Lotus’ revised and restored Hethel test track was unveiled earlier in the week, with 1992 F1 world champion Nigel Mansell having the honour of opening the circuit in a 1981 Essex-Lotus 81B in which he started his Formula One career more than three decades ago.

Mansell led a convoy of seven racing cars from the Lotus stable, including the innovative 1980 Type 88 twin-chassis car (which the rulemakers never allowed to race), the Lotus Type 125 Exos Experience car driven by fellow ex-F1 driver Jean Alesi as well a brace of Lotus Renault GP cars piloted by current F1 stars Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna.

It was the first time that modern-era F1 cars have gone around the historic Hethel tarmac since the early 1990s. The layout of the 3.54km circuit remains the same, though one extra corner has been added, but significant work has been done on providing the track with the means to handle modern racing car and performance car testing.

The surface has new asphalt, and the track now features larger run off areas. Its mixture of corners, straight and braking zones makes it ideal for testing and optimising every performance aspect of the new era of Lotus products as well as the evaluation of car control at the Lotus Driving Academy. There’s also a new workshop, and the track will soon get a new pit building and a hospitality suite.

Mansell was certainly chuffed. “What a joy it was to be reunited with my old 81B after 30 years. This is a very special place, Hethel, and it was wonderful to open the circuit today by driving alongside my sons Leo and Greg,” the Group Lotus ambassador said.

“It’s extremely fast. The first time I went out I was surprised about the length of the straights, but then of course it’s not only for motor sport but for testing road cars. The layout is perfect for that. It’s a proper test track,” fellow Group Lotus ambassador Alesi added.

“A year ago we set out our plans to introduce a new model line up, ambitious motorsport plans and a revitalisation of the iconic Lotus brand. A year in, we are meeting all the targets and milestones we set ourselves. One of the milestones was the opening of our test track. You might say this is just a refurbishment of a track and not a major achievement in itself, and I agree,” said Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar.

“However, mentally and psychologically, seeing this project accomplished demonstrates that step-by-step our vision is becoming a reality. It shows our entire workforce and our partners that we are delivering on our promises,” he added.