Colin Chapman  Great Britain

  • Full name Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman
  • Birth date May 19, 1928
  • Birthplace Richmond, Surrey, Great Britain
  • Date of death December 16, 1982 (54 years 211 days)
  • Place of death East Carleton, Norfolk, Great Britain
  • Teams Vanwall
  • Other roles Team Owner, Principal
driver portrait
World Championship Career
Year Car Race Start Won Pod Class Best Pole Front Best Lap Hat Pts Pos
1956 Vanwall 1 0 0 0 0 - 0 0 5 0 0 0 -
Total 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 0 0 0
Race Circuit Date
Only race French Grand Prix Reims July 1, 1956 [race_results]

Colin Chapman was the founder and driving force behind the iconic Lotus brand, an entrepreneur, designer and innovative engineer who despite limited resources often led the way in taking motor-racing to new levels.

Although by the time of his premature death his business was in financial trouble and its influence in F1 was waning, that was largely because of the recession hitting the manufacturing side. Chapman also made an uncharacteristic error in getting involved with the ill-fated De Lorean project.

He started out in 1947 with an Austin 7 which he converted into a trials car and which he christened a Lotus. He adapted and improved subsequent versions, and he knew he was onto something when rival drivers began to pester him for replicas. He himself was a decent driver, but his real genius was not behind the wheel.

A lock-up garage gave way to a workshop in a converted stable in Hornsey and then a factory in Hertfordshire. The move to Norfolk, where Lotus is most famously associated, did not come until 1976.

In racing, Chapman set new standards for the use of aerodynamics, and replaced the traditional chassis with a monocoque. He developed the wing car and then was a pioneer in the use of ground effects in design.

On the track, his cars won the F1 world titles in 1963 and 1965 (Jim Clark), 1968 (Graham Hill), 1970 (Jochen Rindt), 1972 (Emerson Fittipaldi) and finally Mario Andretti (1978). He believed speed came first - some drivers moaned it was more important to him than safety, and both Hill and Rindt suffered potentially fatal massive suspension failures in the same grand prix in 1969.

Buoyed by the sponsorship success brought - he was also the first to really tap into the money that could bring - his firm expanded into engine manufacture and boating. When the company went public, Chapman retained personal control over the racing division.

He was omnipresent in the pits and was very much the hands-on team boss. To the end he innovated, and in 1981 he unveiled an ingenious twin-chassis design, only for it to be banned by the FIA.

His death signalled the end for Lotus, although the decline was slow and heartbreaking to watch. Without his drive, vision and sheer determination, it gradually became just another small team slugging it out with the big boys.

But in terms of his importance as a team boss, perhaps only Enzo Ferrari would rank above Chapman.
Martin Williamson

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