Mario Andretti’s Championship-winning Lotus 79 goes under the hammer

Sam Cooper
Mario Andretti's Lotus 79 which is up for sale. Suzuka, November 2018

Mario Andretti's Lotus 79 which is up for sale. Suzuka, November 2018

One lucky collector will get the chance to own a Championship-winning car as Mario Andretti’s Lotus 79 goes under the hammer.

The 1978 challenger was the first car to take full advantage of ground effect aerodynamics and it proved to be hugely beneficial to both Lotus and Andretti’s Championship chances.

In the first race in Argentina, Andretti pipped the Alfa Romeo of Niki Lauda to victory and although it would be five races before the American was back on the winner’s step, he then went on a run of form that saw him gain control of the Championship.

Wins in Belgium, Spain, France, Germany and the Netherlands contributed to a 64-point total, 13 more than team-mate Ronnie Peterson in second place. The Swede would die as a result of injuries caused by a crash at that year’s Italian Grand Prix.

In doing so, Andretti became the second, and most recent, American winner of the Formula 1 World Championship, matching Phil Hill’s achievement of 1961.

It was also the seventh and final Constructors’ Championship win for Lotus with the team disbanding in the 1990s before a brief return in the 2010s.

Now, collectors have a chance to own chassis 79/4 which Andretti used to win the Dutch Grand Prix in the penultimate race of the season.

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He finished just 0.32 seconds ahead of Peterson giving the American a narrow lead of 12 points in the Championship standings. However, Peterson would die in the next race at Monza.

The Lotus 79 also allowed the team to take the most wins in a single season since 1955 and in total it notched up six victories, five podiums, 10 poles and five fastest laps. Such was the dominance of the 79 over its competitors, only six races did not have a Lotus driver on the podium.

The chassis is being sold by Bonhams who in the past have auctioned the 1992 Williams-Renault FW14B, the 1993 McLaren MP4/8A and the 1954 Mercedes W196R which remains the most expensive F1 car ever sold at auction (£19.6m).

Andretti’s car is anticipated to fetch somewhere in the region of $6.5m to $9.5m (£5.4m to £7.8m) which could put it third in the all-time list of F1 cars to go under the hammer.

Collectors will have to wait a while to get their hands on Andretti’s car though as it will not go on sale until the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November.

If the car does fetch the estimated price, it will become the only non-Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren or Williams inside the top 10 most expensive with the Jordan 191 currently occupying the 10th spot.