Established in 1958 by Eric Broadley MBE, Lola is proud to be Great Britain’s longest-serving manufacturer of racing cars. After an extraordinary rise to prominence, in which it mastered all spheres of the sport from humble club classes to Formula 1, and endurance sports racers to Indycars, Lola was at the forefront of the worldwide motorsport industry for over fifty years. This enviable position was then consolidated under the ownership of Martin Birrane who took over the company in 1997, with the introduction of advanced technologies to keep its products winning in the 21st century.
Drivers of Lola cars scored points in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship from the marque’s debut season in 1962. Lola’s roll of honour also includes no fewer than eleven CART championship titles, three Indianapolis 500 wins and the 1978 USAC Triple Crown, ten Indy Lights and eight US/European/Tasman Formula 5000 titles, victory in the 1963 Monaco Formula Junior Grand Prix, the inaugural Can-Am Challenge series of 1966, the 1969 Daytona 24 Hours, the 1973 European 2-litre Sportscar Championship, five successive Can-Am titles, fourteen Japanese Formula 3000 crowns, ten FIA International F3000 championships and three Sports Car Championships in 2001 alone. Additionally, Lolas have carried amateur and professional competitors to countless championships and race victories on every major continent.
LOLA: THE EARLY DAYS
The roots of the remarkable Lola story were sown in 1957, when quantity surveyor Eric Broadley built the 1172cc Ford-engine "Broadley Special" for the "Ford Ten Special" class and raced it with his cousin Graham, the Special was a winner and almost immediately Broadley started designing a Climax-engined successor which was the the basis of the Mk1. Eric's career as a racing driver was short lived, in his own words "The Mk1 proved too quick for me. I was a very hairy and inexperienced and could not do justice to the car." A year later, using his £2000 savings, Eric formed Lola Cars Ltd and designed and built the very first Lola which was constructed at Maurice Gomm's West Byfleet workshop. At the time this area was a hotbed of racing car construction with both Brabham and Cooper nearby.
During the next four years thirty-five of the multi-tubular spaceframe Mark 1 (usually Coventry Climax-engined) 1098cc sports racers were built at business partner (and future Lola works manager) Rob Rushbrook’s garage in Bromley, South London.
The cars were offered in a wide variety of configurations as regards choice of engine, gearbox, wheels and tyres to allow the purchaser to fit the car to his budget. Before the advent of the Mk1 sports racing was very much dominated by Lotus and Elva however success was immediate with Peter Ashdown in particular leading his class with win after win. Amongst all of these successes was Lola's first continental victory at Clermont-Ferrand and the Mark 1 would be the first sports car of any size to lap Brands Hatch in under one minute.
Fortunately, many Mk1s have survived and can be seen at Historic events all around the world where they are still just as competitive.
THE FIRST SINGLE-SEATERS
It was only two years after setting up Lola Cars that Eric Broadley took the plunge and entered the competitive world of Formula Junior with the Mk2. Nicknamed the "mini-Vanwall", the Mk2 was a front-engined design with double wishbone front suspension with unequal length trailing wishbones and drive shafts at the rear. The 997cc Ford 105E engine came with either two SU or Weber carburettors, the gearbox was a modified 4-speed BMC A series. Lockheed drum brakes were fitted all round as were magnesium bolt-on wheels. The Mk2 had a reputation for good handling but suffered engine and transmission reliability problems. Highlight of the 1960 season was a 1-2 at the Nürburgring for Dennis Taylor and South Africa's John Love.
Although no match for the Lotus 18 and the Cooper T52 results for the Mk2 were promising enough to see the creation in 1961 of the first rear-engined Lola, the Mk3, it's 18 guage spaceframe comprising of 1" and 3/4" tubes. The suspension was similar to the Mk2 but the fuel was carried in a central tank which gave the driver a forward seating position. A 5-speed Hewland VW based gearbox was fitted and the engine now used twin Weber 40 DCOE2 carbs. Results were generally poor and Broadley later admitted he wasn't happy with the design.
The Mk5 of 1962 was largely a redesign of the Mk3, results were adequate with a win at the Circuito del Garda for David Hitches and a second for the same driver at the Coupe de Paris at Montlhéry. There were several other top six finishes including a 3rd at Chimay for John Hine. The 1963 update, the Mk5a, won eleven national and international races including the Monaco GP support for Dick Attwood, other noted Mk5a drivers included John Hine, Dennis Taylor and Eric Offenstadt.
LOLA IN FORMULA 1
Looking back through the history of Lola one of the oddest aspects is the apparent lack of interest in Formula 1, in the 47 years of Lola racing almost every appearance of Lola F1 car was as a commissioned project run by teams other than Lola.
Lola's first flirtation with Formula 1 was early in the company's life when the Bowmaker Yeoman Team, run by the legendary Reg Parnell, approached Eric Broadley and asked him to design and build a Grand Prix Car for the 1962 season, the result was the Lola Mk4. The Mk4 was a conventional design by 1962 standards, it was based on the Mk3 Formula Junior car and comprised a spaceframe chassis with wishbone and radius rod based suspension front and rear and outboard springs and dampers. The car was initially fitted with a 4-cylinder Coventry Climax engine and a 5-speed Colotti gearbox, after a handful of races a V8 Climax was fitted. Drivers were the ex-motor bike World Champion John Surtees and the experienced Roy Salvadori. Results were mixed with Surtees winning the non-championship "2000 Guineas" at Mallory Park and leading for a long time at Reims in another non-championship race. Unfortunately reliability problems ruined many Championship rounds, Surtees did take pole position for the Dutch GP at Zandvoort and took 2nds at Aintree for the British GP and the German GP on the mighty Nürburgring there was also a 4th at Monaco but otherwise the cars struggled. Continual changes were made during the season to the suspension and a 6-speed Colotti was tried. The modified version was named the Mk4a but sadly the design was overtaken by the opposition during the year. The cars continued into 1963 driven by Chris Amon and Mike Hailwood but they were no longer competitive.
It would be 1967 before Lola were involved in F1 and it wasn't with a Lola it was a Honda! John Surtees had been struggling with the overweight Honda RA273 all season and realising something needed to be done he approached Lola and a T90 USAC car was hastily modified to accept a Honda V12 via a tubular sub-frame and with revised suspension it immediately made its mark by winning the Italian GP and finishing 4th in Mexico. The car was officially the Honda 300, the Lola type number was the T130 but to all motor racing fans it will forever be the "Hondola". The 1968 Honda, a development of the RA300, was a combined effort between Lola's Eric Broadley, Honda's Yoshiro Nakamura, Derrick White and Surtees and to Lola it was the T180 but it raced as the Honda RA301, results were disappointing other than a 2nd in France and a 3rd in America.
Graham Hill bought Lola back into F1 in 1974 when following the setting up of his own team he was looking for a chassis to use until his own Hill chassis was ready. The T370 was a conventional mid-seventies Ford "kit-car" with its Ford DFV engine and Hewland gearbox, suspension was outboard all-round with wishbones at the front and a top link/twin lower links and twin radius rods at the rear. The cars were generally reliable but not too quick and team leader Graham Hill, arguably a couple of years past when he should have called it a day, was the only points scorer with a sixth at Sweden. Guy Edwards, Peter Gethin and Rolf Stommelen did not trouble the scorers.
The next F1 car to bear the Lola name wasn't really a Lola, in 1985 a new team entered Formula 1, sponsored by the Beatrice Corporation the cars were built by the FORCE team and run by Carl Haas. Eric Broadley was retained as a consultant although Neil Oatley, Ross Brawn and John Baldwin were the designers, the cars were called Beatrice-Lolas and bore the THL1 type number. Powered by a Hart turbo the car ran towards the end of 1985 and the beginning of 1986 and driven by Alan Jones and Patrick Tambay the cars were occasionally quick but unreliable. A Ford turbo-powered THL2 appeared partway through 1986 and was an improvement but under-powered and a fourth for Jones at Austria was the only significant result.
After a brief hiatus Lola returned 1987 for perhaps their most serious tilt at F1 racing when they were commissioned by Gérard Larousse and his financial backer Didier Calmels to design and build a car. The resulting LC87, an Eric Broadley-Ralph Bellamy design, was a pullrod suspended, carbon composite chassis powered by a 3.5 litre Cosworth DFX and employing a Hewland FGB gearbox. Development was carried on during the year, mainly concentrating on weight saving and the LC87 took sixth on three occasions as well as finishing second in the "Colin Chapman Cup" for normally aspirated cars, drivers were Philippe Alliot and Yannick Dalmas.
Eric Broadley and Chris Murphy developed the car into the LC88 for 1988 the major difference was the fitment of a pushrod front suspension. The season was disappointing with no finishes in the points for any of the four drivers Alliot, Dalmas, Aguri Suzuki and Pierre-Henri Raphanel.
For the start of the 1989 season a Lamborghini V12 was fitted and the chassis designated LC88B. The 1989 design, the LC89, saw the addition of Gérard Ducarouge to the design team and the adoption of the Mauro Forghieri designed Lamborghini V12 engine and transverse gearbox. Pushrod suspension was used all round and following the current design thinking the chassis was very narrow. Engine reliability problems hampered early season development and the only decent finish was a sixth for Philippe Alliot in Spain, other drivers were Michele Alboreto, Eric Bernard and Yannick Dalmas.
A further development of the Lamborghini powered car was seen in 1990, the LC90 with Chris Murphy doing the design. Eric Bernard and Aguri Suzuki ran well all season taking several sixth places but the highlight was Suzuki's third at the Japanese GP.
The following year's LC91 saw a switch to Hart-tuned Cosworth DFRs as the Lamborghini V12 was no longer available, drivers continued to be Bernard and Suzuki. Sadly very poor reliability saw the Lola in the pits more than on the track and two early season sixths were the only highlights of a disappointing year.
It was only two years before Lola returned to F1 when they joined forces with BMS Scuderia Italia in 1993 to produce the Ferrari V12-powered T93/30. The engines were not the latest designs used in the works Ferraris but several developments behind. Sadly this was another Lola F1 disaster, the cars were too heavy, the engines under-powered and the cars failed to qualify on a number occasions and when they made a race reliability was a frequent problem. Some indication of their lack of performance can be gauged by the fact that two drivers of the quality of Michele Alboreto and Luca Badoer couldn't qualify higher than 21st all season but, even today, using a customer Ferrari engine in F1 is no guarantee of success.
1997 saw Lola's final try (to date) at Formula 1 and it proved to be one of the biggest disasters in Lola's then 40 year history. Ironically it was to be the first entry by a works Lola in F1 after all the years of building cars for other teams. Lola built and tested a prototype car in 1995 in preparation for their return, Alan McNish was the test pilot. A sponsorship deal was signed with Mastercard and work began on the Ford Zetec-R powered car. Unfortunately Mastercard pushed Lola to enter the 1997 season, a year earlier than planned. This meant that the T97/30 had to be designed by Eric Broadley and built in about 6 months, so rushed was development that the new car never even saw a wind tunnel, a prerequisite of the late 1990s. The T97/30 debuted at the Australian GP where the cars were over 13 seconds off the pace, it was clear that the cars had a major design flaw that could not easily be fixed. The Mastercard sponsorship was dependent on people joining the credit card programme as a result of Lola's racing activities, this meant that payments were small in the early stages so finances were too tight to do anything. Sadly the Australian round was to be the only appearance of the T97/30 and Lola withdrew from Formula 1. The repercussions of the fiasco would see Lola nearly go to the wall until Martin Birrane stepped in to rescue the ailing company and return it to it's former glory.
FROM BROMLEY TO LA SARTHE
The success of the Mk1 was followed by a partnership with the Ford Motor Company, which resulted in the 4.2-litre Ford V8-powered Lola Mk6 GT. The Mk6 took Lola to Le Mans for the first time in 1963 – having been driven there on the road from Lola’s Bromley base. Impressed by this Ford contracted Eric Broadley to develop the Mk6 and directly from this sprung the Ford GT40 series which dominated sports car racing until the end of the decade, winning the French 24 hour classic from 1966 to 1969.
During the mid-sixties, Broadley's latest sports car thinking resulted in the legendary T70 series of brawny V8-engined machines which first emerged in 1965 and immediately set the pace at home and overseas. Armed with an open Mk2 Spyder version, John Surtees won the first Can-Am Championship in 1966. Roger Penske knew a good thing when he saw one and was soon campaigning the later Mk3B (the closed coupe version) in long distance events. Driven by Mark Donohue and Chuck Parsons, the Penske Lola won the 1969 Daytona 24 Hours, proving the design’s reliability.
Notable victories for the T70 include Denny Hulme at the TT, the Players and Martini Trophies and Frank Gardner with the Brands Hatch and Mallory Park Guards Trophies. Other T70 winners included Jo Bonnier, Brian Redman, David Piper, Trevor Taylor and Paul Hawkins.
DEVELOPMENTS ON ALL FRONTS
Cars for USAC championship racing followed. The first was the T80 which Al Unser took to 9th in 1965. The following year its successor, the T90, won the 1966 Indianapolis 500 race driven by 1962 Formula One World Champion Graham Hill and in 1967 Al Unser would gain another second. Lola’s first ‘big-banger’ T140 Formula 5000/Formula A single-seater, its suspension derived from the T70 sportscar, entered the fray in 1968.
Lola's first foray into Formula 2 was in 1964 when the new Formula 2 regulations came into force which meant that all the constructors were starting from a level playing field, design a chassis, buy a 1-litre Cosworth SCA engine and a Hewland 5-speed gearbox and you were ready to race.
Lola's first Formula 2 design was also one of their most successful in this class, the 1964 T54, it was effectively a Mk5A F Junior chassis with an SCA engine, driven by Dick Attwood it took second to Jim Clark's Lotus on its debut at Pau. This was swiftly followed by a win at Aspern and another second at the Nürburgring but as the new Lotus and Brabham designs came on song the T54 slipped back. Appearing later in the season the T55 showed no great improvement in form, although Attwood took second at Albi towards the end of the year and Tony Maggs took third in September at Snetterton.
The monocoque T60 was the 1965 offering and some more promising results were achieved during the year with Dick Attwood and Tony Maggs taking a 1-2 at the Rome GP and Chris Amon and John Surtees weighing in with wins at Solitude and Oulton Park. Another good result was Dick Attwood's runner up slot for the second year running at Pau.
1966 saw an updated T60 on offer, the T61, the season was dominated by the all-conquering Brabham-Hondas and the T61 saw very little success with only a fourth for David Hobb's at Barcelona to lighten the gloom. The other Midland Racing Partnership drivers, Dick Attwood and Frank Gardner managed the odd fifth and sixth places during the year. John Surtees debuted the new T62 at Karlskoga towards the end of the season and ran as high as third before a broken doughnut put him out.
BMW commissioned a chassis for the 1967 season to take their Apfelbeck-designed engine which featured radially-positioned valves, and these cars were always entered as BMWs although to everyone else the were the Lola T100. The BMW cars were largely unsuccessful, the engine was down on power compared with the Cosworth FVA, it was unreliable and the engine was physically tall and heavy which did not help with the handling. The BMW drivers were Hubert Hahne and Jo Siffert and over the season the only top six result was a fourth at the Eifelrennen for Hahne. John Surtees bought a pair of T100s for his own team and tried both the BMW and Cosworth engines, his team mate Chris Irwin found himself with the BMW-powered car whilst Surtees himself generally used a FVA. Surtees choice proved the right one and he steered his T100 to victory at both Mallory Park and Zolder, where he defeated Jim Clark, he did take a second at the Eifelrennen with the BMW-engined car showing that perhaps the Apfelbeck engine could be successful with the right driver.
Team Surtees continued with the T100 in 1968 whilst a new T102 was developed for BMW , this was essentially a T100 with a rear subframe added that would accept the new 4-valve 1600cc BMW engine that replaced the Apfelbeck. Jo Siffert led at Hockenheim and finished fourth at Albi with the T102 but Hahne never seemed to get on with the new design. Before his terrible career-ending sports car accident in the Ford 3L at the Nürburgring Chris Irwin took a win at the Eifelrennen in the Team Surtees T100 FVA but the couple of other T100s that appeared achieved little.
Lola took a three year sabbatical from Formula 2 returning for the final year of the 1600cc regulations in 1971. The new chassis was the T240 a small, distinctive design with it's low slab-sided fuel tanks, front suspension was by double wishbones whilst at the rear it was reversed lower wishbones and twin radius rods, but unfortunately no serious development work was carried out. The car was entered by Jo Bonnier and the only result of note was a sixth for Helmut Marko at the Nürburgring. For 1972 a revised T242 was planned but in the event it only raced in Formula B in North America.
In 1975 American Ted Wentz was racing a Formula Atlantic T360 in the UK and he converted his chassis to F2 by adding the required deformable structure and fitting a Swindon Ford BDG. The car was renamed a T360B and entered in the Thruxton and Silverstone rounds of the European Championship without worrying the usual runners.
1976 saw a semi-serious return to Formula 2 for Lola with the T450 which consisted of a conventional monocoque with a tubular engine subframe to take the BMW or Ford engine, suspension was narrow track and outboard. With no major teams or drivers, except arguably Mikko Kozarowitzky and Ian Ashley (who tried the BDX version), running the T450 results were poor with a number of non-qualifications. Roland Binder updated a car to a T450/460 (the T460 was the 1976 F Atlantic car) for two races in 1977.
The T550 was introduced in 1977, it was a much lightened version (by some 130lbs - 59kgs) of the T450, it was powered by Holbay-tuned Abarth engine. Roberto Marazzi had a single outing at Silverstone but failed to qualify. In addition Alo Lawler fitted a Swindon Ford BDX to his T462 F Atlantic car and tried the two UK rounds but non-started at Silverstone and non-qualified at Donington.
Unusually for 1981 Lola became involved with another company's design when they took on production of the Toleman TG280 which had been designed by Rory Byrne and John Gentry, it had largely dominated the 1980 Formula 2 season and for 1981 Lola offered a nearly identical copy, to Lola it was the T850. Unfortunately the works Docking-Spitzley Team only sorted out (inadequate) sponsorship at the last minute and as a result only received their cars 5 days before the first race. The delays and lack of sufficient finance put the team on the back foot all year but despite this Stefan Johansson won two races at Hockenheim and Mantorp Park and had a second at Vallelunga to finish 4th in the European Championship.
Lola built no more Formula 2 cars and indeed Formula 2 was replaced by the newly introduced F3000 in 1985, a formula in which Lola would have some success.
For a company whose raison d’etre was building customer cars Lola and Formula 3 were for many years very uneasy bedfellows. Despite the huge popularity of the class over the last 50 years F3 was never seen as a very high priority and it showed in Lola’s lack of any real success for many years.
The first F3 Lola was the 1964 T53 which was a converted F Junior Mk5A, only a single car was built and not surprisingly perhaps no significant results were achieved. 1966 saw Lola’s first F3 win when Mike Beckwith took the T60 (a dual F2/F3 design) to victory at Monza in the XV Trofeo Bruno e Fofi Vigorelli. However rather than being a spur to Lola it seemed as if success in other forms of racing, notably Sports Cars with the T70 and Indianapolis with the T90 pushed F3 into the doldrums and a lack of development soon saw the chassis lose its competitive edge. For the next few years Lola announced F3 designs but a lack of interest from customers meant that none of the cars were ever raced or often even built.
It would be 1975 before a new F3 Lola appeared, the T350, however it was not a success only appearing for one race where it failed to start. Things did not improve noticeably over the next few years, despite the best efforts of famed Lola development driver Mike Blanchett and Nigel Mansell, with Birmingham’s finest managing a best of 4th at Silverstone at the end of 1977 in his T570. 1978 wasn’t much better with Mike Blanchett and Arie Luyendijk managing a few top six finishes in the T670 which was derived from the T570.
To emphasise Lola’s apparent confusion no less than two designs were tried in 1979, the T672 (a revised T670) and the ground-effect T770. It made no difference, the T672 wasn’t competitive against the ground-effect March and Ralt and the T770 just didn’t work. However Mike Blanchett extensively tested the T770 during the off-season and it became the T770/2 in 1980 and suddenly Lola were back on the pace with Blanchett taking an early season 2nd and 3rd. Unfortunately the team running the T770/2 hit financial problems and only a few more races were undertaken.
1980 saw the end of Lola’s F3 participation until the end of 2002 when Lola in collaboration with noted Japanese manufacturer Dome produced the F106/03 which was immediately on the testing pace against the previously all-conquering Dallaras. In Japan there were two victories in the 2003 All Japan Championship whilst in the UK Adam Carroll had some promising runs in his F106/03. Things were even better in 2004 with Brazilian Joao Paulo de Oliveira taking second in the standings in the Japanese Championship with six victories and Danny Watts winning a round of the British Championship with the F106/04, the first non-Dallara victory in the UK for 11 years. Success continued into 2005 with Danilo Durani winning two British F3 Championship rounds and Stephen Kane one in their Lola B05/30 Mugen Hondas.
In 2006 Ho-Pin Tung won the very competitive German F3 Recaro Cupin the Lola B06/30 Opel-Spiess which dominated the season but once again other classes of racing took greater priority and Lola once again faded from F3.
Lola moved to its current Huntingdon base at the end of 1970, where Formula 5000 continued to be a specialty. Following Australian Frank Gardner’s development work with the F2-based T300 prototype in 1971, Lola’s T330 set new standards of design in 1972 and T332 evolutions of the car, entered by US Lola importer Carl Haas, won a hat-trick of SCCA/USAC titles from 1974-1976 in the brilliant hands of Briton Brian Redman. Bob Evans also won the Rothmans European title in 1972 in a T332.
Going back to Eric Broadley’s sports car roots, Lola had also set new parameters of excellence in the new 2-litre class, his open monocoque chassied T210 having taken northern rival Derek Bennett’s Chevron concern, which was still using spaceframe coupes, by surprise in 1970. European agent Jo Bonnier, a Swiss-based Swedish veteran, won the drivers’ title. Austrian Helmut Marko won it in 1971 with its successor the T212, helping Lola to the manufacturer’s crown.
The ultra-successful and extremely attractive Lola T290 family of cars (and the 3-litre T280 series, powered by Formula 1 Cosworth DFV engines) are hallowed as classics of production racing car design. Rightly so, since Eric Broadley and Bob Marston were joined on the design team by youngsters Patrick Head and John Barnard, whose genius went on to span Formula 1 World Championships and Indycar racing, and continues to leave an indelible mark on motor sport.
THE NINETEEN SEVENTIES: 1000 LOLAS
It was the mid-1970’s when Lola re-entered Formula 1 with its T370, commissioned in 1974 by Graham Hill's Embassy-Hill team and driven by the double World Champion, as well as Guy Edwards, Peter Gethin and Rolf Stommelen. A year later, in 1975, Lola celebrated the production of its 1000th car. The company had, since the T200 model took it into the booming Formula Ford 1600 market in 1970, consistently supported the aspiring professional racer. Lola was also ready for the FF2000 wings and slicks category (for cars powered by Ford's 2-litre Pinto engine) which followed.
Drawing on its 2-litre sportscar experience, Lola dominated the new Sports 2000 Series from the outset in 1977 with a series of cars that managed to be both very competitive and very attractive and many of them are still running in Historic events some 25 years later.
The next major international landmark in Lola's history was achieved in 1978, when Al Unser won the Indianapolis 500 at a speed of 161.363 mph. What makes this win even more impressive was that Unser was the only Lola in a field of McLarens, Eagles, Penskes, Lightnings and Wildcats. A year after the company re-entered the USAC fray, Unser became the first driver to win all three 500-mile races (the others being at Pocono and Ontario Motor Speedway) in one season, appropriately, he drove the T500 model.
THE NINETEEN EIGHTIES: ATTACKING ON ALL FRONTS
The mid-1980s saw Lola enter the new Formula 3000 category from its beginning in 1985, and construct the Lola-T86/10 Corvette GTP car which won IMSA’s prestigious Miami Grand Prix road race. Lola also built a Formula 1 car for Gerard Larrousse’s fledgling equipe, which finished runner-up in the 3.5-litre atmospheric class, secondary to the big-league teams with their much more powerful 1.5-litre turbocharged engines.
Towards the end of the eighties, Lola marked its entry into Japan by exporting its T87/50 F3000 car. Kazuyoshi Hoshino won the Japanese Formula Championship straight off, and Lola driver Hitoshi Ogawa backed this up by winning the title in 1989.
Lola was also commissioned by Chevrolet to produce their T710, (Corvette GTP) for the IMSA series, which set many lap records. In America too, Nissan, (via Electramotive Engineering of El Segundo, California), commissioned the T810 series of Ground effect Sports Prototype cars for the turbocharged Nissan V6 engine. In developed form, this chassis won the 1988 and 1989 IMSA Championship, driven by Geoff Brabham.
THE NINETEEN NINETIES: ALL ABOUT F3000 AND CART
Lola victories continued thick and fast into the nineties when the company won three successive European Formula 3000 Championships. In 1990, expatriate Dutchman Arie Luyendijk won the Indianapolis 500 race in a T90/00 and Mark Blundell set the new lap record at Le Mans in a Lola-built Nissan. These cars were among the fastest of the enormously popular Group C cars, achieving almost 250 mph at Le Mans and they went on to have long and distinguished careers at Daytona, in America, and in the Japanese Sportscar Championship and dominate Historic Group C racing today.
These were golden Indycar years too, 1990 saw Al Unser Jr take the laurels in the Galles-Kraco Lola Chevrolet, in 1991 it was the turn of Michael Andretti (Newman-Haas Racing) and Bobby Rahal (Rahal-Hogan) won CART’s Indy Car Championship. In Japan, Ukyo Katayama won the 1991 All Japan Formula 3000 Championship and the following year it was Mauro Martini with Nova Engineering, Lola also taking three of the top four positions.
In 1993, Nigel Mansell won the Indy Car championship for Lola and the Newman Haas Team after leaving the Williams Formula 1 team. The 1993 Indianapolis 500 saw Lolas finish from second to tenth after Arie Luyendyk took pole position with a lap of 223.967 mph. It was another victorious season in Japan with Kazuyoshi Hoshino taking the All Japan crown. Further Championships would follow in 1995 and 1997, and subsequently, Lola was rewarded with the contract to supply spec cars for the one-make FIA International F3000 series.
A NEW CENTURY AND THE END OF A LEGEND
In its final years under Eric Broadley's reign, Lola won all four single-seater formulae, but its re-entry into Formula 1 proved ill-starred and financially crippling. Martin Birrane purchased the company in 1997, Birrane’s enthusiasm for the marque dates back to him being an owner and entrant of the T292 in which Chris Craft won the 1973 European 2-litre sportscar series, as well as his own driving of various Lola models, including racing at the Le Mans 24 Hours. Birrane is the proud owner of a classic Lola collection that he presently competes in Historic race series.
The details of this history show that Lola's race-winning reputation is second to none. For over 50 years Lola has manufactured competitive, innovative cars that have been driven by the finest talents in motorsport. Their efforts and the design, engineering and manufacturing skills of Lola’s workforce which now exceeds 220 people, have assisted the company in achieving its success and have gained international recognition as the global market leader. Such is Lola's reputation that the company was chosen to provide the chassis for the new A1GP series that proved such a success.
In 2006 the Lola B06/30 totally dominated the German Recaro Formula 3 Cup winning no less than 15 of the 20 races that comprised the Championship whilst Lola drivers took first and second in the final standings.
In 2010 Lola continue with their love of sports car racing, their LMP1 and LMP2 designs taking class and outright victories in the both the Le Mans and American Le Mans series.
Sadly, in 2012 Lola Cars and Lola Composites ceased trading after a period in Administration but Martin Birrane is still confident that the Lola name will return to the world of motorsport.