Lola Cars were honoured at the annual MIA awards dinner last Thursday evening when it was announced that the company were the winners of the 2003 Export Achievement Award. A 600 strong audience was in attendance to see chairman Martin Birrane accept the award on behalf of the Lola Group.
Recognising the successful contribution that Lola has made to the export market over the past 12 months the MIA praised the effectiveness of Lola's on-going business with the ChampCar, F3000 and sportscar categories. But it was the renewed strength of the companies relationship with the Japanese market that swayed the members of the judging panel, who themselves are all MIA members, to award Lola the Export Achievement trophy.
2002 saw the announcements of Lola's partnership with Dome Cars to build a Formula Three car as well as the agreement with Japanese Race Promotions to supply the new generation of Formula Nippon chassis to the series that has, in the past, nurtured the driving talents of Mika Salo, Eddie Irvine, Ralf Schumacher and Heinz Harald Frentzen.
The 2003 formula will run Honda Mugen engines, Bridgestone slick tyres and advanced wing and suspension packages.The move into Formula Nippon marks a return to Japan for Lola, the company having enjoyed great success there during the 1980's and early 1990's, before Lola then re-focused on the US Champ Car Series.
Japanese Race Promotions boss Katsumata Homma was on hand to see the award being presented in Birmingham and commented,"The new Lola 03/51 will ensure that the teams racing in F Nippon will be equipped with a sophisticated chassis that offers all the safety and performance advantages expected from the world's leading customer racecar company."
On receiving the award, Lola Cars International Ltd chairman Martin Birrane said, "Formula Nippon is one of the best series in motorsport today. So many young drivers experience Formula Nippon on their way to the top and we're pleased that we're once more supplying this excellent Championship. I, and all the staff at Lola Cars are honoured to receive this award and it underlines the growing international stature of the company at the moment."
Lola's relationship with Japanese partners dates back to the 1960's when John Surtees won both Lola and Honda's first Formula One race in the 1967 Italian Grand Prix with the RA300. Many other successful cars have been designed, either for, or in conjunction with Japanese companies. In the late 1980's the Nissan Group C challenger was conceived in Huntingdon and went on to set a lap record at Le Mans in the hands of Mark Blundell, a time which still stands to this day.