It doesn’t happen very often, but just a few companies have chassis engineers so skilled that they become a legend within their own industry. Ferrari had Dario Benuzzi, Lamborghini Valentino Balboni. Today both Jaguar and Land Rover are blessed still to be able to call upon the services of Mike Cross.
But of them all and at least to me, Roger Becker was the most revered of all. And I’m writing this now because Roger has just died at the age of 71, and using his first name because I was lucky enough to know him a little bit.
Roger Becker was project engineering director at Lotus for 43 years and seven months, joining in 1966 when the original Elan was still in production, retiring once he’d completed work on the Evora. In that time, and while helped by many (including Jochen Rindt’s F1 team-mate, John Miles), Roger became ultimately responsible for the way all Lotus road cars felt when they reached production.
And while we might choose to criticise any given Lotus for any number of valid reasons, to my knowledge being rubbish to drive has never been among them. For their feel, their balance and poise, Lotuses were and remain the best. And more than any other single figure, we and Lotus have Roger to thank for that.
When he joined, Roger was simply an assembly line worker, but Colin Chapman soon recognised his skills and put him to work on the vehicle development team, which was working on the twin-cam Europa at the time. After that, he developed cars that have have since become part of Lotus iconography – the Esprit and Elise among them.