Iconic Lotus Type 79 to be sold in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix sale

By 1st February 2023Uncategorised

Bonhams unveils Mario Andretti’s Formula 1 World-Championship-Winning Lotus Type 79 to be offered at inaugural sale in November.

One of the most important and evocative World-Championship-winning Grand Prix racing cars of all time, the 1978 John Player Special Lotus-Cosworth Type 79 driven by US racing superstar Mario Andretti, was unveiled to the world’s media today in Paris as a highlight to be offered in Bonhams’ inaugural sale at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this coming November. 

This historic machine – chassis 79/4 – was the actual car in which Andretti memorably crushed all opposition to win the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort and then claim his 1978 Formula 1 Drivers’ world title in the subsequent Italian Grand Prix at Monza. It has an estimate of $6,500,000-9,500,000. 

Known as ‘Black Beauty’ after its streamlined good looks and distinctive black-and-gold ‘JPS’ sponsor livery, Team Lotus’ Type 79 was introduced to the Formula 1 arena for the 1978 season. 

The cars quickly caused a stir, with 20 starts in 11 Grand Prix races, notching up six wins and five podium places, as well as 10 pole position starts and five fastest race laps, of which two were set by Andretti. The Type 79 helped Lotus take the most wins in a single season since the 1955 victories of the Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows, with Andretti and his teammate ‘Super-Swede’ Ronnie Peterson delivering four 1-2 finishes, earning the moniker the ‘Mario and Ronnie train’.

Mark Osborne, Global Director of Motorsport, Bonhams Collector Cars, who consigned this superlative piece of motorsport history, said: “I vividly remember, as a boy, being perched on the edge of my seat watching the ‘Mario and Ronnie Train’ of Colin Chapman’s beautiful black and gold cars dominating the 1978 Formula 1 World Championship with victory after victory. I have been hooked on Formula 1 ever since.”

However, their success was not just a one-season wonder. Designed by Lotus engineer and designer Martin Ogilvie with input from Lotus founder and team boss Colin Chapman and aerodynamicist Peter Wright, the Type 79 represented a major technological leap forward with its sophisticated ‘ground effects’ aerodynamic form, surely one of motor racing’s top three most innovative designs to date.

The concept had started with Lotus’ earlier Type 78 ‘wing car’ and was perfected with the Type 79. Harnessing a suction effect at high speed, generated from underwing floors along each side midships, to squash its tyres down on the track, thereby enhancing grip and traction, the design became the gold standard of racing which, where regulations permit, still endures after 45 years. 

While such racing results and engineering pedigree command immense historic significance, the true stature of the ‘Black Beauty’ is also magnified by the racing credentials of Mario Andretti – the perfect union of man and machine.

One of the most successful racing drivers of all time, Andretti embodied the American dream, having emigrated to the US from Italy in 1955. Just over twenty years later he had achieved the never repeated feat of winning the Indianapolis 500 (1969), Daytona 500 (1967) and the Formula 1 Drivers’ World Championship. 

To date, he is only the second American to have won Formula 1’s greatest prize, following Phil Hill, who also clinched his title at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in 1961. 

Sadly, Hill’s famous ‘Sharknose’ Ferrari which he drove to victory was scrapped by the manufacturer. As a result, this Lotus chassis offers the only opportunity to own a Formula 1 World Championship-clinching car piloted to victory by an American racing driver. 

Mark Osborne added: “This car, 79/4 or JPS22 as the sponsors preferred ticks every conceivable box. From its ‘Superstar’ driver and crown-clinching Grand Prix success to its JPS livery and pivotal trend-setting innovation, Mario’s Championship winner from 1978 stands not only as one of the most significant cars of the 3-litre F1 era, but of Formula 1 itself”.     

Maarten ten Holder, Managing Director, Bonhams Collector Cars, said: “We are excited to announce such an historic car to lead our first Grand Prix sale in partnership with Formula 1 Paddock ClubTM. This Lotus 79 encapsulates the very essence of what the series represents – innovation, advance, exploring the boundaries of technology and the insatiable hunger to win.”

As one of the world’s leading auctioneers of collector cars, Bonhams has successfully sold several of the most important Formula 1 racing cars including the ex-Juan Manuel Fangio, SWISS and GERMAN GRAND PRIX winning 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 which achieved £19.6 million ($29.6 million) in 2013, becoming the most valuable Formula 1 car to be sold at auction, a record still standing today. 

Bonhams’ first sale at a Grand Prix will debut at this year’s season-closing ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX 2023 on the weekend of 24-26 November, as the new Official Partner of the prestigious Formula 1 Paddock ClubTM.

The exciting and exclusive auction, offering a curated selection of the world’s most sought-after road and racing cars, will be staged at the spectacular Yas Marina Circuit, in front of a live audience and streamed worldwide via Formula 1 TV. 

Further consignments of important collector and racing cars are being invited for consideration. Visit Bonhams : Collector Cars or contact: cars@bonhams.com for more information.