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THE LOLA T260
It was of course Lola who won the first Can-Am championship in 1966 when John Surtees steered his T70 to three victories in the series and of the remaining three rounds Dan Gurney and Mark Donohue won one each in their T70s. However 1967 saw the arrival of the unstoppable orange force, Team McLaren or "The Bruce and Denny Show" as their almost total domination became known but Lola were still in there fighting all the way. John Surtees and Mark Donohue took third and fourth in 1967 with their T70 Mk3Bs with Surtees winning the final round at Las Vegas. For 1968 Lola designed the T160 but with most of the major teams and drivers switching to McLaren and the threat of the Chaparrals results were poor with a best finish of fourth with Swede Savage, Sam Posey and Chuck Parsons each managing this position. A new car was developed for 1969, the T163 and Chuck Parsons showed that if you forgot the works McLaren M8B there wasn't much wrong with it when he took third in the overall standings with a best result of second at Riverside. Peter Revson was drafted in to drive the T222 in 1970 and although he frequently qualified up at the front of the grid poor reliability saw too many retirements, best finishes were second at Mid-Ohio and thirds at Donnybrooke and Laguna Seca.
1971 saw Lola wheel out the big guns in an effort to halt the McLaren juggernaut, not only a new car, the T260, but also something special in the driver department, World Champion Jackie Stewart. To complete the package the very experienced Carl Haas team would run the new contender.
The T260, designed by Bob Marston with Eric Broadley overseeing, comprised a full monocoque in L72 and NS4 light alloys bonded and riveted together with the fuel bags in either side of the tub with a total capacity of 60 gallons. The oil tank was contained in the rear of the left-hand fuel section. The rear of the monocoque reached to the back of the engine which was sandwiched between two bulkheads, a bell-housing supported the gearbox and absorbed suspension loads. Cooling was via two brass-finned Serck radiators mounted behind the driver's shoulder level and fed by two large NACA ducts on the top of the bodywork, the radiators vented through the large louvres in the rear bodywork. Two oil coolers were mounted behind the water radiators and used the same ducts, an additional transmission cooler lay flat over the gearbox. The bodywork was evolved following extensive tests in the Specialised Mouldings wind tunnel and featured a short, bluff nosecone with gauze-covered holes on the top to equalise pressure. At the base of the nose were two air ducts to feed air to the front discs, at the rear two ram pipes on the top of the rear body section collected the cooling air for the rear discs.
The front suspension on the T260 consisted on unequal length wishbones, the upper ones were triangulated to form bell-cranks that operated Bilstein dampers and coil springs which lay almost horizontally across the front of the tub. Rack and pinion steering was ahead of the front suspension. At the rear there was a short adjustable top link and a long radius arm attaching to the front engine bulkhead, a lower member extended rearwards to a cross-member bolted to the rear face of the gearbox. The springs and dampers fixed to the lower member and transmitted their load to tubular outriggers on the gearbox bell-housing.
Lola-made centre-lock, peg-drive magnesium wheels were fitted, diameter was 15 inches with 10.5 inch front and 17 inch rear Goodyear tyres. The battery was mounted in the nose and a Graviner fire extinguisher was fitted behind the dashboard.
The engine was a 496 cu in (8.1 litres) V8 Chevrolet tuned by George Foltz, it produced some 700+ bhp and 618 lb-ft of torque, Lucas fuel injection was fitted with a Scintilla Vertex magneto and a Hewland 4-speed gearbox transmitted the power.
Jackie Stewart and the T260 came very close to dethroning the previously invincible McLarens with a series of highly competitive performances but ultimately reliability problems were the Lola's undoing. Things started positively with a pole position at the opening round at Mosport Park but as a sign of things to come the T260 retired when the gearbox lost its oil. Things improved at the next round when Stewart steered the Lola to victory at St Jovite after starting second but it was a false dawn. The T260 was always on the pace in qualifying never being out of the top four but three DNFs hampered Stewart's chances, there was another win at Mid-Ohio and a couple of seconds but the McLarens dominated being both fast and more importantly reliable. Stewart finished third in the final championship standings but he only managed half the points that champion Peter Revson accrued.
For 1972 HU2 was sold to Racing Specialities who ran it for Tom Heyser and Reine Wisell (once), Heyser finished 9th at Edmomton and Laguna Seca and 10th at Donnybrooke. HU1 went to Jerry Hansen who only raced it once at Donnybrooke were he retired.
Both T260s continued to race in 1973. HU1 went to Bob Nagel, entered by Nagel Racing, he took a 3rd at Mosport, 4th at Riverside, 6th at Road Atlanta, Road America and Laguna Seca. HU2 continued with Tom Heyser and John Gunn (in the second half of the season) but no top six results were obtained.
1974 was the final season for the T260 in what was now becoming a very poorly supported series. Nagel started the season with 4th at Mosport and repeated this result at Mid-Ohio and Road America with HU1. Gunn continued in HU2 taking 3rd at Road America and 5th at Road Atlanta.
The 1971 Can-Am: What might have been.
Round 1: Mosport Park
The T260 got off to a flying start in the opening round at Mosport by grabbing pole position from the two works McLarens and then leading the race from Denny Hulme but an oil leak from the transmission saw the gears seize after 19 laps.
Round 2: St Jovite
The second round at St Jovite saw Stewart put the T260 on the front row next to pole sitter Hulme whose McLaren M8F led from the start but Stewart sat in second some 5 seconds behind until lap 52 when Hulme, who was tiring from a stomach bug that had laid low most of the McLaren team, had to slow due to exhaustion. Taking advantage of the ailing Hulme Stewart blasted into the lead which he held to the chequered flag.
Round 3: Road Atlanta
It was Road Atlanta for round three and Stewart started from third on the grid and trailed the two orange McLarens in the opening laps but on lap 3 Stewart forced the T260 into second and on lap 8 he passed Peter Revson for the lead. Sadly lap 13 saw Stewart into the pits with a left rear puncture, by the time the tyre was changed and the engine had restarted the T260 was three laps down in 21st place. Stewart hurtled back into the fray and immediately began to make up places but another pit stop was needed on lap 27 to tape up disintegrating bodywork. Despite these setbacks Stewart was still racing and he set a fastest lap 1.3 seconds faster than his qualifying time and 0.3 faster than Hulme's pole. Any hopes off a good result were dashed on lap 62 when Stewart had to pull into the pits and retire with the right rear damper broken.
Round 4: Watkins Glen
Watkins Glen, round four, and the T260 was back on pole again with the ever present Hulme and Revson right behind. As the starter dropped the flag Stewart got the best start to put the T260 into an immediate lead from Revson and the Lola and McLaren began a serious battle that lasted until Stewart had to pit with another puncture loosing a lap while the wheel was changed. Once again Stewart refused to be beaten and began to fly setting the fastest lap of the race so far but on lap 56 Stewart switched off the Lola when he felt some strong vibrations which proved to be a failing transmission.
Round 5: Mid Ohio
The Can-Am circus moved onto Mid-Ohio where Stewart was less than happy with the state of the track, he found the surface excessively bumpy and he was appalled by the trees and telegraph poles surrounding the course. After complaining to the organisers much overnight work was carried out to remove some of the trees and poles and add straw bales were possible but after looking at the result Stewart declared he would run but he wouldn't race. Some sympathy for Stewart's position could be felt after the bumpy track caused three rear suspension failures to the T260 during qualifying. Despite all these problems Stewart lined up third on the grid and was lying second behind Revson at the end of the first lap but the McLaren swiftly drew away as Stewart kept to his word and drove well within himself. It looked all over but on lap 72 the UJ on Revson's driveshaft failed (the same problem had sidelined Denny Hulme) and Stewart took the lead and the race win, victory going to the tortoise not the hare.
Round 6: Elkhart Lake
Elkhart Lake was the next stop and Stewart was third fastest in qualifying but his engine, which had been used at Mid-Ohio, was beginning to tire. A new engine was installed for the race but high temperatures were being recorded on the T260's gauges during warm-up which it was hoped were caused by a vapour lock in the cooling system. Stewart ran second in the early laps but after 10 laps the engine was smoking and Stewart parked it, later examination showed the dropped cylinder liner which had been responsible for the high engine temperatures.
Round 7: Donnybrooke
Donnybrooke and round seven, and the T260 featured revised rear suspension but the McLarens were getting better and better and Stewart's third fastest time in qualifying was two seconds away from the "Denny and Pete Show". At the start Stewart got away superbly and led for two laps until Revson found a way past, the T260 then had the sister McLaren climbing all over it but Hulme was unable to pass as the McLaren was loosing grip in the slipstream of the Lola. The positions remained the same until lap 22 when Stewart felt something amiss and pitted, nothing could be found so Stewart resumed in tenth, a lap and a half down. The Scot hauled T260 back to fourth but another puncture saw Stewart back in the pits, all hope of a good result was now gone and the T260 trailed in sixth, two laps down.
Round 8: Edmonton
Three rounds to go and it was Edmonton in late September,
the T260 featured a revised nose shape designed to give some downforce and the rear wing was moved further back to balance the new nose. Once again Stewart hustled the T260 to third on the grid and as the flag fell on a wet track a great start saw the Lola into the lead. Stewart found the T260 handling well in the rain and gradually extended his lead over firstly Jackie Oliver's Shadow and then Hulme's McLaren after the New Zealander passed the Shadow. Stewart was still leading comfortably at half distance but a trip onto the grass when lapping Motschenbacher seemed to loose the fine edge of the Lola's handling. Gradually Hulme closed the gap and he suddenly found himself in the lead with 13 laps remaining, the deteriorating handling caught Stewart out and he spun. The T260 resumed in second but with it's former superiority now gone Stewart settled for the runner up spot.
Round 9: Laguna Seca
Laguna Seca, the penultimate round, the T260 had lost its high downforce nose from the previous round and now featured a huge, none too elegant, front wing projecting out in front of the nosecone. Stewart could only manage fourth in qualifying behind the McLarens and David Hobbs in a Ti22 but come the race and Stewart soon demoted Hobbs and after 10 laps he passed Hulme who had some broken valve springs in his engine. Revson seemed secure 25 seconds ahead of Stewart but a collision with the lapped Hiroshi Kazato meant a quick pit stop to secure a loose door on the McLaren and Stewart was now only nine seconds behind. Revson started to pull away again but with 20 laps to go Revson felt his engine loose power, he carefully nursed it over the remaining laps but with two laps to go blue smoke began to emerge from the car. Revson drove the last two laps very carefully and crossed the finishing line first but it was Stewart who took the chequered flag as Revson had been shown a black flag, Revson claimed he hadn't seen it. The Carl Haas team protested Revson and the results were pending for some hours but eventually Revson got the win but received a $250 fine.
Round 10: Riverside
The end of the road saw the weary teams at Riverside on the last day of October and once again Stewart was the qualifying bridesmaid lining up third yet again, the T260 now featuring sideplates on its rear wing. It was Denny Hulme who took the lead at the start but Stewart got up to second as Revson who was looking for points to clinch the Championship didn't argue the point. Although unable to challenge Hulme Stewart was running happily in second until a piston failed on lap 27.
So that was the end of the 1971 Can-Am Championship, Stewart finished an honourable third to the two McLarens, he had been their only consistent competitor over the ten rounds and there was a certain "what may have been" feeling over the whole series, if only reliability had been better and punctures had been less.
1971 CAN-AM CHAMPIONSHIP: Jackie STEWART - LOLA T260