Lola Cars International Ltd. was a racing car engineering company founded in 1958 by Eric Broadley and based in Huntingdon, England.
Enduring more than fifty years, it was one of the oldest and largest manufacturers of racing cars in the world. Lola Cars started by building small front-engined sports cars, and branched out into Formula Junior cars before diversifying into a wider range of sporting vehicles. Lola was acquired by Martin Birrane in 1998 after the unsuccessful MasterCard Lola attempt at Formula One.
Lola Cars was a brand of the Lola Group, which combined former rowing boat manufacturer Lola Aylings and Lola Composites, that specialized in carbon fibre production. After a period in bankruptcy administration, Lola Cars International ceased trading on 5 October 2012. Many of Lola's assets were subsequently purchased by a partnership composed of Multimatic Engineering and the Carl A. Haas Automotive company.
|Industry||Auto racing design and production|
|Headquarters||Huntingdon, England, UK|
Lola Special Projects
Three Indy 500 victories, seven IndyCar titles, 12 Le Mans class wins, four Le Mans Series class titles and five American Le Mans Series crowns are just the start of Lolas success through a remarkable history.
Lola also designed F1 cars have also competed in 148 F1 Grand Prix’s, helping Honda to achieve F1 success at Monza in 1967 and the French Larousse team to a remarkable podium position at the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix.
From 1997 onward, Lola overturned two important markets. IndyCar had been a private battle between Reynard and Penske from 1994-1998. Yet Lola, through a dedicated strategy of engineering excellence and the foresight of its new owner, Martin Birrane, achieved consistent success that eventually resulted in Newman Haas with Cristiano Da Matta taking the 2002 crown. Four more titles followed.
The second of the markets to be dominated by Lola was the burgeoning sports prototype sector. A staggering 76 LMP cars were built in the decade between 1999-2009 with ten distinct designs. Race wins and titles came, almost annually, and Lolas contribution to the sports car industry came at Le Mans in 2008 when Martin Birrane was presented with the Spirit of Le Mans award.
John Surtees, Sir Jackie Stewart, AJ Foyt, Al Unser, Graham Hill, Nigel Mansell, Mario Andretti and Fernando Alonso are just a few of the legendary names who won races and titles driving some of Huntingdon’s finest creations.
Early days – the 1960s
Lola was one of the top chassis suppliers in the 1960s. After its small front-engined sports cars came various single-seaters including Formula Junior, Formula 3, Formula 2 and Formula 1 cars. Broadley designed Lola Mk.6 coupe fitted with the Ford V8 engine. Ford took a keen interest in this and paid Broadley to put the company on hold for two years and merge his ideas with Roy Lunn's work, giving rise to the Ford GT40. Broadley managed to release himself from this contract after a year and started developing his own cars again, starting off in sports cars with the Lola T70 and its successors (T16x, T22x) which were used successfully all over the world from the World Championship for Makes to the CanAm series, until 1973. In 2005, Lola announced that a new batch of T70 coupés, to the original specifications, would be released. These will be homologated for historic racing and there is talk of a one-make series for the cars.
Various Group 5 and Group 6 sports cars including the T212 and T28x/29x/38x/39x series were also built, competing with Chevron, March and others. Alain de Cadenet's Le Mans 'specials' tended to be based on Lola technology.
Lola (with rebodied Formula 5000 cars) dominated the CanAm sports car series when it was revived in the late 1970s, but many motorsport fans do not consider the single-seater Formula 5000-based cars from this era to be true sports cars, despite their full bodywork and enclosed wheel-wells.
The 1980s and early 1990s
Lola introduced the T600/T610 range for IMSA GTP racing in the early 1980s – these were fitted with a range of engines including Cosworth, Mazdaand Chevrolet, as well as the novel Polimotor engine built using composite materials. Derivatives of this car were successful for some time in IMSA and Group C racing. Later Lola Group C and GTP cars tended to be built specifically for manufacturer programmes, specifically the later Nissan Group C entries and the Chevrolet Corvette GTP program. Lola also built a car for the 3.5 L Group C formula, the T92/10, but the championship collapsed before this could be fully developed.
The late 1990s and 2000s
More recently, Lola has produced a range of sports cars for Le Mans-style racing starting with the B98/10, which was successful in the European market but less so in the USA. The B2K/10, with its additional central headlight reminiscent of a cyclops or a locomotive was more notable for its looks than its performance. While Lola has had limited success in the top class of the sport versus factory cars like the BMW V12 LMR and Audi R8, Lola has enjoyed periods of dominance in the second class (formerly LMP675, now LMP2), including championship class victories in the American Le Mans Series, although this has been threatened in the ALMS LMP2 by works-supported entries from Acura and Porsche.
A dedicated LMP675 car was built for MG in 2001, powered by a two-litre four-cylinder AER turbocharged engine. This was entered at Le Mans by the works team as the MG-Lola EX257, and was also run as the Lola B01/60 by private entrants. Later developments of this car have been fitted with assorted small V8s and the chassis was developed into recent customer LMP1 and LMP2 chassis.
An updated version of the Lola LMP2 came in 2005 with the introduction of the Lola B05/40 (also known as the MG-Lola EX264/265). It quickly became a contender in LMP2 by taking class honours in 2005 and 2006 at Le Mans with Ray Mallock Limited. It also earned several class wins in the American Le Mans Series in 2005 and 2006 with Intersport Racing, including a second-place overall finish in the 2006 12 Hours of Sebring. In 2007, extensive updates were made to the chassis, to accommodate the all-new Acura powerplant run by Fernandez Racing. In addition, an essentially brand new LMP2 prototype, the B07/40, was built to house the new AER-based Mazda engine. This new version is being run exclusively in the U.S. by B-K Motorsports.
Lola also updated its LMP1 challenger in 2006 with the introduction of the B06/10. The car was run in the American Le Mans Series by Dyson Racingand in the Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans by UK-based Chamberlain-Synergy Racing. Chamberlain continued to run the machine in 2007 and 2008, while the former Dyson cars have been run off and on in the ALMS by Cytosport Racing and Intersport Racing. As with its LMP2 program, the 2007 calendar year saw Lola introduce further upgrades with the debut of the B07/10, which saw action in the Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Charouz Racing and the Swiss Spirit team (using the same engine as the Audi R8).
Lola (in association with Tracy Krohn) took over the Multimatic franchise in Grand-Am'sDaytona Prototype category in 2007. Krohn used his Riley cars at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2008 but switched to the new cars later in the season.
Lola also introduced a pair of closed-cockpit Le Mans Prototypes in 2008, the first of which is the B08/60 running in the P1 category. The first B08/60 was raced by the Charouz team (with assistance from Prodrive) and featured an Aston-Martin V12 engine to GT1 specification.
The B08/80 built to P2 regulations was first raced by Sebah Racing (and Speedy Racing in the 2008 Le Mans 24 Hours) and continued racing in the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
It was announced on 21 July 2010, that Lola would be building the B11/40 to comply with the new 2011 LMP2 regulations. The car was to be a Carbon fibre open-top monocoque race car features an all-carbon bodykit, quick-release removable rear bodywork which includes a stabilization fin on the engine cover which is a safety requirement of the new regulations. However, on 16 May 2012, it was reported that Lola Cars was entering financial administration. The administrator, CCW Recovery Solutions, was unable to find a suitable buyer and the firm ceased trading on 5 October 2012, laying off the last employees.
On 16 October 2012, it was announced in the competition press that some assets of Lola Cars were acquired by Multimatic Inc. and Haas Auto. In addition to the asset purchase, Multimatic and Haas obtained a licence agreement to use the Lola Cars name and intellectual property.
Multimatic has since supplied two Lola B12/80 LMP2 chassis' to Mazda for International Motor Sports Association WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition. The cars were powered by turbocharged inline-four Mazda diesel powerplants in 2014 and 2015, and a gasoline-powered turbo inline-four in 2016.
Lola resisted making a 'works' Formula One entry for many years, being content to construct cars on behalf of other entrants. Lola's first works entry in 1997 led directly to the financial ruin of the company.
Bowmaker and Parnell
Lola made its first foray into Formula One in 1962, supplying Lola Mk4 cars to Reg Parnell's Bowmaker-Yeoman Racing Team, with John Surtees and Roy Salvadori as drivers. A measure of success was immediate, with Surtees's car claiming pole position in its first World Championship race, but although points were often scored, wins in Championship Grands Prix eluded the team. After Bowmaker's withdrawal, Parnell continued to run the cars privately. Privateer Bob Anderson gave the Mk4 its last victory, in the non-Championship 1963 Rome Grand Prix. Consistency, however, was not to be found, and after only two seasons, Lola abandoned Formula One cars for the time being.
The "Hondola" Honda RA300 and RA301
In 1967, Lola assisted Honda Racing and John Surtees with the design of their F1 car. The overweight chassis design by the engine-specialists from Honda was abandoned, and a 1966 Lola Indianapolis monocoque (Lola T90) used as the basis for a Honda-engined car. The resultant Honda RA300was called the "Lola T130" by Lola Cars, unofficially called the "Hondola" by the press, and was sufficiently light and powerful to win the 1967 Italian Grand Prix.
BMW Formula Two cars
A number of Lola-built BMW F2 cars were subsequently entered in the F2 class of the German Grand Prix at about this time.
Towards the end of his long career, Graham Hill found it difficult to attract works drives; with a view to both finding a drive and a future as a team owner he established his own team backed by the Embassy cigarette brand. After an unsuccessful 1973 with a customer Shadow, the team commissioned its own cars from Lola. The T370 was largely based on the Formula 5000cars of the time, and looked similar to Lola's F5000 cars, although it sported a larger airbox. The car was developed by Andy Smallman into the Hill GH1 in 1975, but the team's first in-house design, the Hill GH2, remained unraced when Hill, Tony Brise, Smallman and several other team personnel were killed in an air crash in November 1975.
The Haas Lola F1 programme was extremely promising, funded by a large American industrial conglomerate Beatrice Foods and run by the highly experienced Teddy Mayer, with the promise of works Ford power, but it flattered to deceive. The handsome car, designed mostly by Neil Oatley, was barely a Lola; the name was used largely because Haas was Lola's US concessionaire although Broadley had some involvement with the car. Alan Jones was tempted out of retirement to drive it in F1 races towards the end of the 1985 season, with Patrick Tambay joining in a second car for 1986. A works Ford-Cosworth turbocharged engine was promised, but this did not materialise until 1986 and old Hart four-cylinder units were used. Car, engine, drivers and sponsors were all troublesome and the team folded after the 1986 season with most of its assets (including the factory) being sold to Bernie Ecclestone. At one point during the season, Ecclestone informed the Haas Lola team that "his driver" (Patrese) would be in the car at the next meeting; Ecclestone was primarily interested in acquiring the Ford engines as a replacement for the BMW units in his Brabhams but the manufacturer vetoed this, offering the engines to Benetton instead. He used the team's factory to build the ill-fated Alfa Romeo "ProCar" (a series for "silhouette" touring cars with F1-style mechanicals and engines).
Larrousse & Calmels
The Larrousse & Calmels programme was initially much lower-key than the previous effort. Starting from a simple Cosworth-powered car based on Lola's F3000 technologies, the French team built up a steady reputation in normally aspirated F1 from 1987 on. They attracted Lamborghini V12 power for 1989 and once the Chris Murphy-designed car was on stream, scored some good results with Éric Bernard and Aguri Suzuki. The team experienced some problems after Didier Calmels's arrest for the murder of his wife, but continued at a slightly lower key with Cosworth power again. Unfortunately, due to irregularities with the team's F1 entry in 1990, (the cars were entered as Larrousses but were really Lolas) they lost all their Constructors' Championship points – which promoted the politically well-connected Ligier outfit into a position in the Constructors' Championship that gave them significant FIA benefits.
The Scuderia Italia programme was something of a disaster from the start. The team had done reasonably well with Dallara chassis before, but turned to Lola for 1993. Powered by customer Ferrari engines, both engine and car seemed to be well off the pace and Michele Alboreto and Luca Badoer struggled to even qualify for races. Badoer finished 7th in the 1993 San Marino Grand Prix, a race of high attrition, to score the best Lola result of the season. The team withdrew from F1 before the end of the season and partly merged with Minardi for 1994.
The unraced test cars
Lola built a number of Cosworth V8 powered test cars in 1994–95, with rumours of a Havoline-funded quasi-works Ford team. The rumour was that Cosworth V12s badged Jaguar would go to Benetton, in fact no Ford/Jaguar V12 ran in F1 or elsewhere, and Lola would inherit the Zetec V8. Allan McNish did much of the test driving, but as this was a period of instability in the F1 rules little was achieved.
The MasterCard-sponsored works programme
Lola had originally intended to enter Formula One in their own right in 1998, but pressure from main sponsor MasterCard caused Lola to debut its new car one year early, in 1997. The sponsorship model was curious, linked both to MasterCard membership of a 'club', and to results – something a first-year F1 team often finds hard to achieve. A custom-built V10 engine from Al Melling was going to be fitted to the cars, which initially started racing fitted with underpowered Ford Cosworth ED V8s.
The cars had a lot of problems, the worst being aerodynamics – they had never even been tested in a wind-tunnel when they arrived in Australia, which by that point in time was unthinkable. The car was fundamentally flawed, and the lack of wind-tunnel time had made it even less competitive. Despite the car's problems, the team was confident that it could finish ahead of some of the other teams. The results were disastrous, the cars were well off the pace and were no faster than Lola's Formula 3000 cars. After only one race, the sponsors pulled out; the team turned up for the second race in Brazil but the cars did not turn a wheel and that was the end of the MasterCard Lola story. Shortly afterwards, the entire Lola Car Company went into receivership. The company was saved through the purchase and cash rescue package from Martin Birrane.
Planned 2010 F1 project
On 22 April 2009, Lola announced on its website that "Lola Group has commenced a major project comprising a full technical, operational and financial evaluation aimed at developing a car to compete in the FIA Formula One World Championship".
Lola was one of several teams to lodge an entry with the FIA for the 2010 Formula One World Championship. On 17 June, however, the company abandoned its plans to return to F1 after failing to secure a place on the initial 2010 entry list.
Complete Formula One World Championship results
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position)
|Bowmaker-Yeoman Racing Team||Mk4
|Reg Parnell Racing||Mk4
|Tim Parnell||Mk4||Climax FWMV
|DW Racing Enterprises||Mk4||Climax FWMV
|Lola Cars Ltd.||T100||BMW M10
|Lola Cars Ltd.||T102||BMW M12/1
|Embassy Hill||T370||Ford Cosworth DFV
|Ford Cosworth DFV
|Team Haas||THL1||Hart 415T
|Team Haas||THL1||Hart 415T
|Larrousse Calmels||LC87||Ford Cosworth DFZ
|Larrousse Calmels||LC88||Ford Cosworth DFZ
|Espo Larrousse F1||LC89B
|Larrousse||LC91||Ford Cosworth DFR
|Scuderia Italia||T93/30||Ferrari Tipo 040
|MasterCard Lola||T97/30||Ford ECA Zetec-R