ELF Petrol and Renault Turbo with Lotus make Thunder and Lightening

Sponsor, Brands, Specialists and Suppliers: The Companies that supported the Chapman /Lotus Road & Racing Programme

ELF Petrol and Renault Turbo with Lotus make Thunder and Lightening

Figure 1 . Our favourite illustration by Peter Hutton


Lotus cars sold

They were bought for their:-

  • Performance –road or track
  • Driving pleasure
  • Reputation and image
  • Aesthetics
  • Symbolism
  • Owner identification /personality extension etc.

All the above were integrated within a total framework design.

The above list is heavily dependent on a select group of components [either bought in proprietary or in house manufacture] that delivered the desired outcomes and met strict criteria.

Many of these components often contributed significantly to the overall aesthetic, many are extremely functional and beautiful in their own right .They formed part of a complementary whole.

In this series we examine:-

  • significant Individual components from all the marque types
  • Briefly explain their role /contribution /evaluation
  • Analysis form and function with regard to their integration, where appropriate
  • Provide suppliers/specialist advertising materials where appropriate

Understanding Lotus’s use of proprietary parts provides invaluable learning opportunities not just historical but right up to the present day. These lessons are not just applicable to automotive engineers/ designers but to the wider Industrial /Product Design professions.

The Skillful and creative adoption, absorption and integration of components was a powerful factor in the Chapman design methodology and contributed significantly to both competition and commercial success. It also feed his ability to mutate parts and materials to his desired ends.

The use of components is a fundamental skill of the Industrial Designer and the direct provision of added value.

The exact interpretation of sponsorship in conjunction with Lotus is difficult to establish objectively. The appearance of a sponsor’s logo on a car is not necessarily evidence of financial support. Access to historical archive and contracts is sought wherever possible but with the passage of time and for various reasons these are not always available or accessible to the public.

This series also embraces the specialist suppliers to Lotus. We are particularly interested in those suppliers and products that have a connectivity with aviation.

In constructing the historic sponsor series, the A&R looks only at the logos worn in period and assumes the company involved had no objection to Lotus promoting their products. The A&R sees much to be gained by the wider promotion of sponsors but in the event that a specific organization disapproves for any reason that article will be removed.

Sponsorship is an instrument of mutual benefit and promotion. Subscribers might like to see A&R articles on Sponsorship and Product Placement to understand the numerical / financial reach provided by sponsorship with its ability to identify and project status through identification.

The principle continues particularly with regard to education based exhibitions [see below for details]

Each of these articles is devoted to a company/ organization that is believed to have sponsored or supplied specialist items to Lotus.

The intention of each article is to: –

  1. Explain the sponsors own history and outline their products and services – past-present and future
  2. Explain the historical connection with Lotus and the contribution made both in competition and the production cars
  3. To suggest how these two interlocking facets may be translated into exciting, interpretive, educational and commercial exhibitions

Subscribers might to see complementary and structured pieces to this article: –

  • Primary sponsors like Gold Leaf / John Player Specials
  • Product Placement
  • Separate dedicated series on engines and gearbox
  • Logo on Lotus
  • See dedicated articles on engines and turbo chargers

ELF Company Profile /Abbreviated summary from the net etc.

“Elf Aquitaine’s heritage is rooted among three French oil companies: Régie Autonome des Pétroles (RAP), Société Nationale des Pétroles d’Aquitaine (SNPA), and Bureau de Recherches de Pétroles (BRP). These companies were formed to exploit the discovery of a gas field in Saint-Marcet in the Aquitaine region of south-western France. In December 1965 RAP and BRP were merged to form Entreprise de Recherches et d’Activités Pétrolières (ERAP). ERAP had SNPA, Union Générale des Pétroles (UGP), and Union Industrielle des Pétroles (UIP) as subsidiaries. The resulting company achieved vertical integration, owning assets in all phases of the petrol business from exploration and production to the filling station.

On April 28, 1967, the company’s disparate brands and products were unified under the Elf brand, Essence et Lubrifiants de France [citation needed]. Elf was the first company to pioneer a completely synthetic racing oil.

In 1973, the subsidiary SNPA set up a pharmaceuticals subsidiary called Sanofi and acquired the pharmaceutical groups Labaz, Castaigne, and Robilliart, and also bought interests in a cosmetics company.[1]:296

In 1976 Elf-ERAP merged with Antar Pétroles de l’Atlantique and became Société Nationale Elf Aquitaine (SNEA), later Elf Aquitaine. Elf Aquitaine was listed on the NYSE in 1991. In 1993 Elf was awarded the exclusive contract to the Iraqi oil fields by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.[2] In 1996 the French government sold its stake, retaining a golden share. In 2000 Elf Aquitaine merged with Total Fina to form TotalFinaElf, which changed its name to Total in 2003.”

In the Lotus era the Company was identified with the following.


“Elf chemists developed a special fuel that still met FIA’s 102 octane requirements but provided the combustion characteristic of higher octane ratings …Elf was proud of reaching almost three same levels of efficiency with fuel that was technically closer to regular petrol …

For race fans, meanwhile, there was one further benefit from the aggressive combustion.The 1.5 litre turbo cars of the 1980’s were three times louder than their muted contemporaries today “

Lotus Connections

Elf were sponsors of the type 97/98T but their logo has been seen on the type 92, 94T, 99T

Figure 2 .Editors sketch diagram drawing out an emphasis on sponsors logos worn on the type 98T

Elf and Engines from the net etc.

EF15 [edit]


“With greater fuel economy thanks to its new dimensions and a lower boost pressure, its horsepower nevertheless oscillated between 800 bhp (597 kW; 811 PS) and 1,000 bhp (746 kW; 1,014 PS), thanks to metallurgical developments in the turbochargers. It earned two race wins and five pole positions for Lotus, as well as ten podium finishes (four for the Lotus 97T, four for the Ligier JS25 and two for the Renault RE60).

  • EF15: 1.5 L (1,494 cc) Bore x Stroke 80.1 mm × 49.4 mm (3.15 in × 1.94 in) 7.5:1 Compression, two Garrett turbochargers.

“Type-B” early 1986[edit]

This engine boasted two innovative features that would soon gain widespread acceptance – static ignition and pneumatic valve actuation – which allowed it to reach 12,500 rpm. Capable of generating 900 bhp (671 kW; 912 PS) in race trim, it would record two race wins and five pole positions with Lotus, as well as five podium finishes (three with Lotus and two with Ligier). It powered the Lotus 98T and the Ligier JS27.

  • EF15B: 1.5 L (1,494 cc) Bore x Stroke 80.1 mm × 49.4 mm (3.15 in × 1.94 in) 7.5:1 Compression, two Garrett turbochargers.

“Type-C” mid 1986[edit]

Equipped with a number of new features (cylinder heads, cylinder block, waste-gate, mapping, etc.) and developing more than 1,200 bhp (895 kW; 1,217 PS) at 12,500 “

Figure 4 .Editors sketch of Renault EF 15 engine

Period Address for economic geography exercise

Renault Sport,

Usine Amedee Gordini,

1, Avenue du President Kennedy,

91170 Viry Chatillon,




4th Floor,

North Wing,

8 Fulton Road,

Olympic Officer Centre,



HA 9 0ND


Elf Petrol GB Ltd,

197 Knightsbridge,


Learning Opportunities

Our learning /educational opportunities are intended to be challenging thought provoking and requiring additional research and/or analysis.

These opportunities are particularly designed for a museum/education centre location where visitors would be able to enjoy access to all the structured resources available in conjunction with any concurrent exhibition.

Understanding the potential of componentry particularly proprietary items provides some of the following learning opportunities; in this instance we suggest the following might be appropriate:-

Specific to Elf

  • What is the extent of French Connection and contribution to Lotus particularly in the 97/98T?
  • Outline both Elf and Renault links to F1
  • Debate French national policy towards its motor industry and motor racing from the 1980’s to the present? What links Elf with Renault?
  • See previous suggestions pertaining to petrochemical sponsors
  • What was the exact chemical composition from Elf that assisted the Renault Turbo engines in era under consideration?
  • Outline national oil companies through the world, how have they developed and competed?
  • What fuel economy issues perhaps prevented Lotus being more successful?
  • What is the size and value of the industry
  • How has it changed? And what is its future 2020 onwards?
  • Discuss the relationship with a multi-national mass-production brand/manufacturer and its links, how and why did it come into existence?


  • Use a technical dictionary where needed to define components and roles
  • Was there a viable alternative to the part under consideration?
  • Is what might it have been /cost?
  • Examine the suppliers/specialist advertising what does it convey? And what is its iconography?
  • Integrate this item with our series on the economic geography of motor sports locations and manufacturing bases
  • Has the component had exposure at any motor shows?
  • Does the company continue to supply classic/heritage parts?
  • What changes in technology and materials have impacted on Lotus through its history?
  • How does component design impact on form and function
  • Does the supplier/specialist have aviation links? If so what?
  • What is the importance of ergonomics and how does it influence modern automobile design?
  • Does excessive safety/ and or ergonomics impact negatively on aesthetics
  • What is the impact of standardization of platforms through mark ranges and indeed shared with other manufacturers? Could uniformity ultimately impact on sales even if economies of scale improved?
  • Enumerate Lotus bought in components
  • How has mass production and proprietary parts assisted the specialist car market?
  • Produce an engineering drawing of a selected component and consider the specification of the materials and assembly process, costs and volume
  • Explore an enumerate supplier/specialists components used in other Industrial Design fields
  • How did the supplier/specialist extract value from their sponsorship/support?
  • Explore Graces Guide for further background detail
  • Study the economic geography of the British auto industry what factors determined locations?
  • What have been the causes of change and circumstance that have impacted on British motor industry?
  • What has been the role of F1 /motor sport valley based around Bicester?
  • What is the importance of outsourcing to the motor industry?
  • Study a British car specialist like Morgan, TVR, Ginetta or Lotus where do they source parts? What are the advantages?

Exhibitions, Education, Economics and Entertainment

In the museum context the editors believe that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with its educational objectives.

For these reasons our suggested outline Business Plan includes provision for promoting products and services which share Chapman’s ideals of mechanical efficiency and sustainability. In addition we propose merchandising that explain and interprets the social and cultural context of Chapman’s designs in period. It’s suggested there will be catalogue for on line purchasing.

In this instance we suggest the following exhibition titles might be appropriate:-

Figure 3 . Editors sketch elevation of Lotus type 97T, sponsored by John Players Special, Elf and powered by Renault


Elf Petrol Rocket fuel and Lotus launch vechicle
Elf Petrol Senna on pole position and taking advantage of a paint stripper
Elf Petrol Chemistry and transition metal
Elf Petrol High octane and knock on effect
Elf Petrol Chemical element with Lotus
Elf Petrol Noble Gas
Elf Petrol a cracking solution
Elf Petrol Solvent Solution
Elf Petrol Solvent and suspension
Elf Petrol Elf and Efficiency, the natural choice for Lotus
Elf Petrol Renault Turbo and Lotus Thunder and Lightening
Elf Petrol Solvent makes Lotus quicker round the benzenes
Elf Petrol Special Brew infuses Lotus and gets Light headed
Elf Petrol Lotus gets a Chemistry set
Elf Petrol An Elf with Wings


  • Lotus Parts: Past ,Present Future
  • Lotus Parts: The Winning Factor
  • The Principle Part
  • Act the Part
  • Assign the Part
  • Lotus Components
  • Lotus Components :Parts and Parcel
  • Lotus Sponsors, Specialist and Suppliers:Form,Function and Forte
  • Lotus Components:Parts and Partiality
  • Lotus Aesthetics : With little to spare
  • Lotus Cars: Spare and Slender
  • Product launch with title of dedicated specific relevance

Conclusion: “The whole is greater………”


“In many respects the Lotus 97/98T marked the turning point in F1 history.They were the last cars to carry the iconic black and gold John Players Special livery and they also represented the end of Renaults opening chapter in F1 with the revolutionary turbocharged engines that redefined the sight and sound of the sport.They remain the fastest Lotus cars ever built….

These cars also embraced the cutting edge of a fast changing world of technologies outside motor racing…..

The Lotus 97/98T pushed both the rulebook and technologies to their absolute limits, creating the most powerful F1 cars ever….

The Lotus 98T is synonymous with Ayrton Senna.”

The Renault Turbo charged engines, Elf fuel and Senna helped Lotus build and regain status after the sad death of Colin Chapman.

Renault continues to the present day in F1.A fuller history of Elf is available on the net.

Components were material to reliability and competitiveness.

Chapman’s design and manufacturing methodology rather confirms the adage that “the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts”.

It’s an interesting an important study to consider deployment of components. It contributes to aesthetics, assembly economics and sales [attractive components/ known accepted performance and servicing ability etc.]

It is equally and mutually relevant and beneficial to the component manufacturer.

Chapman and his colleagues often took the best / most appropriate mass produced item and almost reinvented it in its service to design objectives. In this manner many components acquired a new status and indeed their aesthetic was enhanced surrounded by the Chapman conceptual whole.

It’s also extremely significant how many of these components were also used in Lotus competition cars. This created a powerful dynamic and interrelationship. Many components:-

  • Performed well in competition gaining beneficial publicity and sales
  • Both the component and racing reputation carried through to road cars and assisted sales
  • The component manufacturer gained disproportionate publicity and assisted products sell in other applications
  • All together a beneficial spiral was commenced. Publicity of the era often opted to highlight the Lotus dimension in publicity material. In fact there was a powerful synergy.

The relationship between Lotus and is sponsor specialist suppliers is significant and worthy of close study and has lessons for Engineering, Industrial Design and Manufacturing disciplines.

Along the way it’s possible too to study the wider British motor component industry and how it has helped foster the specialist car manufacturers.

Sponsorship is a worldwide phenomenon of immense commercial impotence. Both to host and sponsor organization.

With the Passage of time it’s likely to become more sophisticated and focused and the internet /multimedia technology will play greater role.

Sponsors have existed in motorsport before Chapman but he vigorously exploited the concept with Gold Leaf c 1967/68 and set a pattern for others to follow.

Sponsors of Lotus were likely to benefit financially and in terms of exposure to an extent greater than their investment. The benefits were, and remain essentially similar to present day:-

  • Access to mass international audience consistent with mass production distribution marketing branding etc.
  • Demographics of viewing audience and interest groups
  • Additional subsidiary /secondary advertising through media, news, magazines etc.
  • Identification with market /brand /marque leader in both F1 and road cars
  • Association with success and continuity evolving, developing technology, materials etc.
  • In period the identification with the charm ,charisma and ability to articulate that Chapman possessed
  • All the attendant glamour , drama ,danger ,and spectacle of F1
  • Ability to provide conducive hospitality to conduct business
  • Cost effectiveness of audience cost ratio
  • Possible further complex corporate benefits


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ISBN: 0714838381

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The 1000

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