How Dumfries’s Lotus F1 dream became a nightmare - Motor Informed
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How Dumfries’s Lotus F1 dream became a nightmare

Johnny Dumfries had impeccable credentials when he was signed as much as be Ayrton Senna’s team-mate at Lotus for 1986. He was a British System three Champion, and a dominant one at that. He’d been take a look at driver for Ferrari. And he’d raced in System 3000. That wasn’t the CV of a driver who was going to leap right into a grand prix-winning automotive and find yourself with simply three championship factors to his identify on the finish of the season.

To this present day, Dumfries isn’t precisely certain what went unsuitable throughout his first and solely season of grand prix racing. But speaking to him 25 years on, one will get the impression that his mind-set of thoughts performed a component.

For a begin, he admits that he was intimidated when he landed the drive within the second Lotus-Renault 98T.

That winter there had been a really public courtship between the British workforce – or maybe extra accurately, lead sponsor John Participant Particular – and out-of-work Renault driver Derek Warwick. British American Tobacco, which owned the JPS model, was stipulating a British driver to race alongside Senna, however the Brazilian hotshot, with a contract enshrining his primary standing in his briefcase, was calling the photographs. Dumfries was in impact second alternative for the seat.

“I felt barely intimidated by the state of affairs,” Dumfries admits. “It was all a bit unlucky. There had been quite a lot of drum beating in favour of Warwick. That wasn’t particularly reasonable on me, as a result of my credentials had been good.”

Johnny Dumfries, Lotus 98T Renault

Johnny Dumfries, Lotus 98T Renault

Picture by: Motorsport Images

As was his begin to the season.

“All of it started fairly nicely at Rio,” he says. “I can’t say I wasn’t ready forward of the season. I’d carried out fairly a couple of kilometres within the Ferrari in ‘85 and a little bit of operating with Lotus, and I used to be very match.”

The second Lotus ended up ninth on the Brazilian Grand Prix, however he may need completed increased however for an unscheduled pitstop, witness his fourth quickest race lap.

“I used to be fairly inspired, however I wasn’t very aggressive within the early European races,” he remembers. “I wasn’t sturdy at Imola after which I crashed in observe at Monaco, which was a reasonably disastrous factor to do.

“My confidence step by step acquired eroded and that isn’t a great mind-set for a racing driver to be in.”

“Workforce Lotus favored to run that type of workforce and Peter Warr [the team manager] was fully in love with Senna, and with good purpose. However it was nonetheless one of many prime groups and it was unimaginable to show them down” Johnny Dumfries

Poor reliability, exacerbated by having to develop the brand new six-speed gearbox, was a consider that state of affairs, claims Dumfries. “It minimize down on my mileage down and that had a debilitating have an effect on on me,” he says.

Dumfries agrees that he may need been in a greater mind-set to start his F1 journey had he graduated straight from F3. He believes that his profession was shedding momentum from the second he needed to go away F3 behind.

“I’d gone from having a extremely dominant 12 months in F3 to a surprising 12 months in 1985,” he explains. “I’d a handful of F3000 races and had that bizarre testing state of affairs with Ferrari [which signed him to develop the still-born straight-four engine]. I feel I might have been in higher form if I had acquired to F1 straight after F3.”

Ayrton Senna, Lotus 98T Renault, leads Johnny Dumfries, Lotus 98T Renault

Ayrton Senna, Lotus 98T Renault, leads Johnny Dumfries, Lotus 98T Renault

Picture by: Motorsport Images

There have been highs for Dumfries in 1986, most notably his first factors end on the first Hungarian Grand Prix. And he thinks he is aware of the rationale: “It was the primary time there for everybody.”

Dumfries reckons he may need carried out higher than his eventual fifth place: “I began to really feel drained about three quarters of the way in which by means of. It was an extremely busy circuit and highly regarded that 12 months. I began to make a couple of errors, determined to take it simple and take the factors.”

Dumfries knew that he wouldn’t be retained by Lotus because the 1986 wore on and admits that his probabilities of making it again into F1 had been all the time going to be restricted.

“That will have required me discovering a sponsor,” he says. “And that wasn’t going to occur.”

Dumfries concedes that he was very a lot a quantity two at Lotus, however had no quibble together with his state of affairs.

“Workforce Lotus favored to run that type of workforce and Peter Warr [the team manager] was fully in love with Senna, and with good purpose,” he says. “However it was nonetheless one of many prime groups and it was unimaginable to show them down.

“Solely in my most cynical moments would I say I used to be shafted. I took my probability and it didn’t fairly work out.”

PLUS: The disaster lurking behind Jaguar’s 1988 Le Mans win

A Lotus press conference for the first race of the season: Peter Warr, Lotus Team Manager, Ayrton Senna, and team mate Johnny Dumfries

A Lotus press convention for the primary race of the season: Peter Warr, Lotus Workforce Supervisor, Ayrton Senna, and workforce mate Johnny Dumfries

Picture by: Sutton Pictures

When Dumfries dominated to the 1984 British F3 title

“The very best driver we ever had in System three.” That’s how workforce proprietor Dave Worth sums up the abilities of Johnny Dumfries. Reward certainly on condition that David Worth Racing’s F3 alumni embrace Martin Brundle.

“I’m completely satisfied that our success in ‘84 was all all the way down to him as a result of it wasn’t as if we’d been a prime workforce the 12 months earlier than,” says Worth, whose cost gained the British title with 10 victories and was an in depth second within the European F3 Championship in his BP-sponsored Ralt-Volkswagen RT3. “He was supreme: each time he acquired within the automotive, he was straight on the tempo. There was no mucking round and he knew precisely what he wished from the automotive.”

Worth admits that he doesn’t know what went unsuitable at Lotus, although he has the suspicions that a driving type that had served him so nicely in F3 wasn’t so nicely suited to F1 on the time.

“Johnny was a left-foot braker when it wasn’t par for the course,” explains Worth. “In these days, Copse at Silverstone was a little bit of elevate, however he would undergo flat with trace of brake. His type of driving suited F3, however perhaps it did not swimsuit going ahead with the automobiles of the time.”

So satisfied of Dumfries’ skills was Worth that he tried to lure him out of retirement on multiple event, even on the age of 45. Bear in mind the Scot’s look on the Le Mans Take a look at Day on the wheel of a DPR-run DBA4-Zytek LM675 prototype in 2003?

Johnny Dumfries, Lotus 98T Renault

Johnny Dumfries, Lotus 98T Renault

Picture by: Sutton Pictures

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