The first game in the series was released in 1990 for most popular contemporary 8-bit and 16-bit computer systems, the Amiga version being the most technically advanced. The game allowed the player to race a Lotus Esprit Turbo SE car through several (32 in the Amiga version) circuit race tracks of varying scenery. Two player simultaneous play (with split screen) was also provided, and a choice of audio tracks to accompany races.
Each track is lap-based and consists of turns of varying degrees, as well as hills and hollows which slow down or speed up the car passing through them. Each turn is indicated by a chain of road-side signs, and the difficulty of the turn is reflected by the number and density of these signs - a feature common to all titles in the Lotus series.
While racing, the players must manage their fuel supply, occasionally visiting the pit stop for refuelling. Also apart from overtaking the other cars, the racers must avoid various hazards and obstacles. These are dependent on the scenery the track is located in, and include slippery road on the winter courses, road blocks, slippery puddles and wooden logs.
The tracks are split into three race series, with different difficulty levels. In each race the player or players compete against 20 opponents. The goal is to finish each race on the highest possible position; if the player finishes a race within the first 10 places they qualify for the next race and receive points towards a final position on the high-score table. The names of the computer-controlled drivers are puns on the names of real-life racers of the time ("Ayrton Sendup", "Nijel Mainsail" and "Alain Phosphate" for example).
Unusually, the player's starting position in each race is the exact opposite of the position reached at the end of the previous one. This gives weaker players a chance to improve by starting in a higher position.
When racing in the one-player mode, the bottom half of the screen is unused and features a static image of the Esprit Turbo. In the two-player mode one half is used by each player. The two-player feature operates similarly to the one-player mode, except that only one player needs to reach 10th place to qualify both players for the next race.
In the Amiga version entering MONSTER and SEVENTEEN as names of players 1 and 2 respectively, reveals a hidden mini-game - a simple space-themed shooter, where the objective is to survive as long as possible while shooting rocks that fly around.