On Sunday 24th June, icon of British motorsport, 3 times World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart teamed up with US legend Al Unser Snr, as part of the star studded Lola line-up at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The Lola pairing of Stewart and Unser formed a strong driver partnership for the Mecom Racing Team in 1967. Based out of Houston, John Mecom began his first racing team in 1962. Within two years of its creation, his team was ranked among the top in the US, and Lola’s victory at the Indianapolis 500 in 1966 cemented their status around the world. Lola used this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed as a fitting occasion to reunite Jackie Stewart and Al Unser Snr, who drove a Mecom Lola T92 and T90 respectively on the prestigious ‘Hill Climb’.
Sir Jackie Stewart commenting from Goodwood, “It been an honour to team up with Al again and jump back into the Mecom Lola. Once we fired it up there was no looking back. The Lola looked and drove as beautiful as it did 40 years ago.”
Stewart added, “Al was a real master and good friend. It’s been a wonderful reunion for Lola and Goodwood.”
In 1966 Graham Hill became the first Englishman to win the Indianapolis 500 driving the Mecom Lola, however, it was his team mate Jackie Stewart who stole the show in the ’66 race, almost triumphant on his Indianapolis debut. Victory was denied by a broken scavenge pump while leading the race with only ten laps to go. Nevertheless, the ‘Flying Scot’ won ‘Rookie of the Year’ honours after comfortably leading the race by almost 2 laps, before having to retire.
The following year John Mecom teamed up Jackie Stewart with Al Unser Snr. The Unser name is a motorsport dynasty. Al Unser is the younger brother of Bobby Unser and father of Al Unser Junior. Al Unser Snr became the second of only three men to win the Indianapolis 500 race an amazing four times. He was the fourth of five drivers to win USA’s biggest motorsport occasion in consecutive years, and he’s the only person to have a brother (Bobby) and son (Al Jr) as fellow Indy winners.
Al Unser Snr commented, “Jackie was a real character and the perfect driving partner. Back then, Jackie had previous experience driving rear engine cars, so he passed some useful tips when I joined. To team up with Jackie and John Mecom was a dream come true. Those were happy days for us all, so there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to fly over from America to drive the Mecom Lola again.”
In 1967 Unser brought the Mecom Lola home in second place and in 1978 he went one better, winning the Indy 500 driving the FNCTC Chaparral Lola. In 1992, he finished the Indy 500 in 3rd position at the age of 52. Al Unser Snr, who drove the 1966 Lola Mecom at Goodwood throughout the weekend, still holds the record of being the oldest driver to ever win the Indy 500, at 47 years of age (1987), breaking the previous record set by his brother Bobby.
Sir Jackie Stewart will also be remembered for his brilliant 1971 Can-Am event victories at St. Jovite and Mid Ohio, ultimately driving the Hass-run Lola T260 to third position in the Championship standings.
Martin Birrane, Executive Chairman of Lola Cars, now owns the 1967 Lola Mecom, which he drove at Goodwood with Sir Jackie Stewart. As a driver, Martin Birrane enjoyed completing the world famous endurance race, the Le Mans 24 Hours, on three occasions. Birrane commented, “Sir Jackie Stewart and Al Unser are two of most respected names in motorsport, and they have both made massive contributions to Lola’s proud heritage. Next year Lola will be celebrating 50 years in motorsport and our Indianapolis 500 successes marked some of the most memorable eras of the company’s history.”
The Goodwood Festival of Speed also saw motorsport star John Surtees renew his love affair with Lola Cars. In 1967 Honda were underachieving in Formula One, before team driver John Surtees pointed the Japanese giants in the direction of Lola. Using the blueprint of Lola’s successful USAC car, the engine bay was modified to accommodate the Honda engine and gearbox. In just three weeks Lola and Team Surtees produced the T130 Honda RA300 ‘Hondola’, and the effort was rewarded when the ‘Hondola’ won on its very first outing.
The Hondola was involved in the 1967 Italian Grand Prix, which will always be remembered as one of the greatest races in the history of the sport. Jim Clark was leading the race, but had the misfortune of running out of petrol on the last lap. Brabham and Surtees seized the opportunity, fighting it out in a typical Monza slip streaming duel to the line, which Surtees eventually won by less than a car length. The successful Honda and Lola partnership in Formula One continued the following season, and John Surtees drove the 1968 Lola built Honda RA301 throughout the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Completing the impressive Lola line-up at Goodwood, Dan Gurney’s T70, which was raced under the ‘All American Racers’ banner in 1966/67, embarked on the famous ‘Hill Climb’. Gurney drove the car to victory at Bridgehampton, New York, in 1966, which marked Ford’s only win in the Can Am. The car is now owned by Johan Woerheide who hails from Atlanta, Georgia and we are very grateful to him for taking the trouble to bring this marvellous car ovet the Atlantic to Goodwood. The T70 was the car that put Lola at the forefront of world motorsport, John Surtees brought the T70 immediate success, winning the inaugural CanAm Championship in 1966.
In 2008, Lola will celebrate 50 years in motorsport. Eric Broadley MBE, the founder of Lola Cars, will be invited to next year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed to join in the ‘50 Years’ celebrations.