Our friends at the Masters series recently held their Brands Hatch Festival of Historic Racing featuring many classes and more than a few Lola’s. However, it is almost always the Sports cars that bring Lola to the fore. Whether 500 miles or 1000 kilometres, Group 7 or Group C, Brands Hatch has played host to some of the most exciting sports car races ever. The weekend saw many of the cars reliving their former glory at the Kent circuit in Sports Racing Masters and World Sportscar Masters line-ups.
The Lola T70 was winning at Brands in 1966 when John Surtees took victory in the Guards Trophy in his T70 Mkll Spider. Arguably the most successful Mkll, the Surtees car also won the inaugural CanAm series run in the USA & Canada during the Autumn. Cars from that era feature in the Sports Racing Masters series of events and are regulated to honestly represent the performance of the originals. Tyre and engine specification in particular are selected to avoid the advantage that unlimited money can create.
Easily the most populace manufacturer Lola were represented by five entries counting such Historic Racing experts as Gary Pearson, Marshall Bailey and Jon Minshaw amongst the driver roster.
World Sportscar Masters caters for the cars formerly starring at Le Mans and other international events during the late 1960’s and early 70’s - an era when the best of the 2-litre cars were frequently able to humble the big bangers. Nothing changes it seems with the quickest of the 2-litre Lolas and Chevrons still taking the fight to the 5litre T70s.
Although the Grand Prix loop should favour the Chevy powered Lola brigade last years wet races saw Charlie Kemp embarrassing the bigger engined cars with his nimble T210. Would the same happen again on a glorious sunny Bank Holiday weekend?
The start of Race one saw the Bryant T70 hold make full use of it’s pole position to lead Charlie Kemp and Andrew Smith at the close of lap one. Lap two and Smith displaced Kemp on the long back straight being content to hold station behind Bryant for the next few laps.
Fourth place was held by Richard Meins with Beighton/Finnemore, Paul Knapfield, Sean Lynn, Roger Wills, Mike Wrigley (in the second 2 litre car) and Andrew Middleton rounding out the top ten.
Scrapping for Lola 2 litre honours Bob Houghton and Neil Primrose appeared to be attached. Having his first race in the ex. Ian Giles T212 the drummer of rock band ‘Travis’, Primrose acquitted himself very well and was unlucky that he had to pit with 5 laps to go.
At the end of the sixth tour came the decisive moment of the race as, missing his braking point for Clearways, Andrew Smith ran into the nearside rear of Bryant's T70 spinning the Valvoline liveried car into the gravel and retirement.
Despite a damaged nose Smith ran out the winner with the remarkable Charlie Kemp in second. Meins, Finnemore, Lynn and Knapfield completed the top six in a remarkable 1 to 5 for Lola.
The Lola T70 MklllB was first seen at the beginning of 1969. Although fundamentally different to the Mklll in construction the designation ‘lllB’ saved the Lola Factory from the onerous task of homologating a new model. To complete the homologation process 25 cars would have to be inspected to qualify for Group 4, an obligation Lola simply could not have achieved. The likelihood is that the FIA took a lenient view following the difficulties caused when the prototype regulations were altered two years previously.
The MklllB made a grand entry to competition at the Daytona 24 Hours when the Penske Team won against the might of Ford, Porsche, Alfa and Matra works Teams. To rub salt into the wound, James Garner’s two year old T70 Mklll Coupe finished second. Sadly this event stands as the highpoint of MklllB success, the imminent arrival of the Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512 diminishing the role of the T70 to support act. Now, forty years on Lola Cars are once again producing the T70 Mkll Spider and MklllB Coupe. And to good effect as Andrew Smith will attest.
Monday was equally bright and sunny for Race 2 as the cars approached the startline in finishing order from Sunday. Smith led from the off with Beighton in close company but the Team Tiger Lola only lasted a lap before pulling off. Kemp slotted into second following Beightons’ demise holding position until the final flag.
The Bryant family demonstrated their speed with a rapid rise to third position from the next to last row of the grid. The Valvoline liveried MklllB was driven with verve but by lap 8 was slowing with terminal maladies, finally disappearing on lap 10.
Shuan Lynn was another to make a good start and ran well in the top ten until lap 13, unlucky for him as he gradually slipped back retiring to the pits at the end of the 17th tour.
Clockwise from TL; Shaun Lynne, David Coplowe and Alfa, Richard Meins, Bob Houghton leading the 2litre brigade.