Lola Cars International Ltd. was a British race car engineering company in operation from 1958 to 2012. The company was founded by Eric Broadley in Bromley, England (then in Kent, now part of Greater London), before moving to new premises in Slough, Buckinghamshire and finally Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, and endured for more than fifty years to become 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.
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 the Ford V8 powered Lola Mk.6 coupe. 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. Initial work was done at the Lola works at Bromley before moving to a factory on the Slough Trading Estate. Broadley managed to release himself from this contract after a year and started developing his own cars again, retaining the Slough factory, which was in Lola's name (leaving John Wyer to find new premises for Ford Advanced Vehicles, which were also on the Slough Estate). Broadley started 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 were to be homologated for historic racing and there was talk of a one-make series for the cars. The Slough built cars incorporated the letters 'SL' in their chassis numbers, just as the cars built at Bromley had incorporated 'BR'.
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.
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, Mazda and 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.
Late 1990s and 2000s
More recently, Lola 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 Racing and 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's Daytona 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 featuring an all-carbon bodykit, quick-release removable rear bodywork including 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 IMSA 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. All of the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship's Prototype-class chassis were retired at the end of the 2016 season in favour of a new specification, marking the end of Mazda's use of the Lola chassis.
Lola resisted making a 'works' (i.e. a factory) 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.
"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 () used as the basis for a Honda-engined car. The resultant Honda RA300 was 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
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 5000 cars of the time, and looked similar to Lola's F5000 cars, although it sported a larger airbox. The car was developed by 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 -designed car was on stream, scored some good results with Éric Bernard and Aguri Suzuki. The team experienced some problems after '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 final two races of the season. It partly merged with Minardi for 1994.
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.
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
Formula Two / Formula 3000 / A1GP
After its limited success in the 1960s with Formula One, Lola turned its attention primarily to sports cars but also to Formula Two, where Lola became the works team for BMW. As the years went on, Lola had somewhat more success in Formula Two than it ever had in Formula One, although as March and later Ralt established themselves, Lola's involvement in the category became intermittent and less successful. The final Lola F2 was derived from a Ralt design – the Ralt RT2 became the Toleman TG280, which Toleman licensed to Lola who productionised it as the T850. When Formula Two was replaced by Formula 3000 in 1985, Lola made a "false start" with a car based on their significantly larger Indycar chassis; from 1986 they returned with a bespoke F3000 design. Lola enjoyed significant success for the next few years, competing with Ralt and Reynard, although Reynard effectively wiped the others out of the market. In 1996 the International Formula 3000 Championship became a one-make series, and Lola was awarded the contract by the FIA to build the Lola T96/50 chassis for all teams competing in the championship. The contract which was renewed in 1999 (Lola B99/50) and 2002 (Lola B02/50) before International F3000 was replaced by GP2 and Lola lost the bid to build the new chassis.
Formula Nippon ran mixed grids of cars (with Reynard dominating) until 2003, when Lola was awarded that contract as well. The Euroseries 3000 used the B02/50 from 2007 to 2009, while the ex-A1GP B05/52 chassis was introduced in 2009.
Lola succeeded in winning the largest-ever contract for single-seater racing cars in 2005, the contract for the A1 Grand Prix series. Lola built 50 identical Zytek V8-powered A1 Grand Prix cars which were leased to the national franchisees (although the teams' spare cars were recalled part-way through the 2005 season to be used for spare parts); development work on these was strictly prohibited. The cars were approximately at the F3000 level of technology.
In the late 1960s, the SCCA's Formula A series evolved into Formula 5000 and attracted the attention of more professional drivers and teams. It was intended to be a cheap, high-powered open-wheeled racing series using relatively cheap tuned stock-block V8 engines. Lola entered this market as well, and after some interesting struggles with McLaren, Team Surtees and Chevron, came to dominate the later years of the series, producing the bulk of Formula 5000 cars throughout the 1970s – these competed in F5000 in Europe, the US and Australasia. The cars continued when the CanAm series was revived using Formula 5000 cars as the base. Lola made a seamless switch into this kind of "sports car racing", and won five consecutive Can-Am championships.
USAC / CART / Champ Car
Lola had built chassis for the Indianapolis 500 as early as the 1960s – Graham Hill had won the 1966 Indianapolis 500 in a Lola, and Jackie Stewart raced a four-wheel drive Lola there. Al Unser won the 1978 Indianapolis 500 race in a modified Lola chassis. However, the marque did not make a fully fledged attack on the American open wheel market until the mid-1980s.
The revived CanAm was a fading series which collapsed in 1986, prompting Lola to move its focus to CART and the Indianapolis 500 beginning in 1983 with Mario Andretti driving a Lola for the new Newman/Haas Racing that year. Once again, Lola showed its ability to succeed in all motorsports outside of Formula One, pushing March down to one team for the 1990 CART season, and out of the series altogether by 1991. Six years after its full-time entrance into Indycar racing, Lola triumphed at Indy again, as the winning car for Arie Luyendyk in the 1990 Indianapolis 500.
The rivalry between Lola and Reynard continued in the United States as well as the European F3000 series. Reynard entered CART in 1994 and eventually almost completely displaced Lola from the market. By 1998 only the backmarker Davis Racing team was utilizing the Lola chassis, with Penske Racing using their own chassis, Newman/Haas Racing using the new Swift Chassis and all others running Reynards. However, when Penske Racing elected to abandon their proprietary chassis in 1999, they elected to run Lolas for the rest of that season, switching to Reynard for 2000 and 2001. Newman/Haas and Chip Ganassi Racing switched to Lolas in running the cars the following year. By 2001 the field was evenly split between the two cars.
Reynard's financial trouble and the fact that many of the top teams running the Reynard switched to the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series in 2002 and 2003 meant that development on the Reynard largely ceased. By 2003 Lola was the only remaining manufacturer building new chassis for the Champ Car series. For the 2007 season, Champ Car switched to a spec Panoz chassis, the DP01, as its new chassis used by all competitors. The previous Lola, the B02/00, had been in the series since the 2002 season.
Lola also produced the spec chassis for the CART Indy Lights developmental series that was used from 1993 to 2001, replacing the previous car that was essentially a modified March 85B Formula 3000 car.
In Formula 3, Lola partnered with Dome of Japan to produce a chassis in 2003. There they were competing with long-established Dallara, the two makers being among the last specialty race-car manufacturers in Europe. The partnership was broken in 2005, with Lola building their own chassis which won its debut race in the British series, but the Dallara near-monopoly held.
The Lancer WRC04 with the 4G63 engine was mounted to a 5-speed semi-automatic transmission and a new all-wheel drive system co-developed by Ricardo Consulting Engineers and Mitsubishi Motors Motorsports (MMSP). The bodywork was subjected to extensive aerodynamic testing at Lola Cars' wind tunnel and significant changes to body were made after that.
Lola built chassis for a wide range of minor categories over the years. Formula Atlantic cars tended to be derived from F2 and F3 designs, and other Lolas raced in Formula Ford, Sports 2000, Formula Super Vee and many other categories, often designed by people who went on to successful careers elsewhere in the sport. For example, Patrick Head of Williams fame designed his first cars for Broadley. There was not much profit margin in the minor-formulae cars, which tended to be built during the summer when the factory was otherwise quiet (most senior-formulae cars are built over the winter in the off-season) – but they kept staff occupied, gave designers somewhere to learn, and established relationships with drivers at early stages of their careers.
At the time of Lola's creation, their sports cars and formula cars followed a naming scheme of being numbered in order of construction, and preceded by the term Mark (Mk1 through Mk6). However, in 1964, the designations were altered to become Type (marked as simply T), with the first digit or two designating what type of car, and the final digit designating a variant of that car. This continued until 1986 when the numbering scheme was slightly altered. The T would remain, yet the next two digits would designate the year of original design, and the next two would designate what type of car it was. The final digit would again denote variants of that design. This was again slightly altered in 1998, with the T being replaced by a B, in honor of Lola's owner Martin Birrane. The numbering system would however remain the same.
Since employing the new system in 1986, the final two digits stand for the following types of cars:
- /00 – CART & Champ Car
- /10 – Group C & IMSA GTP, Le Mans Prototype SR1, LMP900, and LMP1 classes
- /20 – Indy Lights
- /30 – Formula One, later replaced by Formula Three
- /40 – Le Mans Prototype SR2 and LMP2 classes
- /50 – Formula 3000 & Formula Nippon
- /60 – Le Mans Prototype LMP675 class, later LMP1 Coupes
- /70 – Mexican Formula 3000, later touring cars, now Daytona Prototypes
- /80 – Le Mans Prototype LMP2 Coupes
- /90 – Sports 2000
Therefore, a car like the T92/10 would be a 1992 Group C car, and the B03/00 would be a 2003 Champ Car chassis.
Note that the Lola former A1 Grand Prix cars currently do not have a designation that matches this scheme, and are marked simply as Lola A1GP. The evolution of this car used in the Euroseries 3000 and its immediate successor AutoGP was given the name B0552.
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- lola-group.com (at Archive.org) – Announcement of new F1 project
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- "Lola abandons planned F1 comeback". BBC Sport. 17 June 2009. Retrieved 17 June 2009.
- LolaHeritage.co.uk Archived 2 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine – Numbering system information