The Lotus 76 was a Formula One car designed by Colin Chapman, Tony Rudd and Ralph Bellamy for use by Team Lotus in the 1974 Formula One season. The 76 was intended to be a more advanced version of the Lotus 72, powered by the Ford Cosworth DFV and featuring modified aerodynamics, a lighter chassis, longer wheelbase and a narrower, lower monocoque. The car also featured a bi-plane rear wing, designed to increase rear downforce and stability. Additionally it had an electronically operated clutch, which was the precursor to the modern semi-automatic gearboxes seen on today's F1 cars, with the control mounted into the gearstick which theoretically speeded up gear changes. The 76 was seen as a major technological breakthrough by Lotus. Outwardly, the car looked sleek and impressive. Internally, the suspension set up and inboard brake positioning were carried over from the 72. The car's development had been paid for by title sponsor John Player Special, so the 76 was designated the "John Player Special Mk I". After initial tests by Ronnie Peterson and Jacky Ickx, both drivers complained that the car lacked 'feel' and that the electronic clutch was giving problems. The gearchange was modified, but both drivers persisted in claiming it was no better than the conventional clutch setup. Other problems with the engine installation were encountered, which led to mechanical failures and the car's weight bias being out of sync.
After the 72 was used at the first two races of the 1974 World Championship, the 76 made its debut at the South African Grand Prix. Ickx qualified 10th and Peterson 16th, before a disastrous race saw the two collide early on, Peterson retiring immediately and Ickx eventually succumbing to brake failure. The Spanish Grand Prix was more promising, Peterson qualifying second and Ickx fifth, and the Swede leading until his engine overheated, while Ickx also ran strongly before suffering another brake failure.