One of my favorite Formula One memories is from the inaugural (and only) Dallas Grand Prix, in 1984, involving my favorite team, the Colin Chapman era Lotus (though by 1984 Chapman had already died) and one of my favorite drivers, Nigel Mansell, forever shattering a stereotype of F1 drivers as prima donnas. Now you can own the Lotus 95T that he drove that day. Today’s F1 cars have a Drag Reduction System, DRS, as well as being able to use energy recovered with regenerative braking by the Kinetic Energy Recovery System, KERS. Both allow the driver to push a button and go faster, not entirely unlike IndyCar’s “push to pass” system that momentarily increases engine power. Twenty-nine years ago this week, Mansell had no such technical aids. Instead of push to pass, he pushed, literally, until he passed out.
As would be expected at a Texas race in July it was hot, very hot. Air temp at race time was 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40º C). The F1 circuit did not include warm locations like Bahrain and Malaysia then and teams struggled to cope with the heat. So did race organizers. There were concerns that the asphalt of the street course, mostly made up of perpendicular bends that circled the Cotton Bowl stadium, would break up from the heat, stressed by the sticky tires and ground effect suction. Because of the extreme temperatures it was decided to move the start of the race to late morning. Mansell led the first half of the race from the pole in his Lotus 95T but a late pit stop for new tires put him back in fourth place.
It was a brutal race, with only 2 cars finishing the complete 67 laps. Mansell’s 95T was powered by a twin turbo Renault V6 with approximately 700 HP. The engine’s power combined with what some described as a point-and-squirt course doomed the 5-speed Lotus/Hewland transmission, which finally failed on the finishing straight, within sight of the checkered flag. To salvage some championship points, Mansell, who was two laps down in fifth place having been passed by Jacques Laffite in a Williams-Honda, unbuckled his safety harness, and got out of the car. After racing for two hours in the Texas sun, Nigel took it to 11 and started to push the car by himself to the finish line.
Back in the ’80s, F1 drivers had the reputation, particularly in the States, of being effete, maybe even a bit soft, always complaining about this thing or that. That reputation was vaporized in the few short seconds between the time Mansell got out of the car and when he collapsed, passing out from the effort in the triple digit Dallas heat. Though he was passed by Piercarlo Ghinzani in an Osella-Alfa Romeo for P5, his effort seems to have not been completely in vain as he finished 6th, the last points paying position. I say “seems to” because Mansell would still have been awarded that position even had he retired when the gearbox failed as Corrado Fabi in a Brabham-BMW was even farther behind when the race ended. Not counting Mansell’s Lotus, 18 of the 26 starters DNF’d, spinning, crashing, or from mechanical issues. Keke Rosberg won the race in another Williams-Honda, followed by René Arnoux in a Ferrari in second place and Elio de Angelis, Mansell’s teammate at Lotus, took the final podium spot. If you mention the 1984 Dallas race to most racing fans, though, if they remember it, it’s because of Mansell’s valiant effort just trying to finish the race in position, not Rosberg’s victory.
The Lotus 95T that Mansell put on the pole and so dramatically tried to finish with at Dallas has now come up for sale. Mansell’s 95T will be crossing the block at the Mecum Auctions‘ sale in Monterey, California next month, held in conjunction with the concours events at Pebble Beach. Though not a race winner, the car is historically significant beyond the events in Dallas, primarily because of Mansell’s provenance, but also because it sat on the pole and led races. The 1984 season more or less situated Mansell for a long, successful career in F1, culminating in his 1992 world championship driving for Williams. In addition to winning his first career pole and leading the race at Dallas with this same car, in 1984 he also qualified it on the front row at Monaco, passing Alain Prost for the lead in the rain before spinning out of the race. For the first time, Mansell finished the season’s championship in the top 10 and when Lotus team owner Peter Marr (who had little regard for Mansell’s talent) replaced him with Ayrton Senna, promising that Mansell would never ever win a F1 race, Mansell had offers from both the Arrows and Williams teams, finally signing with Williams, where he became a F1 star, winning 13 races and competing for titles. After a stint with Ferrari in 1989 and 1990, the last Ferrari F1 driver to be picked by Enzo Ferrari, he returned to Williams where he had even greater success than before. Winning the F1 championship in 1992, he retired from F1 and moved to CART, winning five races and the 1993 championship in his “rookie” year, holding both the F1 and CART championships at the same time, the only driver to do so. Mansell would never again reach the same level of success, but for a couple of years you could argue that he was the best race car driver in the world and he’s probably one of the best ever, certainly one of the best in F1. Not quite fulfilling Marr’s prophecy, Mansell ended up winning 31 grands prix, the most by any British driver including Sirs Moss and Stewart. Only Michael Schumacher, Prost, Senna, and now wunderkind Sebastian Vettel have won more F1 races than Mansell.
After an unsuccessful 1994 CART season marked by an acrimonious relationship with Newman/Haas teammate Mario Andretti, Mansell returned to F1 to briefly race for Williams a third time after Ayrton Senna’s death, replacing young David Coulthard for the last three races of the ’94 F1 season, winning at Australia, his last F1 win. Teammate issues would follow Mansell throughout his career. At Lotus in 1983, Peter Marr gave de Angelis the Renault turbo engine for 9 races before fitting it to Mansell’s car. Mansell also had teammate issues with Alain Prost at Ferrari, feeling relegated to the #2 driving position, and with Nelson Piquet during his first ride at Williams. The relationship with Piquet was probably the worst, having been fierce rivals before being teammates. Piquet publicly disparaged not only Mansell, but also Mrs. Mansell, Roseanne. When Keke Rosberg and Mansell were teammates, though, they had a good personal and working relationship. His relationship with Frank Williams also had its ups and downs. When he won his championship with Williams, according to Wikipedia, his contract with the team gave him “undisputed number one status, guarantees of support in a wide variety of areas with each guarantee in writing, and assurances from suppliers such as Renault and Elf that they would do everything necessary to help him win.” Mansell’s first retirement from F1 and move to CART was reportedly provoked by his feeling that Williams had reneged on promises made.
Following the 1994 season, Williams went with David Coulthard, passing on Mansell’s contract option. Mansell moved to McLaren, but the car had handling problems and he retired from F1 for good only two races into the 1995 season. Competing in only five races, his return to F1 was really only a postscript to what was a fairly illustrious career. In addition to his CART and F1 titles, Mansell was F1 runner-up three times, on the podium another 28 times in addition to his 31 wins, and he took the pole position 32 times in F1, including 14 times in his championship season, winning nine of those races. Whatever his teammates and team owners may have thought of him as a man, Mansell had chops as a driver.
The Lotus 95T for sale is one of four of that model race car that Lotus constructed for the 1984 season. Finished, as it raced, in the distinctive and beautiful gold over black livery of team sponsors John Player Special cigarettes, the 95T has been fully restored, with modern electronics added, making it suitable for vintage F1 events and other public displays. Just don’t try to push it across the finish line.
Mecum auction catalog description follows:
This 1984 Lotus Type T95 John Player Special is one of 4 such cars built by Lotus for the 1984 Formula 1 season. Designed by Frenchman Gérard Ducarouge, the 95T helped re-establish Lotus as a Formula 1 contender. The first newly designed Lotus F1 chassis since the 1981 88, the 95T was the third generation F1 Lotus to employ Renault’s supremely powerful V-6 engine using twin KKK turbochargers and a Lotus/Hewland FGB 5-speed manual transmission. It also took full advantage of contemporary construction techniques and ground effects design, using a one-piece Kevlar upper body over a carbon fiber monocoque and ground effects undertray. Suspension followed common contemporary F1 practice with double wishbone control arms, pull-rod operated inboard coil springs and shock absorbers and front and rear anti-roll bars.
A compact and carefully packaged design, the 95T was 166 inches in overall length, 84.5 inches wide and just 39.5 inches high. Riding on a 105-inch wheelbase and weighing in at just 1,188 lbs, the 95T was capable of over 210 MPH, with 1,100 HP on tap for qualifying and approximately 700 in race trim from the 1,492 cc V-6. Resplendent in its Gold-on-Black John Player Special livery, the 95T was the first regular Team Lotus ride for future World Champion Nigel Mansell, who answered the faith placed in him by his late mentor, Lotus founder Colin Chapman, by qualifying second at the Monaco Grand Prix, taking the pole at the Dallas GP and finishing in the top ten driver standings for the first time in his career. The 95T thus helped establish Mansell’s stature in F1; today he still rates fifth in all time Formula 1 career Grand Prix wins with 31.
This historically significant Turbo-era Grand Prix Lotus is no trailer queen. Renowned engineer Dean Sellards was retained to restore the car’s twin-turbocharged Renault V-6 engine to top tune, and the car has been upgraded to accept a starter jack and the electronics set up to run off a laptop computer, making it perfectly suitable for vintage F1 parade laps and events such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
- Formula 1 Team Lotus Type T95 John Player Special
- Lotus’ third generation turbocharged F1 contender
- 1 of 4 cars built with this designation
- Driven by Nigel Mansell in the 1984 F1 season
- First career Pole Position at the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix
- Second on Pole Position at the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix
- One piece Kevlar top body with carbon fiber undertray
- Renault EF1 Turbo 1492cc V-6 engine rated at 700 HP
- Engine restoration by renown engineer Dean Sellards
- Twin KKK turbochargers, Lotus/Hewland FGB transmission
- Front and rear 11 inch outboard disc brakes
- 166″ length, 84 1/2″ width, 39 1/2″ height
- 105 1/2″ wheelbase, weighs 1,188 pounds
- Double wishbone front suspension and steel rocker rear suspension to pull-rod operated inboard coil springs/dampers with front and rear anti-roll bar
- Goodyear Eagle radial tires, sold on Bill of Sale
- Rebuilt to accept a starter jack and electronics are setup to run off a laptop
- Nigel Mansell’s first factory car with Team Lotus
- Mansell is currently fifth in all time Formula 1 career Grand Prix wins with 31
Note: Yes, I copied and pasted what is essentially a press release from an auction company, something one of our readers objected to in my post about the Lambrecht Chevys. In researching certain cars I’ve found that the catalog descriptions provided by many of the large car auction houses are outstanding resources for information on that particular car, model or car company. Yes, they’re trying to sell something, but in my opinion, catalog descriptions from companies like RM and Mecum are professionally written and generally reliable (though the point about the 95T being Mansell’s first factory car with Team Lotus is a bit of a stretch – 1984 was the first year that Mansell had a full season ride in a Lotus car that was the equal of his teammate’s car).
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS