Click on the photo for a gallery of the Elise GT1
For an all too brief period in the mid-90s, racing fans were treated to the sight of the fastest road-going exotic cars in the world competeting against each other on the world's stage. It began in 1994 with the victory of the Dauer 962LM. The 962LM was an 80's era Group C Porsche 962 that had been modified for road use, and then brought back to Le Mans under the new GT rules. Following the success of the McLaren F1 taking 1st, 3rd,4th, and 5th overall at Le Mans in 1995 with an almost stock car, many other teams started preparing cars like the Ferrari F40, Jaguar XJ220 and Lotus Esprit for the BPR GT series, which was later subsumed by the FIA..
What began with production exotics being modified with the necessary safety equipment to race, quickly evolved into manufacturers seizing an opportunity. The rules required a minimum number of road legal examples to be built and then modified for racing. Companies like Porsche and Mercedes seized on this to design pure race cars which were then dialed back just enough so they could be licensed, which ultimately resulted inthe 911 GT1 and CLK-GTR.
Lotus created a GT1 version version of the Esprit, which had been racing with some success in lower classes like GT2 and the SCCA World Challenge in the US. The then twenty-year-old Esprit just couldn't cut in the big leagues, though, so the new turbocharged V-8 was moved to a new platform. The Lotus Elise was still new to the world when Lotus decided to stretch the body longer and wider and put the V-8 in the back for the 1997 FIA GT series. The Lotus V-8 was also inadequate for competition and the race cars instead used the LT5 V-8 that Lotus had designed earlier for the Corvette ZR-1. Unfortunately, the little racers from Hethel couldn't keep up with the Germans and a lack of resources prevented adequate development so the project was largely abandoned. One of the seven Elise GT1s that were built, however, is available on eBay right now and, at the time of writing, hasn't yet hit the reserve price.
Thanks to Mike for the tip!