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THE LOLA T500

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Although Lola had an excellent record with Indy cars taking fifteen wins, twenty-three seconds and eight thirds it had been six years since they had last built a car, 1972's T270 but in 1978 they returned with the T500 which would show they could still make a winner as Al Unser and the Chaparral team making history by winning USAC's Triple Crown; The Indianapolis 500, the Pocono 500 and the California 500.

The T500 featured inboard front suspension with a rocker arm at the top and a lower wishbone, the steering was mounted on the top of the tub so that the steering arms emerged from the bodywork behind and in-line with the rocker arms for improved aerodynamics. At the rear the spring/dampers were outboard with a top link, lower wishbone and twin radius rods. The disc brakes were outboard front and rear and the twin water radiators were mounted at the rear of the monocoque, just in front of the rear wheels.

Aerodynamics and generating downforce were becoming more and more important in USAC racing, being driven by advances in Formula One, and the T500 featured, following testing, a rudimentary skirt to help control underbody airflow and front and rear wings were fitted, the rear wing being the, then popular, deep-dished "Banana" design. The monocoque was relatively narrow especially at the front meaning the front suspension was long to give the necessary front track and the wheelbase of 110 inches made it one of the longest cars in USAC racing that year.

Power came from the Ford Cosworth DFX, the short-stroke turbocharged version of the F1 V8 DFV, capacity was 2.645 litres which, with 80 ins of turbo boost. gave 840bhp @ 9500rpm. All this power was transmitted to the road via the 4-speed Hewland LG500 gearbox and 14X15 inch rear wheels fitted with 27.0/14.0-15 Goodyear tyres. Front wheel size was 10X15 inch with 24.0/10.0-15 tyres.

The T500 had a very successful season taking Al Unser to second in the 1978 Championship standings and, if it hadn't been for seven races where he didn't finish, he might well have won as he was only 122 points short of the champion, Tom Sneva, who ironically didn't win a race all year. The season started indifferently for Unser qualifying and finishing tenth at Phoenix but a third at the next round, Ontario, showed the Chaparral team were getting the hang of the new car. A bad accident at Texas in practice, round three, saw Unser miss the race and the next round at Trenton.

Unser was now facing sorting a new chassis for the Indy 500, but he was able to qualify fifth and won the race when the engine of leader Danny Ongais failed with fifty-five laps to run to take the first leg of the Triple Crown. The next two races saw a DNF and an eighth before The Pocono 500, the second leg of the Triple Crown, Unser was only able to qualify in tenth but a brilliant tactical race saw him do the race on one set of tyres and, by conserving fuel, was able to get by on less pit stops than his rivals to win from the McLaren of Johnny Rutherford.

Four indifferent races followed with two DNFs, a fourteenth and a fifth before the final leg of the Triple Crown, the California 500 at the Ontario Motor Speedway. Qualifying seventh Unser moved up the field until, with five laps to go, it looked as if he would have to settle for second, but leader Gordon Johncock suddenly slowed, out of fuel, and Al had taken the Triple Crown, the only driver to manage this feat. The rest of the season was a disappointment with only three DNFs, a fourth and a fifth to show.

A contemporary Autosport news item gives the price of a T500 as £31,000 and a Cosworth DFX at around £16,000, that's £184,000 and £95,000 respectively at 2018 rates.

DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase: 110ins - 2800mm
Front Track: 62.75ins - 1593mm
Rear Track: 62ins - 1574mm
Weight: 1598lbs - 725kg

Year(s) of Construction: 1978-1979

Total Built: 5
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1978 Indianapolis 500 Results

Finish Start Driver Car # Sponsor/Name Chassis Engine Laps Status
1 5 Al Unser 2 1st National Travel Check Lola 78 Cosworth TC 200 3:05:54.99 161.363
2 1 Tom Sneva 1 Norton Spirit Penske PC-6 Cosworth TC 200 Finished
3 6 Gordon Johncock 20 North American Van Lines Wildcat 78 DGS 199 Flagged
4 13 Steve Krisiloff 40 Foreman Industries Wildcat DGS 198 Flagged
5 7 Wally Dallenbach 6 Sugaripe Prune McLaren 77 Cosworth TC 195 Out of fuel
6 19 Bobby Unser 48 ARCOgraphite Eagle 78 Cosworth TC 195 Flagged
7 20 A. J. Foyt 14 Gilmore/Citicorp Coyote Foyt TC 191 Flagged
8 23 George Snider 84 Gilmore/Citicorp Coyote Foyt TC 191 Flagged
9 15 Janet Guthrie 51 Texaco Star Wildcat DGS 190 Flagged
10 8 Johnny Parsons 16 1st National Travel Check Lightning Offy TC 186 Flagged
11 30 Larry Rice 35 Bryant/WIBC Lightning Offy TC 186 Engine
12 33 Mario Andretti 7 Gould Charge Penske Cosworth TC 185 Flagged
13 4 Johnny Rutherford 4 1st National Travel Check McLaren 77 Cosworth TC 180 Flagged
14 28 Jerry Karl 88 Machinists Union McLaren Offy TC 176 Flagged
15 24 Joe Saldana 69 Wize-Guy Carpet Eagle 73 Offy TC 173 Flagged
16 31 Gary Bettenhausen 98 Oberdorfer King 76 Offy TC 147 Piston
17 25 Mike Mosley 78 Alex Foods Lightning Offy TC 146 Broken gear
18 2 Danny Ongais 25 Interscope Racing Parnelli Cosworth TC 145 Piston
19 10 Dick Simon 17 La Machine Vollstedt Offy TC 138 Wheel bearing
20 26 Jim McElreath 26 Circle City Coal Eagle 74 Offy TC 132 Engine
21 18 Tom Bigelow 43 Armstrong Mould Wildcat 76 DGS 107 Broken connecting rod
22 9 Larry Dickson 80 Polak Construction Penske PC-5 Cosworth TC 104 Lost oil pressure
23 3 Rick Mears 71 CAM2 Motor Oil Penske PC-6 Cosworth TC 103 Engine
24 21 Pancho Carter 8 Budweiser Lightning Cosworth TC 92 Broken exhaust header
25 11 Roger McCluskey 11 National Auto Engineering Eagle 76 AMC 82 Clutch
26 17 John Mahler 39 Tibon Eagle Offy TC 58 Broken timing gear
27 14 Tom Bagley 22 Kent Oil Watson 77 Offy TC 25 Overheated
28 22 Salt Walther 77 Dayton-Walther McLaren Cosworth TC 24 Transmission
29 16 Spike Gehlhausen 19 Hubler Chevrolet/WIRE Eagle 74 Offy TC 23 Wrecked SE
30 29 Phil Threshie 87 Tutwiler Lightning Offy TC 22 Lost oil pressure
31 32 Jerry Sneva 30 Smock Material McLaren Offy TC 18 Broken rear end
32 12 Sheldon Kinser 24 Thermo-King Watson Offy TC 15 Lost oil pressure
33 27 Cliff Hucul 29 Wendy's Hamburger McLaren Offy TC 4 Broken oil line
-- -- Gary Bettenhausen 95 Dairy Queen Kingfish Offy TC -- Did not qualify
-- -- Larry Cannon 85 Dayton-Walther Wildcat X -- DNS, too slow
-- -- Pancho Carter 78 Alex Foods Lightning Offy TC -- Did not qualify
-- -- Bob Harkey 4 X Eagle Offy TC -- DNS, too slow
-- -- Gary Irvin 9 Tassi Vatis X X -- Did not qualify
-- -- Jim Hurtubise X X Mallard FE Offy TC -- Did not qualify
-- -- Mike Hiss 7 Gould Charge Penske PC-6 Cosworth TC -- Raced by Ma. Andretti
-- -- Mike Hiss 66 Penske Racing Penske Cosworth -- Did not qualify
-- -- Bubby Jones 18 Simon Shopping Centers Wildcat 2 Offy TC -- Did not qualify
-- -- Gordon Johncock 51 Texaco Star Wildcat DGS -- Did not qualify
-- -- Lee Kunzman 90 X Sugai Fox Offy TC -- Did not qualify
-- -- Al Loquasto 8 Frostie Root Beer McLaren Offy TC -- DNS, too slow
-- -- Graham McRae 33 Dayton-Walther McLaren Offy TC -- DNS, too slow
-- -- Graham McRae

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Dayton-Walther McLaren Offy TC -- Did not qualify
-- -- John Martin 2 Wheel Center Eagle Offy TC -- Did not qualify
-- -- Bobby Olivero 78 Alex Foods Lightning Offy TC -- Did not qualify
-- -- Billy Vukovich, Jr. 18 Longhorn Racing X X -- DNS, too slow
-- -- Billy Vukovich, Jr. 93 McCord Auto Supply Eagle Offy TC -- Did not qualify
-- -- Eldon Rasmussen 58 Rent-A-Racer X X -- Did not qualify
-- -- Larry Rice 6 Bryant/WIBC Eagle Offy TC -- Did not qualify
-- -- Larry Rice 65 City of Syracuse Eagle Offy TC -- Did not qualify
-- -- Roger Rager 9 Dairy Queen Dragon Offy TC -- Wrecked qualifying
-- -- Roger Rager 97 Dairy Queen Dragon Offy TC -- Did not qualify
-- -- Dick Simon 27 Bryant Heating & Cooling Vollstedt Offy TC -- Did not qualify
-- -- Chuck Gurney 57 Crower Cam Eagle Crower -- Did not qualify
-- -- Mel Kenyon X X X X -- Did not qualify
-- -- Vern Schuppan X X X X -- Did not qualify
-- -- Ed Finley X Olmstead Eagle 73 Volker -- Did not qualify
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T500 1978 USAC National Championship Trail Results

DATERACE/VENUEENTRANTDRIVERRESULT
18th March Jimmy Bryan 150, Phoenix International Raceway 1st National Travel Check Al Unser 10th
26th March Ontario 200, Ontario Motor Speedway 1st National Travel Check Al Unser 3rd
23rd April Trenton 200, Trenton International Speedway 1st National Travel Check Al Unser DNS
28th May International 500 Mile Sweepstakes, Indianapolis Motor Speedway 1st National Travel Check Al Unser 1st
11th June Mosport Park 300k, Mosport Park 1st National Travel Check Al Unser DNF
18th June Rex Mays Classic, The Milwaukee Mile 1st National Travel Check Al Unser 8th
25th June Pocono 500, Pocono International Raceway 1st National Travel Check Al Unser 1st
16th July Michigan 200, Michigan International Speedway 1st National Travel Check Al Unser DNF
23rd July Atlanta 150, Atlanta International Raceway 1st National Travel Check Al Unser 14th
6th August Texas Grand Prix, Texas World Speedway 1st National Travel Check Al Unser DNF
20th August Tony Bettenhausen 200, The Milwaukee Mile 1st National Travel Check Al Unser 5st
3rd September California 500, Ontario Motor Speedway 1st National Travel Check Al Unser 1nd
16th September Michigan Grand Prix, Michigan International Speedway 1st National Travel Check Al Unser DNF
23rd September Trenton 150, Trenton International Speedway 1st National Travel Check Al Unser 4th
1st October Silverstone Indy, Silverstone 1st National Travel Check Al Unser DNF
7th October Brands Hatch Indy Trophy, Brands Hatch 1st National Travel Check Al Unser DNF
28th October Bobby Ball 150, Phoenix International Raceway 1st National Travel Check Al Unser 5th


1978 CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS

2nd Al Unser 4031 points

Results courtesy of www.champcarstats.com

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T500 1979 USAC National Championship Trail Results

DATERACE/VENUEENTRANTDRIVERRESULT
11th March Jimmy Bryan 150, Phoenix International Raceway Pennzoil Al Unser 4th
22nd April Gould Twin Dixie 125 #1, Atlanta Motor Speedway Pennzoil Al Unser 6th
22nd April Gould Twin Dixie 125 #2, Atlanta Motor Speedway Pennzoil Al Unser 3rd
27th May International 500 Mile Sweepstakes, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Armstrong Moulding
Texaco Star
Tom Bigelow
Janet Guthrie
14th
DNF
2nd September California 500, Ontario Motor Speedway AMS Oil Dennis Firestone DNF


1979 CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS

5th Al Unser 2085 points (Also drove a Chaparral from Round 4 on)

Results courtesy of www.champcarstats.com

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T500 1980 USAC National Championship Trail Results

DATERACE/VENUEENTRANTDRIVERRESULT
25th May International 500 Mile Sweepstakes, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Armstrong Moulding
Starcraft AV
Hugger's Beverage Holder
Tom Bigelow
Greg Leffler
Jerry Sneva
8th
10th
DNF
8th June Gould Rex Mays Classic, The Milwaukee Mile Hugger's Beverage Holder
Armstrong Moulding
Jerry Sneva
Howdy Holmes
8th
15th
22nd June True Value 500, Pocono International Raceway Armstrong Moulding
Hugger's Beverage Holder
Howdy Holmes
Jerry Sneva
8th
14th
23rd July Norton 200, Michigan International Speedway Armstrong Moulding Howdy Holmes 11th
10th August Tony Bettenhausen 200, The Milwaukee Mile Armstrong Moulding Tom Bigelow 14th
31st August California 500, Ontario Motor Speedway Starcraft AV Greg Leffler DNF
20th September Gould Grand Prix, Michigan International Speedway Armstrong Moulding Greg Leffler 15th
8th November Miller High Life 150, Phoenix International Raceway Armstrong Moulding Greg Leffler DNF


1980 CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS

22nd Howdy Holmes 314 points (Also drove an Orbiter)
26th Tom Bigelow 260 points
32nd Greg Leffler 184 points
35th Jerry Sneva 149 points (Also drove an Orbiter and a McLaren)

Results courtesy of www.champcarstats.com

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