When I first heard about the plan to revive Lola Cars, I had some trepidation. In these days of SPAC-powered exuberance and blockchain hype, it would be pretty easy for a company to take the cynical approach: design (if not necessarily ever build) a ridiculously expensive electric hypercar and maybe some NFTs and wait for the hype. starts rolling in. Fortunately, those ideas couldn’t have been further from the new owner’s plans.
“Put simply, our plan is to bring Lola back to an earlier version of herself. To me, that means being a design and engineering force in modern motorsport,” explains Till Bechtolsheimer, an investor and amateur driver who owns the company’s assets. in June.
Older racing fans know the name Lola. The company was founded in the United Kingdom in 1958 by Eric Broadley and had entered Formula 1 as a constructor by 1962, but never with much success. A few second-place finishes for John Surtees that year were the best results Lola-built F1 cars could muster, and the company’s planned return to the sport in 1997 with the support of MasterCard was a complete fiasco that ended when neither cars qualified for that year’s opening race in Australia.
But racing is much more than F1 and Lola found great success building customer cars for other series and rulebooks. It built solid cars for Formula 2 and its successor, Formula 3000, although the real headlines came from Lola chassis-winning races like the Indianapolis 500 (in 1966, 1978 and 1990) and especially from its success in sports car racing.
In particular, Ford was so impressed with the Lola Mk6 sports car that it signed a contract with Broadley to help develop the GT40 in its early days, although Lola was little involved in that iconic race car, which was built to beat Ferrari at Le man. That was because it was busy creating its own sports prototype, the T70, which debuted the following year in 1965.
The T70 proved popular; more than 100 T70s were built, in coupé and Spyder bodies, and those numbers allowed the cars to continue to compete through the same loophole that led to the Porsche 917. The T70 never won Le Mans – no car with the Lola name badge did. but a few T70s came in for a Porsche and a Ferrari in staged crashes in Steve McQueen’s beautiful, flawed Le Mans. Much more success at La Sarthe in France came in the 2000s, with five class wins in the LMP675 category. Most recently, Lola prototypes also campaigned in LMP and LMP2, which formed the basis for Mazda’s IMSA racer until 2016.
Lola had already stopped trading four years before that season and the following year the LMP2 rules changed so that LMP2 chassis is now only allowed from four manufacturers (Dallara, Multimatic, Ligier and Oreca).
For that reason, we cannot yet expect Bechtolsheimer’s Lola at Le Mans or in IMSA. And as mentioned, there are no immediate plans to produce a road car, which is extremely refreshing to hear. And there are no plans for a factory team, a la Glickenhaus and his efforts in the World Endurance Championship or on the Nordschleife.
Instead, upgrading the company’s wind tunnel in the UK is a high priority. Before it belonged to Lola, the 50 percent tunnel belonged to British Aerospace and he had a hand in the development of the Concorde and the Eurofighter.
“Before I bought Lola… the feedback from [those in the] industry that knows and uses the Lola wind tunnel is universally positive that it is a very solid, reliable tunnel that provides really good, reliable data,” Bechtolsheimer told me.
“Importantly, that data correlates strongly with track performance,” he said. “It’s just dated – it hasn’t been invested in for a long time. The operating systems are dated; they don’t talk to modern software. A lot of hardware isn’t supported anymore. So really, we’re planning some nice wholesale upgrades that will the most capable tunnel in the world at a 50 percent scale. Now it is not an F1 tunnel at a 60 percent scale. It is not a full scale tunnel. We are not necessarily trying to compete with those types of tunnels. But not everyone who want wind tunnel time, will spend F1 budget.”