Lotus 59 (Formula B 1969) car-by-car histories
Lotus built the Lotus 59 for Formula 3 in 1969, and the 59B for Formula 2, but during the year some cars were also sold to the US in Formula B configuration.
Lotus had been very successful in Formula B with the Lotus 41C, and Fred Stevenson's Lotus/East Inc in Salisbury, Connecticut soon took orders for Formula B versions of the new Lotus 59. The first to arrive went to Malcolm Starr, previously a Brabham customer, and he raced it in the SCCA Continental Championship from June onwards. Stevenson's own car and that of Jacques Couture made their debuts in July, followed by a fourth car for Don Merriman which appeared at Lime Rock at the start of August. Stevenson was immediately competitive, finishing second at Road America in July, then winning the SCCA National at Lime Rock a week later and the Pro race at the same circuit the next weekend. Couture also had several victories, but these were in the Quebec Regional series, where he faced limited opposition.
The official designation of this model of Lotus is unclear. Malcolm Starr's car was only ever called a 59. Fred Stevenson's car was referred to as a 59B, but Autosport referred to it being "one of three newly delivered 59Cs". As the Team Lotus archive goes, 59C was not the official designation either. The other car included here, as it had a 'FB' prefix to its chassis number, is chassis FB-14 which was produced for Leo Geoghegan for use in Australian Gold Star events. This car was referred to both as a 59 and as a 59B in Australia. A study of race results in North America suggests that the number of Lotus 59s that raced there is significantly lower than the number of 59s that had FB prefixes in their chassis numbers, so the prefix may not be critical. As research continues into both the Formula B cars and the Formula 3 cars, the picture will become clearer.
Malcolm Starr (Union City, NJ) bought a new F2-spec Lotus 59 from Lotus East (Millerton, NY) for 1969 and raced it in Pro Formula B events that season. Malcolm recalls selling to to "a fellow named Woodbury from Virginia" which would be the William J. Woodbury Jr (Springfield, Virginia) who raced a Lotus "69" at Mid-Ohio in September 1970, and at least one SCCA National in early 1971. Subsequent history unknown.
Driven by: Malcolm Starr, John Cannon and William Woodbury. First race: Continental Divide (R3), 8 Jun 1969. Total of 10 recorded races.
Bought by Pete and Bill Pulver's Dutchess Auto in 1969 for Fred Stevenson (Salisbury, CT) to race in US Formula B and entered by Stevenson's Lotus/East Inc racing operation. The car was sold at the end of the main season to customer Bob Hebert (Monterey, MA) and driven by him at Sebring at the end of 1969 (according to Stevenson's recollection but not in reports) and then through the 1970 season. Hebert and Stevenson had new 69s for 1971 and the 59B may have returned to Stevenson and even been raced by him in some SCCA Nationals in 1971. Advertised by Lotus East in June 1972 where it was said to have been Stevenson's Bogotá car.
Driven by: WP Fred Stevenson and Bob Hebert. First race: Road America (R6), 20 Jul 1969. Total of 18 recorded races.
New to Australia Lotus importer Leo Geoghegan, replacing his very successful but ageing Lotus 39-Repco. The Lotus was fitted with a 2-litre Waggott TC4V engine and used in Australian National Formula 1 and Tasman events in 1970 and 1971. He won two Australian Gold Star race in this car, at Warwick Farm in September 1970 and at Mallala a few weeks later. After spending 1972 on the sidelines, the Lotus was sold to Bob and Gary Johns for 1973, fitted with a Ford twin cam engine, and used in Australian Formula 2 from 1973 to 1975. By 1985, it had been acquired by John Holmes (Toowoomba, Queensland), and was restored to its original Waggott configuration.
Driven by: Leo Geoghegan and Bob Johns. First race: Fuji, 3 May 1970. Total of 17 recorded races.
The first owner of this car is unknown, but by 1972 it was being raced by Phil Raeder (Delmar, NY), who had fitted a Renault Alpine Gordini engine for Formula C. Raeder qualified for the Runoffs in 1973 with this car, finishing in an impressive fourth place. He was entered during this time by Terri Novotny. The car was later acquired by Chuck Sieber, who used it in Solo II events from 1981 to 1989. He had bought the car less engine, and used a 1760 Ford twin cam, followed by an 1840cc BDA. Sieber sold the car to England in 1990. By 1996, it had been acquired by Peter Studer in Switzerland, and he restored it to F2 specification, using the Gold Leaf Team Lotus livery that was used in Formula 3. The car was still owned by Studer when he died in May 2018.
Driven by: Phil Raeder. First race: Lime Rock, 28 May 1972. Total of 5 recorded races.
Unidentified Formula B Lotus 59s in 1969
The only Lotus 59s known to have raced in the US in 1969 were those of Malcolm Starr, Fred Stevenson, Jacques Couture and Don Merriman.
It would be an understatement to say that Lotus records for the Lotus 59 range lack clarity. They start well, with chassis 59-FB-9 being shown going to Lotus East and Fred Stevenson, and the next FB car in the list is 59-FB-12 to Duchess Auto. Fred Stevenson advised in February 2013 that chassis 59-FB-12 was his car and that 59-FB-9 went to Starr. The next Formula B cars are shown as FB-13 and FB-15, but the buyers or agents are not shown. It would seem likely that these are the cars of Jacques Couture and Don Merriman. After those two, it is unclear whether chassis 18 was FB or not. After the three F2 cars, which were clearly numbered out of sequence, there is a FB-23 going to Bill Brack, perhaps as an agent, then a FB-24 and an FB-27 with blank records, but all three of these are likely to have been late-season builds.
In 1970, Lotus offered a revised 59A in Formula 3, which was described as having Lotus 69 bodywork and a "Rindt nose", and it appears the same specification was made available in the US for Formula B; these cars were entered in the US as 69Bs. Their chassis numbering was still in the 59 sequence, including known cars F2/XB-40, F2/XB-41 and F2/XB-42. It is possible '32 was also used for a US import, making the fate of '24 and '27 even harder to determine.
'the Jacques Couture car'
Jacques Couture (Laval, Montréal, Quebec, Canada) raced a Lotus 59 in Formula B in 1969, appearing in the Quebec Region's Molson Championship events in Canada, and in two SCCA Pro events at Lime Rock. He won four Molson Championship races, finishing second in the championship. In 1970, Couture raced one of the pair of new Lotuses entered by the new Jim Russell Racing Driver School which had just opened at Mont Tremblant, but may have used his 1969 car in one or two races at the start of the year. Subsequent history unknown.
Driven by: Jacques Couture. First race: Mont-Tremblant (R3), 20 Jul 1969. Total of 11 recorded races.
'the Don Merriman car'
Donald G. Merriman (Willowdale, Ontario, Canada) raced a Lotus 59 (or 59C) in Formula B in 1969, appearing in both SCCA and Canadian races. He was second at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières in September, and picked up several other good placings. He returned with the car in 1970, but his last known appearance was at Westwood at the end of May. According to Tom Johnston's book "British Racing Cars in Canada" (2011), this car was "sold in 1971 to Tom Meecham who fitted a Lotus 69 body and converted the car to Formula Ford". Johnston adds that it was at the time "owned by John Lindsey an Ontario collector". Lindsay died in 2015, and in 2018, the car was sold by his widow to Joe Griffin. Still with Griffin in January 2021, when he was restoring the car.
Driven by: Don Merriman and Tommy Meecham. First race: Lime Rock (R7), 2 Aug 1969. Total of 10 recorded races.
Formula B Lotus 59s in 1970
Of the four Lotus 59s that raced in the US in 1969, Malcolm Starr's went to William J. Woodbury Jr of Springfield, Virginia; Fred Stevenson's went to Bob Hebert of Monterey, Massachusetts; Jacques Couture's may have been retained briefly until his "69B" arrived; and Don Merriman's was also retained, at least for the start of the season. Further cars appeared in the hands of Vincent Dileo and Pierre Lambert, both of which had 1969 "twin-nostril" bodywork so are likely to be the 1969 late-season cars. Dileo's appeared too early in the season to be one of the four known 1969 cars, and photographs show Lambert's being delivered new via Montréal's Dorval airport. The chassis numbers of these two cars are likely to be from the group FB-18, FB-23, FB-24, FB-27 and FB-32.
'the John Sirmons/Vincent Dileo car'
In 1970, John F. Sirmons (Weston, CT) and Vincent Dileo (Greenwich, CT) shared a Lotus 59C, Sirmons driving it in rounds of the SCCA Continental Championship, and Dileo competing in SCCA Nationals and in Area 1 Regional Championship races. This is almost certainly the car used by Ian Ashley to win a libre race at Brands Hatch in November 1969, as the car was said to be for an American customer, and Sirmons car was later said to be a former Ashley car. Dileo won two Area 1 races at Thompson Raceway in July and August, but Sirmons had little success in Pro events. Sirmons and Dileo acquired a Lola T240 for 1971, and the subsequent history of the Lotus is unknown.
Driven by: Ian Ashley, Vincent Dileo and John F. Sirmons. First race: Brands Hatch, 2 Nov 1969. Total of 11 recorded races.
'the Pierre Lambert car'
Pierre Lambert (St-Bruno, Quebec, Canada) acquired a new Lotus 59 for the 1970 season, which was delivered to Montréal's Dorval airport via BOAC cargo. The car had the original Lotus 59 "twin-nostril" bodywork, suggesting it was one of the late-1969 cars. Lambert raced it in Molson Championship races at Mont-Tremblant and Trois-Rivières during 1970, but crashed heavily at Mont-Tremblant in late September, and the car was described as "a total loss". Lambert reappeared in 1971 with an unidentified Formula Ford Lotus, which might have been the 59 rebuilt. Nothing more known.
Driven by: Pierre Lambert. First race: Mont-Tremblant (R2), 28 Jun 1970. Total of 3 recorded races.
Formula B Lotus 59s from 1971 onwards
It would appear that six Formula B specification Lotus 59s went to North America: four in 1969 for Malcolm Starr, Fred Stevenson, Jacques Couture and Don Merriman, and then two more in 1970 for Vincent Dileo and Pierre Lambert. By 1971, Malcolm Starr's car was still with William Woodbury; Fred Stevenson's had returned to him from Hebert and was advertised by Lotus East in 1972; Jacques Couture's had not been seen since early 1970; Don Merriman's had gone to Tom Meecham; Vincent Dileo's had last been seen at the end of 1970; and Pierre Lambert's had been wrecked in September 1970.
In 1972, Phil Raeder appeared in Formula C with Lotus 59 chassis FB-15. As Couture's, Merriman's and Lambert's had gone to Canada, and as Starr's and Stevenson's have been identified as chassis FB-9 and FB-12, this is likely to have been John Sirmons and Vincent Dileo's car in 1970. Raeder only lived 150 miles from Sirmons and Dileo, and would have been competing in the same Regional events. On the other hand, Raeder's home in Delmar was also within easy reach of Willowdale in Ontario, St Bruno in Quebec, and Montréal, the homes of the Canadian Lotus 59s. The alternative is that FB-9 and FB-12 have been incorrectly identified, and that FB-15 was actually either the Malcolm Starr or Fred Stevenson car.
One of the Canadian cars will probably be the Lotus 59/69 raced by Victor Larose in 1975. Any of these Lotus 59s could have been updated with 69 bodywork and would then have become intermingled with the Lotus 69-bodied Formula B cars that were sold for 1970. Among these unresolved cars are the "69B" of Don Adley (Hamden, CT) in 1971 and 1972, the George Liebman Jr car in 1973, the "69" of Pat Phalan (Wilmington, DE) between 1974 and 1976, and the "69B" of Victor Gagliano (Floral Park, NY) also between 1974 and 1976.
Lotus 59s and Formula Ford
It has been suggested that these 59s were ideal for conversion to Formula Ford, and several of them may have ended up in that category, but Simon Hadfield has pointed out that this may underestimate the number of changes that would have been required. As well as the engine, and probably the gearbox, the uprights, hubs, brakes and wheels would all have had to be changed.
Lotus 69s were very popular in Canadian Formula Ford. Louise Roberge (Cap Rouge, Quebec), with the help of mechanic and business partner Louis Germain, raced a new Formula Ford Lotus 69 in the Molson series in 1970. Roberge also raced her 69 in the 1971 Molson Eastern Canadian Championship, as did Pierre Lambert (St-Bruno, Quebec) in his own car and Maurice Beauregard (Montréal, Quebec), R. Gould, E. Samson and S. Edgrin in Jim Russell entered Lotus 69s. Gilles Léger and Cliff Dawson were also shown as DNSs in Lotus 69s that season. In 1972, Lambert, Beauregard, Richard Doran, Victor Larose and Serge Fournier are all recorded racing in the opening round of the Championnat de Formule Ford du Quebec. In 1973, Larose continued to race his Lotus 69 in Formula Ford, and was joined at the Trois-Rivieres Formula Ford race in September by Jacques Lagourgue, Cliff Dawson, Daniel Campagna, David Houston, Serge Fournier, Peter Ananny and Tom Brown. Peter Dragffy (spelt Dradffy in results) had a FF Lotus 69 as late as 1976.
Thanks to Fred Stevenson for confirming that he had chassis FB-12 and that Malcolm Starr had chassis FB-9; and to Samuel Brown for advising that Dileo and Sirmons shared their Lola T240 in 1971, which gave the clue that their Lotus 59C was also shared the year before. Thanks also to Chris Townsend for his usual meticulous research into these cars; Bryan Miller and David McKinney for the history of the Leo Geoghegan car; Lotus historian Michael Oliver; Clive Chapman of Classic Team Lotus; regular collaborators Ted Walker, Simon Hadfield, Philippe Demeyer; and owners Chuck Sieber and Peter Studer.
These histories last updated on .