Rarely does a name in any sport almost completely transcend the boundaries of that in which it competes. But that is what the Andretti name has achieved throughout the past five decades, becoming a by-word for racing excellence on a global scale.
Just as Lola was carving out a winning niche in the US in 1966, so too was Mario Andretti, whose first experience of an Eric Broadley design was with the iconic Lola T70 in the 1966 Can-Am series. Although Mario drove various Lolas in the 1970s, most notably the Parnelli T332 F5000 car, it was not until the early 1980s that he and the Newman-Haas team became truly synonymous with the Huntingdon manufacturer, a state of affairs that would last until Mario's retirement in from Champ Cars in 1994. It proved to be a fruitful partnership with Andretti and the Newman Haas team immediately developing the 1983 Lola T700 in to a winning proposition. A famous win at the Michigan 500 in 1984 was a precursor to sealing the CART/PPG title that year. However, according to Mario, if it had not have been for the team's penchant for sushi, then the successful union may not have come about!
"We were in a Japanese restaurant - there was Carl, Paul [Newman] and Eric [Broadley] - and that's when the deal went together," recalled Andretti. "Lola made a commitment to doing their first proper ground-effects car, in '83, and from there to the end of my career in Champ Car, I only drove Lolas. I think I won 18 races for Lola, and my last National Championship, in '84."
Andretti, who was recently ordained as a "Commendatore della Repubblica Italiana" in New York, a special honour to recognise his remarkable career, also paid tribute to Lola founder, Eric Broadley, saying. "The first Can-Am car I ever sat in was a factory Lola, as team-mate to Jackie Stewart, at Riverside in '66. So we go way back and, of course, I developed a relationship with Eric Broadley because has was one of the people you wanted to know. He was one of the great icons of the sport, recognised everywhere, and what he and Lola accomplished was spectacular."
"I look back and have nothing but great fondness for everyone at Lola. Everybody I ever worked with there were great people."
Just as Mario was beginning years of success with the Lola CART designs in the mid 1980's, his son, Michael was cutting his racing teeth in Formula Ford with a Haas-run Lola.
"I had a long and good relationship with Lola, which started with Carl Haas in Formula Ford in 1982," said Michael. "I won a lot of races, saw a lot of different owners and always respected their winning ways." From those early days Michael established himself as the best of his generation, taking the 1991 CART/PPG title in the Lola T91/00. Statistically the Andretti's and Newman/Haas were the most prolific winners in Lola cars. Between them the pair collected a remarkable 46 wins, a staggering 24% of all Lola wins. Mario has achieved legendary status in almost every category of motor racing. He has been Formula 1 World Champion (1978), Indy 500 winner (1969), Daytona 500 winner (1967), four-time Indy Car National Champion (1965, 1966, 1969, 1984) USAC National Dirt Track Champion (1974) and three-time winner of 12 Hours of Sebring (1967, 1970, 1972).
As well as proving to be arguably the greatest ever American racing stars, the Andretti father/son partnership, with Newman/Haas and Lola, have proved to be incomparable ambassadors for their sport as well as role models for future generations, including Michael's son and Mario's grandson Marco Andretti, currently carving out a top line racing career of his own.
For more information, please visit www.andretti.com