Goodwood Festival of Speed
One of the most shocking scenes in the film Senna is Martin Donnelly’s horrific crash at Jerez in 1990.
The camera pans up on a twisted figure of a driver lying in the middle of the circuit, still strapped into his racing seat.
Donnelly got back behind the wheel of the car he began and ended his F1 career in for the first time at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The Lotus 102
The 102 was one of the last F1 cars produced by the original Lotus team, and the last which ran in the bright yellow of cigarette brand Camel.
It was heavily based on the 101 used in 1989, with most of the changes to the design made to accommodate the taller driver pairing of Donnelly and Derek Warwick, and the new Lamborghini V12 engine.
Donnelly and Warwick sat high in the car and, by the standards of modern Formula 1 cars, looked extremely vulnerable.
The chassis lacked grip and, all too often, the engine wanted for oil, displaying a voracious thirst for lubricant.
Despite the problems with the car and the untimely end it brought to his F1 career, Donnelly remembered it with some fondness.
Speaking before the Festival he said: “It’s a bit like an old girlfriend, you fall out with it 20 years ago and it keeps coming back to bother you.
“It was unlike anything I’d driven before. The first test at Silverstone the acceleration and cornering was mind-blowing. With each lap you had to speed up your mind to what the car was doing.
“Every time around I thought I can go quicker here. That was the biggest adjustment, getting in tune with the speed of the car.
“It was an era where the financial divide between the teams was growing. Really you needed an Adrian Newey and lots of budget to compete.
“That said, at Lotus we made the best of what we had received from Camel and I think put together a very tidy car.”
Donnelly’s best result with the car came at the Hungaroring, two places behind Warwick in seventh, which at the time was worth no points instead of six, as today.
The Jerez crash
There were eight minutes left in the first practice session at Jerez when Donnelly’s car speared off the track in the sixth-gear right-hander behind the pits.
A failure in the front suspension was suspected to be the cause, but the extensive damage to the car made it difficult to be certain.
Donnelly was gravely injured and was kept in a coma for weeks. He suffered multiple broken bones and head injuries – the force of the impact cracked his crash helmet.
After a long convalescence he eventually returned to racing, though he never raced in Formula 1 again.
Donnelly got back behind the wheel of a Lotus 102, similar to the the one he crashed, at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Read more about the crash here:
Lotus 102 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed
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