Goodwood provides spectacular setting to celebrate Lola's 50 Golden Years in Motorsport
Heroes of the racetrack paid tribute to Lola at this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed (11-13 July). Attended by over 100,000 spectators, Damon Hill, John Surtees, Sebastien Bourdais, Brian Redman and Carl Haas were among many famous faces joining legendary Lola founder Eric Broadley and current owner Martin Birrane in marking the golden anniversary of the world's most prolific and successful racing car constructor.
A specially constructed paddock of Lola's most famous evocative designs was organised jointly by Goodwood and Lola to reflect the true diversity of the Huntingdon constructors range of racing cars built since 1958. The very first Lola, the Mk1 prototype was re-united with its founding father Eric Broadley on Saturday 12 July, when the 79 year old marque creator drove the car to its starting position in the grounds of Goodwood House. It proved to be a moving experience for the many motorsport fans that witnessed the occasion of the company's instigator turning the clock back exactly 50 years.
Martin Birrane, who fell in love with the Lola brand in the 1960's after seeing the iconic Lola T70 sportscar, also saw action over the weekend when he piloted the Bowes Seal Fast Special' Lola T92 that raced at Indianapolis in 1966 and 1967. Birrane took over driving duties from Damon Hill who sampled the raw power of the Ford V8 4-cam engined car on the Friday morning. The 1996 World Champion was delighted to have been invited to be part of Lola's 50th anniversary celebrations, saying: "Lola is an important part of the British motorsport industry and they have contributed enormously to its success over the last 50 years. The amount of cars that they have produced is phenomenal."
Hill also went on to reminisce on how his career was assisted by Lola designs, especially in Formula 3000, where he came to International prominence in the early 1990's. "Lola designs helped me to achieve the goal of racing in Formula One. In 1990 I got pole positions and led several races in their F3000 car and this raised awareness of what I could do with Frank Williams. It was my stepping stone into F1 and it carried on from there."
John Surtees was another British World Champion on-hand to relive the golden memories with Lola. John Surtees, the 1964 F1 World Champion drove many Lola designs during the 1960's and 1970's, most famously the MkII Lola T70 that he took to the inaugural Can-Am title in 1965. Remembering his achievements with Lola's over the years, Surtees said: "I have nothing but enormous admiration for Lola Cars and the many different models they have produced. I first drove a Lola in 1962 with the Mk4 Formula One car. It was a very capable design and we were right up their in some races. So when it came to sportscar racing, I knew that whatever Eric Broadley created, it would be very handy, and so it proved with the T70.
"When I was hurt at Mosport Park in 1966, I told the team to take Graham Hill for the Indy 500 as I knew he would do a great job. He did and won the race in the Lola T90. Now, Martin Birrane has ensured that the business has continued and that is a truly wonderful thing for a company with this heritage. I wish them a very happy birthday."
Generations of drivers, team owners and enthusiasts have enjoyed Lola racing cars over the last half a century. That was brought right up to date when Sebastien Bourdais, the current Torro Rosso F1 driver paid a glowing tribute to the way Lola had helped him reach the very top of his profession. "I won my first F3000 race in a Lola and then took the title in 2002," said the 29 year old Frenchman. "It was nice to also transfer to Champ Cars and still know that I had a competitive car with the Lola in 2003, knowing that I could trust it technically. We took three titles in 04, 05 and 06 with the Newman/Haas Lola and it was the best car I have driven in my career."
Speaking of the weekend tributes, Martin Birrane, Executive Chairman of Lola Group commented: "The depth of genuine affection that everyone has for Lola was reflected at Goodwood this weekend. Personalities such as Damon Hill, John Surtees, Kevin McGarrity, Carl Haas, Sebastien Bourdais, Brian Redman and Paul Tracy have attended especially to recognise the achievement of staying at the top in an industry that is notoriously unforgiving and volatile. "Lola have always stood for excellence in engineering and I have ensured the continuation and further improvement of this trait since I took over the business in 1997. Fifty years after Eric Broadley founded the company, we see today a Lola with world class technical facilities and a recent history just as proud as the tremendously rich heritage from the early days."
Lola Group is based in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire and is a specialist supplier of advanced technology solution to industries such as Aerospace, Defence, Marine, Communications and Automotive. With a complete composites capability, an on-site state-of-the-art 50% scale commercially available windtunnel and a 7-post vehicle dynamic test rig, Lola are at the leading edge of high level engineering.
Paul Tracy: "My first drive in CART was with a Lola in 1991 at Long Beach. I then went on to drive for Newman Haas and won a bunch of races in 1995. Then in 2002 we switched to the Lola Champ Car and in 2003 took the championship. I would say that the 03 car is the greatest car I have ever driven - ultra neat. I have so much respect for those guys in Huntingdon. They have always built excellent race cars." Quotes continued on page 2
Brian Redman: "I have so many memories of racing Lola racing cars, particularly the T70 and the T332 Formula 500 cars. They always seemed to be big cars in the best possible way. Very brutish but well designed and built. I also raced in to the 80's with the T616, so my link is a long one. It was fantastic to see Eric Broadley here this weekend and spend some time with him. A true genius in terms of engineering I always thought and a very nice man too."
David Hobbs: "I can't remember a time when Lola weren't around and it would be strange if they weren't. Fifty years is amazing when you think about it. I was at Le Mans a few weeks ago and saw the latest LMP cars. They were superb and to realise that these cars are still coming out of the factory is very reassuring. I hope they are around for many years to come and still building some astonishing race cars."
Paul Stewart: "I drove my fathers Indy Car up the hill today and it was quite something. A really raw kind of car. It makes a great noise and the crowd loved it. I drove a Lola in F3000 in 1991 and although it was a difficult year that year I am well aware how important the company is to the racing industry. It was a delight to be here to share the celebrations and to get the chance to drive as wonderful a car as the Lola T92 Indycar."
KEVIN McGARITTY: "It was great to be back in the MG-Lola again. It was a terrific car with brilliant driveability and it was so nimble, particularly under braking. It probably was ahead of its time a little bit. It was an honour to come back to drive it at Goodwood and to be part of Lola's 50th anniversary celebrations"