I bought T290 HU08 in 2007 and since then it has been totally restored including reproducing all of the original decals from 1972. It has taken over a year to rebuild and we were very frustrated when we could not race in the earlier WSM events. However we were determined to make the Silverstone Classic. As well as the car being totally rebuilt we also ran with a Cosworth Vega engine. The Vega produced good power in 1972/3 but had a reputation for unreliability. There were certainly many people – competitors/engine builders/organizers who felt that we were heading for DNFs. The engine has been rebuilt and is in fact slightly de-tuned to make it reliable.
Due to last minute irritating problems, apart from 4 laps at Mallory, the car was running for the first time at Silverstone. I have not driven a race car for 3 years and even then not many races. So to give the car the best chance to shine and to help me sort it, I asked Anthony Reid to help with the driving. Anthony had been a BTCC champion and more importantly has raced a Lola at Le Mans, at one point running in 3rd place splitting the Audis.
We did 5 laps in untimed testing and 7 laps in qualifying. I did my 3 compulsory laps. Anthony was brilliant in that he was making changes to the set up after just one lap. We moved the car on in the set up by about 3 years of me driving alone. Throughout the qualifying and testing we were suffering terrible fuel starvation problems. So much so that on left handers, you would have to put the car into neutral and then let it bump start again.
Having said that and with the car not right Anthony qualified in 12th position with almost the same time as last year’s pole time. The car however was too soft at the front and overnight Vin Malkie fitted harder front springs and totally rebuilt the fuel system.
Come race day we had no idea how the car would run or handle. We agreed that if it still had fuel problems, then we would retire. If it ran OK then Anthony, who was more experienced at such a crowded grid and therefore was starting the race, would continue until we brought him. Our thoughts were that the car could run faster than qualifying if it did not have the fuel problems. On the first flying lap Anthony had moved to 7th from 12th. On lap 13 he was leading the race by half a second. By 20 laps he was over a lap ahead. Partly due to pit stops of course.
The 290 looked by far the prettiest on the grid and now it was leading the race! The team were thrilled and totally captivated by the progress of Anthony Reid and the Lola 290. All those hours of work and doubts were now a memory and from very long faces in the morning everyone had a grin from ear to ear.
When I took over for the final 20 minutes, it was downhill of course. We finished 3rd in class and fastest lap. Not the fault of the Lola but purely the driver.
The car and Vega engine are fantastic. In qualifying when many press photographers were taking pictures they all remarked how beautiful it is. In the morning of the race one team manager/driver who had 3 FVC cars in the race said that he had not expected the Vega to last through qualifying. Being typically Anthony, he still feels that there are many more adjustments to be made.
So if it looks right it goes right! The Lola 290 HU08 with Cosworth Vega is without doubt a race winning car – by a long way. It should have been Anthony Reid on the top step.
Maybe next time!