Banned Aero: The Lotus Type 88

Back when ground effect aerodynamics and downforce was becoming serious stuff in Formula 1, the FIA felt the need to jump in and start changing the regulations to help protect the drivers from the abuse that massive g-forces were introducing into the cabin during high speed cornering.

For the 1981 season, the F1’s governing body banned the movable skirts that until then were an important part of maximising ground effect, and dictated a ride height of 60mm.


Some teams like Brabham got around this by devising suspension that would lower under aero load, pushing the car right onto the track to get the desired ground effect, but killing any sort of suspension travel and therefore torturing the driver with even more vibrations on top of the high g-forces. However, Colin Chapman came up with a different solution for Team Lotus, and the Type 88, which I came across at the recent Japan Lotus Day, is it.


As soon as other teams noticed how effective Chapman’s solution was, they complained and the FIA ended up banning the 88 immediately.


It was a true pity, as this sort of outside-the-box thinking was what F1 should have been all about.


Chapman wanted to isolate the driver from vibrations and to do so devised a twin chassis system. Effectively, it’s a chassis within a chassis. The main one is where the cockpit and most of the car is laid out, suspended by the main dampers at each corner.


The outside chassis however, holds and suspends the one-piece exterior carbon fiber body. It’s hinged at the front just behind the front wheels and mounted on springs at the rear, thus lowering and transferring the massive levels of downforce it generated, but all without actually lowering the car and introducing vibration into the cockpit.


This GIF above should give you an idea of how it works.


With the engine cover removed you can see the small purple springs it’s all mounted on.


They’re separate from the main rear coilovers that are actually sitting inside of the gearbox housing. How wild is that?!


The Type 88 was powered by a Ford DFV 3-liter V8, completing what was an impressively engineered race car. It’s just too bad it upset so many people.

Check out the video above for another look at this radical machine.

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino



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I hate F1 because they always bans anything that's cool...


960 but then again these bans are what makes constructors look for new, different ways to make theyr cars faster,


We really need a racing series with no restrictions. NO restrictions except for safety equipment.


karikaturisti17 960 Look at the Tyrell P34. It was badass and yet they banned everything that had more than 4 wheels. New, different ways to make cars faster you say? With those shitty V6s we have in F1 now? Yeah, yeah sure... Just screw off away, would you, please?


960 karikaturisti17 They never banned 6-wheeled cars.  Hell, Williams was even testing a 6-wheeler even into the 80's.


The new V6 might be shitty , and quite fuel saving , but they're also faster .


RDS 960 But slower than years ago, let's hope next year with all the changes introduced by the FIA will have at least a bit of competitive action, I'm tired to see how 1 team goes 2 sec faster than the others and the rest of them are only traffic cones that they have to avoid.


Actually, Tyrrell ditched the 6-wheelers because their tyre supplier (IIRC, Goodyear) didn't develop the small front tyres it needed.


hcram39  pikes peak? Or are there regulations in the unlimited class?


hcram39 Oh so Can-Am back in the day?


Why? So the one team with the most money can out spend everyone else to victory?
This approach has been tried in the past, and has failed.


@EvolveWRC, sorry mate, you're not making sense.
You want rule changes for next year. Are you aware that new rules are a major part of what causes one team to be massively ahead of the others? One team nails the engineering solution to the formula, and therefor is superior on track, while the others play catch up. Look at the advantage Merc had in 2014, compared with what they have now. You're asking to reset that. Maybe it won't be Merc, but the chances that 2 or more teams all produce cars to a new formula which happen to be within 0.500 seconds of each other is extremely slim.
Next, the proposed rule changes involve a significant increase in downforce, in an attempt to reduce lap times. From your understanding of F1, do you think more downforce will increase the amount of close, wheel to wheel racing, or will it lead to more professional racing, as is the tendency with higher downforce.
To me, you seem like a disgruntled fan who doesn't really know what they want and what they are asking for. You see F1 of the past with rose coloured glasses.
The new V6 cars are getting faster year by year, they're already starting to break existing outright track records. They're still slower in race trim, but that is mostly due to the fuel flow limit, and more so due to the tires, which are designed exactly how the FIA ask them to be designed.
If the FIA would leave the rules alone for more than 3 years, more and more teams would catch up on the engineering front (due to diminishing returns for the front runners), and you would see closer racing.
Listening to fans like you is a major part of why F1 is the mess that it is these days.


Uhh Dino, there's no GIF in this article where it should be


Twitch_6 BS - new rules will bring more extreme cars and better action - you need to look at the CFDs of the new regulations. Not an expensive gp2 cars like now.


Cool to see some photos of this car Dino, although from what I have heard of Chapman he never did anything for driver comfort, and actually was often one of the worse for making a dangerous car compared to others of the time in pursuit of a lightweight design... However, recovering the downforce lost from the FIA intervention would have been top of his agenda
Anyway, as with any article touching on F1 there is enough nit-picking in other comments already posted and those to come I'm sure, so I'll leave it there and just appreciate getting a better look at this engineering solution!


JonathanW, you're right ! Chapman never did anything for the driver's sake.

The reason for this clever solution was not to reduce vibrations, but to apply the aerodynamic loads (body, wings), directly on the wheel uprights, therefore bypassing the suspension link.

This allowed them to use softer springing without losing any aero efficiency.


You'll need to click on the picture if you're using a mobile-OS.


Need more of these lost/banned technology articles; help inspire the next generation of engineers. At least this much the idea of a double suspension exists in the trucking industry. Heck, even the seats have suspension too.


Twitch_6 OK, so Red bull won 4 consecutive years and nothing changed in all that time, they kept winning without any rival. If things were as you say, and gaps close between teams with the same rules after a few years, it would be nice, but it didn't worked before, and I think you're a little bit too optimistic regarding the future of F1. 
Do you really think the FIA would have changed anything if actual F1 was going to evolve the next years? They saw that audience is at the rock bottom because of zero competition between teams, Mercedes is still way ahead of the others and there's no chance for them to keep up, so they tried desperate measures like the new classification system wich was a total failure in order to make things more interesting.
I'm not saying 2017 rules will save anything, but at least it will be something different, IMO what they really need to do it's get rid of all the complex aero.
Believe it or not, but today the FIA is more concerned about audience rather than competition itself, and has nothing to do with old F1, there are even political interests and I'm pretty sure that putting enough money on the table gives you F1 titles before the championship starts, wink, wink.


The banning of ground effects had nothing to do with driver comfort but rather safety. When one of these cars lost traction they could also lose their downforce, spearing it off the track much faster.
Good pics as always though.


Great pics and story.  Cheers for the video link, also.


Curious, I wonder how that affected the driver's "butt sense" of what the car was doing. Wouldn't you expect the sensation of weight shifting to be dampened?


Slower than which year ?

Bahrain GP record got beaten

The 2016 cars also got pretty close time (but slower) to 2011 cars at Albert Park .


Twitch_6 Nope. So we can see real competition and creativeness and see who can push the boundaries further.


Twitch_6 Where innovations like this lotus would be appreciated


Bloody FIA have killed the sport


How good is the simplicity of a Cosworth DFV. Its a piece of art


good car for the race and I'm sure very fast


the car was very good 
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