LOLA’S LIONS HEAD FOR BARCELONA TO KICK START EUROPEAN SEASON
Lola’s all-new LMP1 Coupe is set to grab the headlines during the first day of practice as the 2008 Le Mans Series kicks off at Barcelona this weekend. Friday will see the first public unveiling of the Charouz Racing System team’s livery for the coming season when the driver line up of Stefan Mucke and Jan Charouz will contest the six race series in Huntingdon’s latest line of Le Mans Prototype.
The Lola B08/60 powered by Aston Martin, was the first customer LMP Coupe to hit the track in February and the Charouz entered car impressed during its first serious testing at Paul Ricard in early March. Both Mucke and Charouz showed serious pace in Lola’s open topped LMP1 last season and with the enhanced aerodynamics of the Coupe they will be hoping to start the season on a high in Catalunya.
Chamberlain Synergy have been stalwarts of the Le Mans Series since 2005 when their driver Gareth Evans won the LMP2 drivers title. Since 2006 the Oxfordshire based team, spearheaded by the enormously experienced and popular Hugh Chamberlain, have raced in the LMP1class with their familiar bright yellow Lola B06/10-AER.
This season will see Amanda Stretton join her husband Bob Berridge and Gareth Evans in the team for the full LMS and Le Mans 24 Hours campaign. Stretton is no stranger to racing Lola’s as she previously drove a B98/10 at the Silverstone 1000kms in 2005.
LOLA ENTRY DETAILS IN LMP1
# 10 - Charouz Racing System Lola B08/60 powered by Aston MartinTeam Principal: Antonin Charouz Team Manager: George Howard Chappel Drivers: Stefan Mucke (D), Jan Charouz (CZ) Tyres: Michelin Engine: Aston Martin V12
# 19 – Chamberlain Synergy Lola B06/10-AERTeam Principal: Hugh Chamberlain Team Manager: Dave Lampet Drivers: Gareth Evans (GB), Bob Berridge (GB), Amanda Stretton (GB) Tyres: Michelin Engine: AER 3.4 litre V8 turbo.
RML are the reigning champions in LMP2 and return to defend their title in 2008 with some familiar faces but also some significant technical changes to their Lola-MG challenger.
Mike Newton and Tommy Erdos have started every Le Mans Series race since 2004, bar last season’s Interlagos finale. For 2008 the team have made developments to the MG (AER) engine and a number of revisions were run at the official Paul Ricard test last month.
Joining its bigger brother, the B08/60 LMP1 Coupe in this year’s series and at the 24 Hours in June will be the Speedy Racing Team Sebah Lola B08/80 LMP2 Coupe. This model has had less testing than the LMP1 version of the car but hopes are high that the Judd V8 engined car can claim a top result at Barcelona with the amalgamation of both the Speedy Racing and Sebah Racing teams for the 2008 season.
Driven by Frenchman, Xavier Pompidou and Swiss racers Andrea Belicchi and Steve Zacchia, the Michelin shod Lola undertook several days of fruitful testing at Magny Cours two weeks ago. However, more development on both of the Lola coupes will be happening throughout the first few race weekends in readiness for the Le Mans 24 Hours and the rest of the LMS season.
Quifel-ASM stay loyal to the Lola LMP2 chassis in 2008 with the Portuguese owned team looking to add to their three previous LMP2 class wins (four counting Spa in 2006 when they were actually entered as Chamberlain-Synergy).
Former GP2 race winner and protégé of Jean Alesi, Olivier Pla will bring serious pace to the team in 2008. With the addition of the experienced Alan Mugglestone on the engineering side and the continuation of the excellent AER powerplant, both Miguel Amaral and Olivier Pla are sure to feature strongly after several encouraging tests at their local Estoril track during the winter break.
A new addition to the LMP2 division, Kruse-Schiller led by the enthusiastic Kai Kruse and partnered by Hardy Schiller, have acquired the ex Fernandez Racing Lola LMP2 chassis. They have mated it to the new turbo charged 2.0 litre in-line four cylinder direct injection engine developed by AER in conjunction with the Japanese manufacturer.
Jean De Pourtales previously drove for the 2007 look Kruse team when they ran a Pescarolo chassis in 2007 and the ‘Franco/Anglo’ driver will be joined this weekend by ex Zytek front runner Hideki Noda.
LOLA ENTRY DETAILS IN LMP2# 25 – RML Ltd MG-Lola EX265-MG Team Principal: Ray Mallock Team Manager: Phil Barker Drivers: Mike Newton (GB), Tommy Erdos (GB) Tyres: Michelin Engine: MG (AER) turbo
# 33 – Speedy Racing Team Sebah Lola B08/80 LMP2 Coupe Team Principal: Hugh Hayden Team Manager: Bart Hayden Drivers: Xavier Pompidou (F), Steve Zacchia (CH), Andrea Belicchi (CH) Tyres: Michelin Engine: Judd 5-litre V8
# 40 – Quifel-ASM Team Lola B07/40 AER Team Principal: Antonio Simoes Team Manager: Mauricio Pinheiro Drivers: Miguel Amaral (PT), Olivier Pla (F) Tyres: Dunlop Engine: AER V8 3.6 litre turbo
# 40 – Kruse-Schiller Motorsport Lola B07/40 Mazda Team Principal: Kai Kruse/Hardy Schiller Chief Engineer: Roger Parks Drivers: Jean De Pourtales (F), Hideki Noda (J) Tyres: Dunlop Engine: Mazda (AER) 2-litre turbo
Martin Birrane, Executive Chairman, Lola Group“There is much anticipation regarding this season’s Le Mans Series and Lola sportscars are as ever a great topic of conversation ahead of this weekends race. When the flag drops and the talking stops it is one of the most exciting aspects of the year and both myself and all the staff in Huntingdon will be glued to the timing screens to see how all our great customers are fairing in Spain. “We are the only constructors to be represented with the four different designs of LMP this year with both open topped prototypes and coupes in each of the LMP1 and LMP2 classes. This is a terrific testament to the skill and technical capabilities at the Lola factory. I wish all our customers the very best of luck in this our 50th anniversary year.”
Julian Sole, Chief Designer Lola Cars International Ltd“The Coupes are very new cars so our expectations are quite realistic for the first few events. However, we will continue to push very hard this year on developing the car both aerodynamically and mechanically, just as we have with all our sportscars over the last ten years. This will begin very soon after the first races of the coming season because we have recently had a significant upgrade to our CFD and Windtunnel resources back at the Lola base in Huntingdon.”
NOTES AND POINTS OF INTEREST
• The Charouz Lola B08/60 LMP1 Coupe and the Speedy Racing Team Sebah Lola B08/80 LMP2 Coupe were the 50th and 51st sportscars to leave the Lola factory since Martin Birrane took over the company in 1997.
• Since Lola LMP2 cars entered the series in 2005, the B05/40 and its variants have notched up 25 podium finishes, including 11 class victories. The winning roll of honour reads as: RML (4 wins), Quifel-ASM (3 wins), Chamberlain Synergy and Horag Racing (2 wins each).
• Lola will have more entries at Le Mans this year than any other current constructor. The Huntingdon marque will also have its largest entry at La Sarthe since 1979 when Lola’s competed in the 24 Hours.
• Two members of the Lola team have been at Lola since it moved to Huntingdon in 1971. They are John Bedrikovs (Stores Manager) and John Church (Assembly Manager). Lola’s current sportscar project co-ordinator, David Scotney recently celebrated 30 years at the company.
• Tommy Erdos and Mike Newton have taken part in every Le Mans Series race apart from the 2007 season finale at Interlagos. Each event has been in a Lola chassis.
• The first ever Lola sportscar to race internationally was the Lola Mk1 in 1958. At the Tourist Trophy that year Lola founder Eric Broadley and Peter Gammon shared a car and finished 16th.
• The last time that Sports Prototypes were at Barcelona was for a round of the now defunct FIA Sportscar Championship in 2002. The pole time was set by current Torro Rosso F1 driver Sebastien Bourdais in a Pescarolo Courage C60 at 1m35.428s. The fastest race lap was set by Frank Montagny in a ORECA run Dallara at 1m35.161s. The race winner was Bourdais and team mate Jean Christophe Boullion in the Peugeot engined Pescarolo C60.
• While the Barcelona event is on this weekend, Lola engineers are running a windtunnel programme at Lola’s state-of-the-art windtunnel in Huntingdon. The sessions are centred on the Coupe model and will carry on until the end of next week.
All pictures John Brooks.
The Charouz Racing B08/60 Aston Martin.
Amanda Stretton will drive the Chamberlain-Synergy LMP1 car.
The familiar colours of LMP2 Champions RML.
The Speedy Racing Team Sebah Lola B08/80 LMP2 Coupe.
The ex-ALMS Team Fernandez B07/40 of Kruse-Schiller.
Hideki Noda is a welcome addition to the Lola ranks.
The view the Lola Aston Martin hopes to give to its competitors this year.