Unlike now, during the late 80s and the early 90s, Formula One was thoroughly exciting and the cars drove and sounded like true monsters. These demons on four wheels required a true maestro to be at the controls and it’s no wonder that this Golden age of F1 gave us names like Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill among all others who lined up on the grid. Among them, Johnny Dumfries used to partner Senna at the Lotus F1 Team during the 1986 season, driving the John Player Special 98T Turbo.
The onboard video above was captured as Johnny tracked his car around the Adelaide street circuit during the 1986 season. What’s so special about his skills is that the car he is driving wasn’t as aerodynamically accomplished as the F1 machines we’ve seen in the last decade or so. However, the 98T’s V6 turbo cranked out a colossal 900 HP of power in race trim and anywhere above 1,000 HP for a single lap during qualifying! There weren’t any flappy paddles behind the wheel or complex electronic assistance and the driver had to row the stick for the 6-speed Hewland gearbox himself. Since the cars were turbocharged, sometimes above 4 bar boost, the engine had to be kept on the boil in the right rpm range, and as a result, drivers had to use one hand to steer and the other to swiftly move the stick between the gates, thousands of times during a single race.
The task required special skills and finesse as one had to brake hard from 300 km/h+ while downshifting, keep the car stabilised to enter an approaching corner at the right point of entry, and carry the right amount of speed and trajectory to fire it out at the exit. An iconic car which holds special place in the hearts of all those who followed F1 in its golden era, the 98T was the last Lotus car to carry John Player’s famous black and gold colours. Renault withdrew from F1 at the end of 1986 and as a result of that, Lotus signed a deal with Honda as its engine supplier for the 1987 and 1988 season.