The Lola Group was paid a special royal visit last week when His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent visited the company's state-of-the-art Huntingdon facility.

The Duke was given a detailed tour of the world's oldest and most successful racing car constructor by Lola Cars International Managing Director, Rupert Manwaring and Lola Composites MD, Howard Dawson. A keen motorsport and engineering enthusiast, the Duke was actually making his second visit to Lola after he was previously shown around in 1998.

Accompanied by the Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Mr Hugh Duberly, HRH The Duke of Kent was met at Lola by the sight of an impressive display at the front of Lola’s main entrance. On show was the Mk1 Lola, the first ever racing car to bear the Lola name, designed and raced by company founder Eric Broadley in 1958.

Alongside the very first Lola was one of the latest, the 180mph A1 Grand Prix Team Italy car raced by Enrico Toccocelo. The Duke expressed his wonderment at the car's striking aerodynamics, which will be working to the maximum at Brands Hatch this coming weekend when the World Cup of Motorsport visits the UK for the only time this year.

The first leg of the Royal tour viewed the Lola design office where Head of Engineering, Julian Cooper introduced the Duke to members of the renowned Lola design team. Aerodynamicist Phil Tiller described the intricacies of CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) to the Duke and showed various animations of how he, and his team, evaluate solutions that allow prototype analysis prior to wind tunnel testing and component optimisation.

It was explained to the Duke that Lola’s powerful CFD dedicated cluster provided by computer giant AMD allows for fast and routine analysis of full car and two car simulations using the latest techniques and constantly updated software. A validated CFD approach operated by Lola’s experienced aerodynamicists offers a powerful tool to operate with or without additional testing in the wind tunnel.

Dr John Davis, recently appointed as Lola’s Technical Centre manager then guided His Royal Highness around Lola’s on-site 50% scale windtunnel. Commercially available, it is used by a variety of prestigious companies throughout the year, including a current Formula One team. Continuous investment in Lola’s technical centre, which also incorporates a 7-post vehicle dynamic test rig, means that customers are guaranteed excellent repeatability of results and reliability of operation.

A demonstration of the tunnel was then begun when the very latest Lola sportscar, the much talked about B08/60 LMP Coupe, was put through its paces as it continues an exhaustive testing phase prior to build and testing this autumn. The design will be the first customer LMP Coupe to hit the track, keeping up Lola’s increasing reputation as the leader in designing and building winning sportscars.

Staying on the sportscar theme, the Duke was also shown Lola’s development of a Grand-Am prototype design that will see a Lola compete at the world famous Daytona 24 Hours next January.

A live fire-up of the iconic Lola T70 Mk3b, which starred in the Steve McQueen film " Le Mans" and won the 1969 version of the Daytona 24 Hours, delighted the Duke, who commented favourably on the 5-litre Chevrolet engine's throaty blast!

Encapsulating the essence of the Lola Group's diversity in designing, engineering and manufacturing the tour visited Lola Composites, a specially dedicated globally recognised supplier of advanced composites to many industries, including Automotive, Defence, Aerospace, Motorsport, Communications and Marine.

Led by Lola Composites Commercial Manager Paul Jackson, the Duke was informed of the recently awarded AS9100 (revision B) Aerospace standard and the ISO9001:2000 International Quality Management standard quality systems, which have enabled Lola to expand its growing reputation as a provider of the most advanced composite products.

An eye catching example of this progression was demonstrated by the presence of the McLaren designed and built Mercedes SLR supercar that Lola has been supplying resin infused composite panels for since 2005. The technology was developed by McLaren for the production of Class A paintable automotive body panels and is now available exclusively from Lola. The Duke listened intently as it was explained that the process offers the customer a wide range of component performance and significant cost benefits against pre-preg production.

Keeping right up to date with Lola’s racing programme, HRH The Duke of Kent viewed the latest Lola Le Mans sportscar to role off the production line as the Swiss Spirit Audi-engined car was being prepared for a test the very next day at Silverstone.

Finally the Duke was presented with a specially made Lola T70 model, similar to the classic sportscar that he had seen earlier.

Nine years after originally visiting the Lola premises, the Duke was impressed with the continuous investment and the constant improvements to Lola’s technical capabilities. Under the leadership of Lola owner and Executive Chairman, Martin Birrane, the successful Lola story is set to continue into its 50th anniversary year in 2008, with many new and exciting projects.


“It was an absolute pleasure to show His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent the full range of facilities and projects that the whole Lola Group are involved in today. Lola are a unique company because we provide such a variety of services to so many industries and I think the Duke was impressed by that. As an enthusiast of engineering he could relate to the latest developments and it was a delight to welcome a member of the British royal family to such a great British company as Lola.”

Rupert Manwaring, Lola Cars International Ltd, Managing Director

“Everyone at Lola takes pride in the work they do and it was an honour to show His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent the upgrades and developments the company has undertaken since his last visit here in November 1998. Lola are now much more than a racing car constructor and we are developing burgeoning reputations in several industries such as Aerospace, Defence and Automotive. The Duke certainly recognised that Lola is thriving and continuing to build on its solid heritage which will be celebrated in 2008, its 50th year.”

Howard Dawson, Lola Composites Managing Director

All pictures by Gary Hawkins