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23rd April 2003

All-new Lotus Type 119B debuts at Goodwood testing

Lotus Engineering’s new gravity soapbox racer is charging down the famous Goodwood hillclimb course in Sussex for the first time today as it attends the first test day for the 2003 Goodwood Gravity Racing Club Soapbox Challenge. Hot on the wheels of last year’s tremendous overall third place for the ground-breaking Type 119, the Lotus Type 119B is aiming for victory at the Goodwood Festival of Speed weekend in July.

As with its successful predecessor, the Type 119B project is being run from Lotus Engineering’s Norfolk (UK) base by some of Britain’s brightest young engineering graduates. Concept work started in October before an invitation to return to the Soapbox Challenge had even been received! "There was so much to do we decided to start on designs in anticipation of Lotus being asked to return to the event," explains 23-year old James Setter, project leader. "We were thrilled when we received the invitation from Lord March to attend testing and qualification. Now, after a lot of fun and hard work, we are looking forward to representing Lotus and its incredible motorsport heritage at Goodwood."

The new Type 119B is nearing the end of a comprehensive eight-month design and development programme. True to Lotus-founder Colin Chapman’s principles, the team is using advanced technologies and an innovative approach to steal its competitive advantage. With an evolution of the 2002 design, Lotus’ second gravity racer retains many of the materials and technologies, but critical design elements have been improved and some components replaced to increase speed and reduce drag and friction.

To achieve these improvements, the project team has had access to the advanced facilities and unrivalled engineering expertise of their more experienced colleagues at Lotus. "The soapbox project provides the graduates with training in project management and exposes them to Lotus’ strengths in innovative design and advanced technology," explains Simon Wood, commercial director at Lotus Engineering. "By working through problems with technical experts in the company, they learn an enormous amount very quickly on an enjoyable programme. And of course we hope that translates to successful qualification and a victory in July at the Festival of Speed!"

The Lotus Type 119B was designed using CATIA Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) software, incorporating digital modelling of 22-year old pilot Malcolm Barnett to ensure the highly advanced tub chassis fits his body like a glove. The chassis material is the same lightweight and exceptionally stiff carbon fibre composite as last year, but the team will conduct wind tunnel testing to refine the aerodynamic profile. Also, the larger 26-inch wheels fitted this year have been chosen to maximise the top speed and should enable the vehicle to achieve speeds of up to 60mph down the Goodwood Hill. Other leading design features and components from the cutting edge of motorsport are being kept under wraps and away from prying eyes at this stage, to be revealed later in the testing programme.

With cutting-edge technology and refined design, the Lotus Type 119B team is confident of impressive testing and qualifying sessions. But it will be an agonising wait until July to see if the 2003 Soapbox crown will be coming to Norfolk.