race engineers, designers and mechanics. It is illustrated throughout with fabulous period photographs, perfectly preserved race engineer’s notes and original drawings from Classic Team Lotus.
Author Andrew Cotton said: “This was an iconic, beautiful car that helped to change Formula 1 forever. The subject of aerodynamics, today commonplace, was then not well understood. The Type 79 was designed during a period of intense aerodynamic development and a team could enjoy superiority if it harnessed a new idea. Before the era of computers and advanced wind tunnels, designers and development engineers leaned heavily on other industries to help their understanding. In this case, Wright leaned on the world of gliding to help explain the phenomenon that he had created in the wind tunnel, and was therefore able to develop it further during the year.
“The Type 79 was not perfect by any means. Problems with the skirts and particularly the brakes, coupled with a lack of chassis stiffness, meant that it was something of a handful for the drivers, as other teams improved in 1979. When Team Lotus took the next step, with the Type 80, it was a step too far and the team was eventually forced to abandon the project and revert to the Type 79 for the remainder of the 1979 season. Wright explains what went wrong with the Type 80, while Nigel Bennett outlines the development plan that he had for the Type 79 in preparation for the 1979 season that could have kept the car competitive against Renault’s turbo engine and Ferrari’s radial tyres.”
The Lotus 79 Manual joins other Haynes Lotus titles including the Lotus 49 Manual, the Lotus 72 Manual and the Lotus 98T Manual. It is published in November.
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