Fujimi 1/20 Lotus 97T Renault

KIT #: 090641
PRICE: 3,600 yen (about $44), from HLJ (Regularly 4500 yen )
DECALS: Two Options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Portuguese GP 1985


The Lotus 97T was a Formula One racing car designed by Gérard Ducarouge and built by Team Lotus. A development of the Lotus 95T of 1984, it was designed for the 1985 Formula One season by French engineer Gérard Ducarouge and powered by a 1500cc Renault turbocharged engine. Sponsorship came from John Player Special and French oil company Elf. The 97T was a simple design but was robust and powerful. It used elements from the defunct Lotus 96T Indycar project in the aerodynamics. The 97T featured another innovative piece of Lotus design: an early form of bargeboards.

Lotus' major coup for 1985 was signing rising star Ayrton Senna from the Toleman team to partner Elio de Angelis. De Angelis had finished third in the previous season's drivers' championship and had had many promising results with the 95T. The 97T was a natural development, but taking into account new sporting regulation changes over the rear wings of the cars.

The 97T was very competitive during the season, taking 8 poles, 7 with Senna and 1 with De Angelis and 3 wins. Senna's first was a brilliant performance in the 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix where he won by over a minute in monsoon conditions. His second came at Spa, held in wet/dry conditions. De Angelis added a third win at Imola after Prost was disqualified.

The 97T was fast but was unreliable. Senna in particular had a run of bad luck mid season, including a huge shunt at Paul Ricard; and he retired many times while leading which cost him a possible chance at the world championship. Eventually, Lotus finished fourth in the constructors championship.

In total the Lotus 97T scored 3 victories, 2 second places and 4 third places. The car also achieved 8 pole positions and 3 fastest laps.

The car marked the start of a brief return to the successful days of the 1960s and 1970s for Lotus, which was continued by the 98T of 1986 and the Honda-powered 99T of 1987.


By now, most of you know that the de facto scale for Formula One cars is 1/20 scale and this kit continues in that mold, so to speak. This is one of the new Fujimi releases and continues with the cars driven by Ayrton Senna, whose death during racing has raised him to near mystic heights among fans of the sport.

Most of the parts are molded in black plastic to help facilitate painting. Included is an etched fret along with some strips of fabric to manufacture the racing harness. As the Portugal GP of that year was run in heavy rains, the kit includes four superbly molded rubber rain tires, the first I've seen in any GP kit.

The myriad of sprues are each individually wrapped to keep the parts pristine. In addition to all the black sprues, there is a clear sprue for the windscreen and rain light lens as well as an aluminum plated sprue for suspension and some engine bits. The car is designed to have steerable front wheels though the steering wheel is not connected. As with most F1 cars, the engine and suspension are very visible so a lot of work has gone into designing a lot of detail in to the kit. The turbo-charged 1.5 liter Renault engine is in itself a real work of art.

Instructions are superbly drawn and almost totally in Japanese, so any notes will have to be deciphered as best one can. Gunze paint references are used as is the norm with most Japanese kits. At least the paint shades are in English. There are 19 well drawn construction steps and it appears some modification to the body is required. I highly recommend photos to help you out on this and there should be plenty on the 'net. The decal sheet has markings for both de Angelis' (#11) and Senna's (#12) cars. The decals look to be well done and there are decals for the tires as well. Of course, what is missing are the cigarette sponsor, John Players, markings, leaving large gaps on the bodywork. Fortunately there are aftermarket sheets to provide what is missing, TABU decals offering one. Unfortunately they are not only somewhat difficult to locate, but pricey (about $18 with shipping). I had to visit several international hobby shops in a quest to find a set, finally locating one at Modeling Madness sponsor, Hobby Easy in Hong Kong, and they are on the way. HLJ has them listed as backordered. This sheet is also offered with all the marks instead of the ones just missing.


Another really nice F1 kit and if I wasn't such an airplane addict, I could easy see myself getting sucked into a steady diet of these kits.



February 2011

My thanks to Hobby Link Japan for the preview kit. Get yours at the link.

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