The 1987 Lotus 99T was indeed a noteworthy car in the annals of Formula 1 history.

Top key points of the 1987 Lotus 99T F1 car:

  • The first Lotus F1 car to be powered by a Honda engine
  • The first Lotus F1 car to feature active suspension
  • Driven by two of the most talented Formula One drivers of the era: Ayrton Senna and Satoru Nakajima
  • One of Lotus’ most successful cars, scoring the F1 team’s last victory before it was disbanded in 1994

Here are some additional details and insights into the car and its significance:

1. Honda Power: After several seasons of using the Renault turbo engine, Lotus switched to Honda Power in 1987. Honda’s RA166-E turbocharged V6 was a competitive unit, delivering formidable performance. By this period, Honda engines were becoming dominant forces in the sport, with Williams and McLaren also benefitting from their power in subsequent seasons.

2. Active Suspension: Active suspension was a groundbreaking technology pioneered by Lotus. This system used electronics and hydraulics to constantly adjust the car’s suspension based on track conditions and driving dynamics. While the system added some weight, its ability to maintain optimal ride height and improve tire wear, grip, and overall car balance was revolutionary. The technology was ahead of its time but was eventually banned in 1994 as it was believed to provide a significant competitive advantage.


3. Ayrton Senna: Widely regarded as one of the greatest Formula 1 drivers of all time, Senna’s skill was instrumental in extracting the maximum performance from the 99T. He won two Grands Prix in 1987 with the Lotus 99T, in Monaco and Detroit, demonstrating his exceptional talent in street circuits.

4. Satoru Nakajima: As Honda’s chosen driver, Nakajima became the first Japanese full-season driver in F1. While he didn’t achieve the same levels of success as Senna, Nakajima’s presence was significant as it heralded the growing influence of Japan in the sport.

5. Legacy: The 99T was the last Lotus car to win a Grand Prix. After the 1987 season, Lotus faced several challenges, including losing their Honda engine supply to McLaren, resulting in a period of decline for the team. Despite these challenges, the legacy of the Lotus 99T is remembered as a technological marvel and as the car that carried Senna to some of his most memorable drives.

Supported by Hagerty: The Vault’s association with Hagerty suggests an emphasis on the importance of preserving and appreciating automotive history. Hagerty is known for its classic car insurance and for its dedication to the classic car community, providing resources and services to enthusiasts.


The 1987 Lotus 99T, with its revolutionary active suspension and the might of the Honda engine, stands as an emblematic figure in Formula 1 history. Driven by the unparalleled Ayrton Senna, and marking significant milestones for both Lotus and Japanese motorsport with Satoru Nakajima, the car encapsulates a pivotal era of racing innovation.

While Lotus’ subsequent years in F1 were challenging, the 99T’s legacy is undiminished, reflecting the relentless pursuit of excellence in motorsport. With organizations like Hagerty emphasizing the importance of preserving such historical marvels, the story of the Lotus 99T serves as a poignant reminder of the blend of technology, talent, and passion that drives the world of Formula 1.

The Lotus 99T exemplifies the spirit of innovation in F1 and stands as a testament to the sport’s ability to push technological boundaries.

Petersen Museum

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