Lotus had been struggling to find their feet after the death of company founder, Colin Chapman, passed away in 1982. However a few years later we see lotus starting to see some success with designer Gerard Ducourage and the powerhouse from Renault coupled with the talent of Senna. This car was later evolved to be come a monster, the 98T.
We kick things of in the season of 1985. Drivers Ayrton Senna and Elio de Angelis had managed to win 3 grand prix for Lotus. Things were looking good. The car was good to compete in the season of 1986, however, the FIA thought some rules changes were needed to attempt to slow these turbocharged monsters down. The limitations came in the amount of fuel a car could use during a race. This was done by limiting the size of the fuel tanks to 195L. There was also some issues regarding drivers for 1986...
#2 driver Elio de Angelis had left the lotus team in order to go to Brabham. This meant lotus had a seat open. Senna being the man he was wanted everything to go his way for the new season, with the teams focus on him as #1 driver. British man, Derek Warwick, was keen to take the drive, but Senna didn't believe that the team had the capacity to sustain two #1 drivers. As a result he threatened to leave the team along the same route as Elio de Angelis. So the great man suggested they sign his old flat mate, Maurício Gugelmin, but sponsor JPS wanted a British driver. In the end lotus got Johnny Dumfries in the seat for 1986.
Throughout the season the car used two engines. The start of the season saw the use the new EF15B V6 engine. It was later updated and called the 'D.P' engine. This engine used pneumatic valves springs for the first time. The 'D.P' engine was also hooked up to a common fuel rail for the injection and engine cooling had been revised for the cylinder head in order to help prevent pre-ignition. Power rating during the 1.5L V6 turbo era was largely guess work... hard to believe in the highest level of motorsport. However technology at the time wasn't advanced enough to keep up with the insane power; with most teams admitting that their test beds couldn't retrieve a power figure for the engines over 4 bar of boost. With this in mind Renault claimed that on de restricted boost pressure in qualifying the engine could produce around 1200BHP. A ridiculous amount to say the least... This means the engine is one of the most powerful ever in the history of F1. The issue is with running 1200BHP in that it made the engine unreliable and they would last a few clean laps before blowing up. So they ran something called "race trim" where they limit the boost pressure limiting the car to 900BHP for reliability. This season was the last that Lotus would be partnered with Renault. The engine also featured an advanced (at the time) fuel consumption micro computer.
The chassis saw some changes as well. A new 6 speed Hewland gearbox was used later in the season with the conventional 5 speed from 1985. All gearboxes had lotus casing with the internals provided by Hewland. The Hewland 6 speed box gearbox was a development box and as a result was largely unreliable. Senna knew this and opted to stick with using the 5 speed, tasking Dumfries the job of testing the new box. The carbonfibre tub saw a retouch to in order to allow for changes to the fuel tank. As a result the tub was lower than the 97T the pervious year. This allowed for better underbody aerodynamics. the cars aero was altered to to increase downforce. It also innovated two way ajustable ride height and water cooling in the intercoolers for the turbo. It was a one of the cars to see use of an early barge board. Barge boards for those who don't know are the bits of body work behind the front wheels channeling air around the car.
As always in F1 the 1986 paddock was full of teams questioning how legal the car really was. The increasing number of rumours made team boss Peter Warr issue a statement to the press after the qualifying session in Germany. The statement wanted the teams to stop with the rumors and if they were so upset with it to officially protest the car. After the statement the rumors died down but some still persisted that it was illegal. Lucky for lotus the car was never protested.
The 98T was the last Lotus to carry the famous Black & Gold colours of long-time team sponsor John Player Special. The car was one of the most iconic, beautiful, powerful and technically advanced of its time. Coupled with the fact senna won his first Grand Prix in a Lotus car its forever earned its place in the history books as one of the all time greats.