The Lotus 79 is unquestionably one of the most innovative and iconic cars in recent GP history. This particular car is the fifth and final chassis of only 5 and was driven exclusively by Mario Andretti apart from one race with Carlos Reuteman. The car was, for many years, part of the John Dawson-Damer Lotus collection in Australia and it is now re-commissioned and in race ready condition.
When Lotus introduced ground-effects in 1977 with the type 78, it was as much a landmark design as the Lotus 25 monocoque of 1962. Although works drivers Mario Andretti and Gunnar Nilsson had dominated much of the 1977 season in terms of sheer performance - with Mario winning four World Championship races against eventual Champion Niki Lauda's three for Ferrari, success had been too inconsistent, mostly due to Cosworth engine problems as they tried to match the Ferrari horsepower. While the Type 78s raced on into the early races of the 1978 season, with a victory each for Andretti and new team mate Ronnie Peterson, a replacement was under development.
The Lotus 79 allowed Lotus to put all the knowledge gained with the 78 onto a clean sheet of paper, with the aluminium-sandwich monocoque designed to facilitate the most efficient ground effect. The fuel load was now concentrated within a single tank behind the driver in the new, slimmer monocoque which, along with inboard-mounted coil spring/damper suspension units, allowed wider tunnels with unimpeded airflow.
The prototype Lotus 79 was tested at Ricard-Castellet in southern France in December 1977 where it was discovered that the chassis was incapable of dealing with the immense aerodynamic loadings now being generated by the new ground-effect system. Chassis 79/2 consequently emerged with a very much improved, deeper, stiffer monocoque. Lead driver Mario Andretti commented "The 79 really gave us a message, boy that thing was good, really exceptionally good! " At Monaco the new Lotus seemed even better: "It turned in at least as good as the 78, but the back end was at least as good as the front, where on the 78 the front had always tended to overwhelm the back. It seemed like here was the perfect race car, with grip at the front, grip at the back, incredible traction! "
The Lotus 79 was deemed too new to race at Monte Carlo but at the next GP in Belgium Mario Andretti drove it to victory with Ronnie Peterson second. This Lotus 1-2 demonstration was the first of four; Belgium, Spain, France and the Netherlands, along with wins for Andretti and Peterson in Germany and Austria.
Mario Andretti’s six wins clinched the 1978 Formula 1 Driver’s World Championship title, Ronnie’s pair enough for second and the 79 allowing Lotus win the Constructors Championship by a huge margin.
An indicator of the Lotus 79’s sheer speed is the fact that the car was on pole for all but one of the Grands Prix entered in 1978 - Andretti still qualified on the front row for the one that got away and in five of those races the 79 locked out the front row.
For 1979, the Martini aperitif company stepped in as Team Lotus's prime sponsor and the Grand Prix cars were now finished in British Racing Green with Martini's familiar dark blue/light blue/red striping. When the intended replacement, the Lotus Type 80, proved to be a leap too far aerodynamically, one final, ultimate Lotus Type 79; 79/5 – the car offered here, was built and it immediately become Mario Andretti's favoured mount. In this car he scored World Championship points in defence of his crown by placing fourth in both the 1979 South African and United States GPs, and fifth in the year's Italian GP. The car was also driven during that season by Mario's new Argentine team mate, Carlos Reuteman, for one outing in the British GP.
Never crashed, Lotus 79/5 was retired to the Lotus museum at Hethel at the end of 1979 and John Dawson-Damer acquired Lotus 79/5 for his collection when the museum needed one of his earlier Lotus single seaters to fill a gap. Dawson-Damer recalled: "I was approached by Lotus because I had three Jim Clark cars" - the Type 25 and two of the Tasman Championship cars which they didn't have. They asked me what I'd like and as I knew they had two 79s I decided I'd go for one of those, they weren't in the business of selling cars so this was more of a friendly deal...and one we were all very well-pleased with.
Now this ex-Andretti Lotus 79 is offered in its 1979 Martini livery, ideal for Historic Formula 1 racing, alternatively it’d look fabulous in your office.