The legend of the ‘Phoenix’ is a story of everlasting life, reincarnation following fiery death and a life of beauty and greatness. It is probably stretching the imagination just a little to liken Neil Fowlers’ Lola T580 with ‘The Phoenix’ of Greek mythology but the comparison does bear some scrutiny.
Lola Formula Ford 2000 Chassis number T580/HU14 was sold new on 31/1/1980 to Keith Lawrence. Not much is known about Mr. Lawrence’s career with save that he sold the to David Jacklin, who later sold on to Seamus Doyle at the start of the 1987 season. Jacklin had enjoyed a measure of success with the car including winning the BARC Sabre Fabrications championship in 1984. Jacklin also ran Peter Boutwood in it who in turn won the 1986 BARC Phoenix Banner Towing championship in dominant fashion.
Seamus soon ran into problems when the chassis was badly damaged after a heavy impact into the concrete barriers on the outside of Macleans at Donnington.
Seamus told LH;
“It caught fire briefly and I was taken to hospital with suspected broken legs but was lucky to escape with a few stitches. It was still quite early in the 1987 season, only my 4th outing in the car. Results up to then had been encouraging, 4th in the first race in the BARC URS Championship round on the Brands GP circuit, 3rd overall and a FF2000 class win including a lap record in 750MC F4."
"My car was well and truly wrecked by Dermot in a testing accident at the newly re-configured Snetterton in May 1990, this was a life threatening accident which left him in a coma for several days, from which he thankfully recovered. Dermot retired from racing and I took over his car.”
Anything useful from the wreck was removed and put in store for HU3 which Seamus was still racing.
Many years passed with Seamus and Dermot continually promising to begin the rebuild, while the remains lay in Seamus’s garden under a tarpaulin. By the end of 2009 the Doyles had probably forgotten the car was still lurking in the darkest depths of the garden however they were to be reminded when Rob Fowler got wind of it’s whereabouts. Fowler had for some years been guiding son Neil in his preparation and race hire business whilst also freelancing building houses and moaning about everything in general. Former BRM engine builder Rob is the erstwhile partner of Rick Hall in what was probably the original and best-known historic racecar preparation firm, Hall and Fowler.
Being a master of opportunity Rob persuaded Seamus to sell what was left of the wreckage and together with Neil set about rebuilding the car – not an easy task! To straighten the chassis a number of cuts were made to release tension in the damaged areas with the frame than being bolted into a jig whilst the new rails and fittings were welded in. The completed frame was next sandblasted and stove enamelled for an original look and feel to it.
Seamus was able to provide some items of running gear and Rob soon rounded up any missing components from firms such as Universal Racing Services, who provide parts for many competitors in the Ford 2000 series, which they also sponsor. Final assembly went well but not quickly as Neil also had his customer cars to prepare and by this time the 2010 season was under way.
A target was set to debut the car at the HSCC event on the weekend of 15th/16th May at Silverstone. This would be a major event for the Ford 2000 enthusiasts with a bumper entry of 44 cars covering just about every manufacturer involved in the original series. Sure enough the car was ready in time and in an eye catching black and yellow livery it certainly did not disappoint.
Despite only having one test run at Mallory Park #14 was quick enough for pole position. Arch rival (and close friend) Russell Love was a fraction slower in his Renard which augured well for an exciting race come Saturday afternoon.
Sadly the expected battle did not materialise as Neil romped to a an easy victory following Russell’s early demise when the hub pulled out of his clutch centre plate. However there was much joy for Neil Fowler Motorsport who’s customers Simon Toyne and David Wild took the other podium places giving the Team a 1,2,3 clean sweep.
HU14 continues to race as it passed into the hands of Phil Walker and in 2014 it was re-acquired by it's former owner David Jacklin.