The 2006 Champ Car World Series closed with a spectacular win for triple champion Sebastien Bourdais in Mexico City last night and with it ended Lola's 40 year association with the open wheeled series. With 194 race wins, 3 Indy 500 and 5 constructor title successes, Lola leave with an unprecedented record in North America.
In the final event Bourdais duelled all race with the Ru Sport Lola of Justin Wilson in dry and then wet conditions. The Frenchman pulled off a stunning move to force his way by on the very last lap and won by 3.5 seconds. The Newman/Haas driver even survived a lurid 360 degree spin in his quest to catch Wilson.
"It was just an incredible race, a great battle with Justin the whole time," said a breathless Bourdais after the race. "We both drove the wheels off these cars. That was pretty exciting, I think, at the very end when we decided to stay on the same set of tires, Bridgestone wet tyres, it made the difference."
Bourdais, who is the second most successful Lola winner of all time behind Michael Andretti, also remarked on Lola's final Champ Car race and paid tribute to the Huntingdon constructors record.
"I've been driving a Lola chassis for the past seven years, since 2000 back to the F3000 days. It has been a great relationship and honour to drive such a good car."
"When I first arrived in Champ Car the car was already good but Newman/Haas kept making progress and we have achieved much success with Lola. The design made for a competitive and safe car that will be tough to top."
Completing the podium in Mexico was Team Australia's Will Power who also wrapped up the 2006 Rookie of the Year award.
1997 ONWARDS - A REMARKABLE COMEBACK
Lola enjoyed considerable success throughout the 1980's and early part of the 1990's with legendary drivers such as Mario Andretti, Bobby Rahal and Nigel Mansell. But in recent times Lola has performed perhaps one of the most remarkable comebacks in motorsport history after the company was almost forced to close its doors in 1997.
After the acquisition of the company by Martin Birrane in that same year, Lola re-gained its foothold in the then CART marketplace by investing in strong technical capabilities and excellent engineering staff.
Going from a single entry in 1998 for the John Davis-run and Arnd Meir-driven T98/00 chassis, Lola developed their cars in to the quickest on the grid by utilising engineering strength, a new on-site wind tunnel and seven-post vehicle dynamic test rig.
Instrumental in Lola's return to the top was current Champ Car team owner, Keith Wiggins who worked tenaciously before sampling life from the other side of the fence with the Bettenhausen/Herdez team that later became the HVM-CTE outfit.
2000 was somewhat of a breakthrough year when Newman/Haas, Ganassi, Bettenhausen & Sigma joined the Lola ranks, making a total of seven Lolas on the grid. The cars were proving to be very competitive against the Reynards, the Penskes and the Eagles, scoring 6 victories (Milwaukee, Toronto, Michigan, Chicago, Gateway and Fontana).
In 2001 Team Rahal joined the Lola ranks, which now represented one third of the grid. Lola racked up ten wins, customer Reynards five and 'Renski' five. (Reynard/Penske).
Lola's Executive Chairman, Martin Birrane commented on Lola's recent CART/Champ Car history, by saying. "Last nights race was indicative of what the Lola Champ Car is all about. Close, spectacular racing that is popular with drivers, teams and fans alike. To think that we went from a single entry in 1998 to developing a product that had the majority of the marketshare just over three seasons later is quite something.
"For 2002 we sold a remarkable 33 cars and became the favoured chassis in the series, with Cristiano Da Matta taking Lola's first title since Nigel Mansell's fabled rookie year in 1993."
"The demise of Reynard in 2002 was bad news not good for Lola," continued Birrane. "It brought to a close an era of titanic engineering rivalry, which was savoured by all the competitive staff in Huntingdon. Since then, Lola has had a 100% of the Champ Car market, servicing the teams with some new chassis and spare parts."
"It is an emotional day as we say a heartfelt and genuine goodbye to the series. However, Lola has always been about tomorrow and with designs currently racing and being developed all over the world, we hope one day to be back in single seater racing in the U.S., to continue our great heritage of success."
Throughout some of the most difficult years of CART's metamorphosis in to the present day Champ Car series, Lola was a staunch and supportive ally and proudly backed the series in some its darkest hours.
Also commenting on Lola's reputation and success in the series was Newman Haas co-owner and Lola US distributor, Carl Haas, who said: "Lola have provided competitive, reliable and safe racing cars that have been an integral part of so many memories for so many memorable people."
"The success of Newman/Haas Racing has been largely due to long term relationships we have forged and that includes those with Martin Birrane and everyone at Lola Cars Ltd."
Lola's designs have always been a hit with the drivers and the current chassis has been acknowledged as one of the most spectacular and driver friendly. Several drivers at Mexico took time out to comment on the cars and their experience with the product over the last few seasons and to say a fond farewell to car that has carved out careers.
"I've been driving a Lola chassis for the past seven years, since 2000 back to the F3000 days. It has been a great relationship and honour to drive such a good car. When I first arrived to Champ Car the car was already good but Newman/Haas kept making progress and we have achieved much success with Lola. The design made for a competitive and safe car that will be tough to top."
"I have been racing a Lola since 1998 in F3000 and it has been a great experience - especially in Champ Car. The Champ car has a really good balance and is really nice to drive. I had a lot of fun driving Lola's the last 9 years plus the car is pretty safe. I've had a few crashes and never got hurt and that is a testament to their quality. The car has been unbelievably reliable and not just for me; for everyone especially recently with all of the teams running Lolas. There haven't been many problems and that's pretty incredible."
"It is sad to see such a great car leave such a great series. The Lola has a lot of history, not only in Champ Car, but in the racing world overall. They produced a car that was durable, quick, and a pleasure to run. I am honored that I had the chance to run in a Lola in the Champ Car World Series for the past four years."
"I think the Lola is everything that Champ Car stands for, and it will be a shame to see it go away. I'm actually very disappointed, because it's a great looking car and a great car to drive. It's the car I started my racing career in, and I'm sad to see it go. It provided some great racing, and it kept us safe in every single crash, and that's a testament to the hard work that Lola put into it over the years. But every good thing must come to an end and, hopefully, we'll see them back in Champ Car in the future."
"The Lola has been a car that has been really good for Champ Car. It has been a car that has been reliable and safe for all the drivers, it has also been competitive. With the one tyre manufacturer we have been able to see these cars get faster and more competitive every year and, as a driver, that's what you want. Lola is a company that has been supporting Champ Car for a long time. At the same time they have provided the right equipment for the teams. It is a gratifying feeling going to a track and being three or four tenths quicker than the previous year. At the end of the day that's what racing is all about - going quicker and quicker."
"Well I was fortunate to run a Lola chassis several times when I competed in F3000 and this year in a Champ Car. Lola managed to create a solid and competitive race car, which was always a pleasure to drive. I think that the Lola car was one of the factors that allowed Champ Car to put on great shows for many years. It is sad to see them leave this series, but the nice thing is that you never know when you will get the chance to race one of their great cars again because they will still be around."
"I am only in my first full season of Champ Car, but I have really enjoyed driving these cars and I think they look great on track. I was originally going to drive a Lola Formula three car and visited their factory, but that deal never eventuated and my first real taste of a Lola came this season. I guess this weekend's marks the end of an era and it was good to be a part of history in a way this season."
"I've only driven the Lola for a year, but I've enjoyed driving it. It's proven itself to be a solid, reliable car. It's also done extremely well in race crashes. In Katherine's crash at Road America, it proved to be safe beyond expectations, as it enabled her to walk away from a particularly bad crash. The Lola has really proven itself as a racing car, and for a number of years, it has proven itself to be the choice of everyone in the paddock."
TEAM OWNERS QUOTES
Carl Haas - co-owner of Newman/Haas Racing and owner of Carl Haas Auto, the North American distributor of Lola race cars:
"I am proud to have been a part of building Lola Cars Ltd. into a leader in the industry over the 43 years of working with them as their North American distributor and friend. Lola have provided competitive, reliable and safe racing cars that have been an integral part of so many memories for so many memorable people. Over the years Newman/Haas Racing has earned 93 of our 97 wins and 97 of our 100 poles with Lola as well as all seven of our championships. Martin Birrane and his staff have been more than business acquaintances - they have been part of our family. The success of Newman/Haas Racing has been largely due to long term relationships we have forged and that includes those with Martin Birrane and everyone at Lola Cars Ltd."
Paul Gentilozzi - Rocketsports Racing Team Owner
"Well the Lola brand and their cars will still be around, despite not being in Champ Car. They have produced great race cars and made some wonderful history in this series. It is sad that the car that has provided the most wins in Champ Car is going away, but it does not mean that it will not be back in the future. It can always come back. The Lola has lived through many generations of racing, their success and great product will always be remembered and appreciated, and we hope to see its return in the future."
Derrick Walker - Team Australia
"When you look at the current car it's the last of its kind for Indy or Champ Car. As time has gone on it really has become, what I call, a classic race car. The first car we bought as Walker Racing was a second-hand Lola off Antonio Ferrari and we ran Willy T Ribbs, the first African-American to run the Indy 500, in the early 90s. We have been with Lola most of the time and had a few moments with them along the way. The first and most noteworthy was the 1992 Indy 500 where we virtually started last and worked our way through the field to finish a very, very close second (to Al Unser Jr) with Scott Goodyear.
"This current Lola originally surfaced in 1999-2000 and here we are six years later and it is still as fresh and as good as it ever was. It is a well-designed car that has evolved over the years in competition with multiple manufacturers. The amount of downforce, the amount of power and how it responds makes it a real 'classic' Indy car. I have never had a driver who ever thought it was not a nice car to drive."
"The ownership of the company changed at Lola when Eric retired and Martin took over. The good thing was what Lola was about and the products they produced did not seem to change with new owners or management style. Yes, this is the end of an era and we will miss Lola being around."
"There is no doubt that Lola is one of the great names in world motorsports.The company has a true heritage and has won at basically every level of the sport. I guess its strongest links with Australia go back to the Tasman 5000 days."
For more information on Lola products please contact:
Lola Cars International Ltd
Glebe Road, St Peters Road,
Tel: +44 (0) 1480 359590
Fax: +44 (0) 1480 482970
Click here to view Lola USAC/CART and Champ Car stats (Word format).