In 1978, Team Lotus was unstopable. The Lotus 79 was a year ahead on the other teams with its wing car design. Both Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson won races for the team. Team Lotus won the Constructors title, and Mario Andretti won the drivers title. During the season, the news reached the paddock that a Lotus B Team would drive in 1979 with the Lotus 79. Michael Bleekemolen and Rupert Keegan where the lucky drivers to drive for the team. Maybe their biggest luck was the fact that they did not drive a single meter at all with the Lotus 79 in 1979…. Yes, I am serious!
When the announcement came of a Lotus B Team the next season soon more info came about the team’s setup. BS Fabrications intended to bring the cars on the grid in 1979 with Michael Bleekemolen and Rupert Keegan as their drivers. One of Michael’s sponsors, Tonio Hildebrand, flew to England to meet up with Colin Chapman and discuss the ideas and possibilities for the team for next year. In the meantime, it came clear that Rupert Keegan was not able to find the budget to drive for the team, approx. a million dollar, however Michael’s budget to enter the Formula One in 1979 with the Lotus B Team was there.
Michael visited a couple of times BS Fabrications to inspect the car and everything went well. Until it was December 1978. While Michael Bleekemolen was on winter sport, the official driver list for 1979 was published. He had to read in a German Motorsport magazine that he was not presented on the grid, nor the BS Fabrications / Lotus B Team appeared on the list. While finance where good, the Dutch motorsport Federation, back then KNAC, “forgot” to apply the license for Bleekemolen so he would be able to drive in the Formula One.
Even though the Dutch media reported, multiple times that Michael Bleekemolen would race next year for the Lotus B Team, some official from the KNAC said on the 2nd of January 1979 to Bleekemolen that he did not know about his entry for 1979 with the new born Lotus B Team. It’s known that the KNAC in these days got a terrible management and did not really care about the drivers. The never made extra efforts if Dutch drivers got the possibility to enter the Formula One. Many (former) Dutch drivers have bad experience with the KNAC, now known as the KNAF.
Even after the KNAC made the stupid mistake not to send the necessary license for Bleekemolen they attempt to send it so the Lotus B Team could appear on the grid with Bleekemolen behind the wheel. However, it go declined for the fact that there would have been Pre-qualifications every race weekend on Friday, due the fact that there would be too much cars on the grid. Maybe it is good that the Lotus B Team never appeared on the grid.
If you look at the 1979 season, almost all teams designed and manufactured a wing car. Moreover, the successor of the Lotus 79, the Lotus 81, was not a success at all. The team only scored a couple of points that year. Probably the Lotus 79 would have been struggling in the qualification and scoring points would have been a miracle. Maybe it is better that the Lotus B Team, in the end, did not managed it to be on the grid. However, it is a good example of a passion from several people to be in the Formula One, this made it an amazing story.
How about Michael Bleekemolen in 1979? Well he drove in the Formula 3 and ended second behind Alain Prost, not bad at all!