This year’s Autumn Classic race meeting at Wiltshire’s Castle Combe Circuit on Saturday, 23 September will commemorate the 75th anniversary of Lotus cars with an array of displays and presentations.
It was in 1948 when Colin Chapman founded the iconic British marque, sticking closely to his unique mantra of “simplify, then add lightness” to successfully capture the hearts of automotive and motorsport fans in the decades to come.
The unveiling of the bespoke 2023 artwork for the much-loved Autumn Classic event, once again commissioned by automotive artist Brian James and this time depicting a 1967 Lotus 49 Formula 1 race car against a backdrop of Castle Combe Circuit in the late 1960s. On three occasions, the first thirty years ago in 1993, the Lotus 49 raced in 1967 by Graham Hill (who in 1955 had competed at Castle Combe at one of his first ever races) has performed a number of display laps at the Wiltshire circuit.
Full details on the vehicles that will make up the special display area in the paddocks are yet to be finalised, but this feature will be flanked with a sea of Lotus road cars in the club display areas, thanks to various dedicated Lotus car club stands.
As with all Autumn Classic events, visitors can also expect a full-day’s historic racing out on the 1.85-mile circuit, as well as countless other related attractions around the scenic venue.
Take a look at who will be racing with us The Autumn Classic 23 September 2023 – Castle Combe Racing Club (ccracingclub.co.uk)
History of Lotus at Castle Combe
From the early days to present, there has rarely been a period where Lotus-badged machinery was not a common sight at Castle Combe Circuit.
The first recorded appearance of a Lotus at the race track was in 1951, when founder Colin Chapman himself piloted a Mk3 to victory during the Bristol MC & LLC and 750 Motor Club meeting on 12 May. This was the inaugural outing for the Mk3 – the first Lotus designed purely for circuit racing, and which featured the de-siamesed 750cc Austin engine which later caused the 750 Formula regulations to be amended.
Chapman continued to race regularly at Combe through to 1955, with one of his final outings coming in the form of the National Meeting on 28 August 1954, where he once again claimed victory – this time behind the wheel of a Lotus Mk8 MG. This particular weekend also saw the first appearance of a Lotus fitted with a Coventry Climax engine in the form of Dick Steed’s brand-new Mk8 model.
Although Chapman retired from racing himself, Lotus cars continued to dominate at the Wiltshire track, with Peter Deal winning the Re-Opening Meeting on 9 June 1962 in his Lotus 7 (a race also attended by Piers Courage in his Lotus 7 – one of his earliest races).
At the race meeting on 9 October 1965, Chris Summers not only won in his 5.4-litre Chevrolet-powered Lotus 24, but also set the new lap record of Castle Combe Circuit with an average speed of 101.59mph – the circuit’s very first 100mph lap.
22 July 1967 brought the first ever Formula Ford race to Combe (and the second race anywhere in the world), won by Dan Hawkes in his Lotus 51.
In more recent years, Lotus models have continued to dominate in both open-wheeled and GT categories, a highlight of which was Mark Funnell securing the Circuit’s 2010 Sports & GT Championship in his Lotus Exige.
To date, there have been no less than 185 race wins at Castle Combe Circuit by Lotus cars – a milestone that any other manufacturer would find very hard to beat and cementing Lotus’ incredibly successful motorsport heritage in the process.