There was some good news over the Christmas break, with the announcement that the Lola name will remain active in motorsport, despite the demise of Lola Cars. Lola was founded in 1959 after Eric Broadley, an enthusiastic member of the 750 Motor Club, began to commercialise his Ford-engined specialis which he had begun building in 1957. The company built its first single-seater, a Formula Junior, in 1960 and a year later was commissioned by the Bowmaker Yeoman Credit F1 team to build an F1 car. The team was run by Reg Parnell and funded by the finance company, which was owned by the Samengo-Turner family. The Lola-Climax Mk4 was driven by John Surtees and Roy Salvadori and Surtees took pole in the car’s first World Championship event in Holland in May 1962. Two weeks later at Monaco Surtees gave Lola its first World Championship finish with fourth place at Monaco. Later in the year he finished second at Aintree and at the Nurburgring and this put him fourth in the World Championship. Unfortunately, Bowmaker withdrew from the sport and Lola went back to building other non-F1 machinery until 1967 when the company was asked (discreetly) to help Honda with its Formula 1 programme. The Lola T90 USAC chassis was used as the basis for an F1 car that was known as the Honda RA300. Remarkably this car was driven to victory on its debut at Monza by Surtees. He finished fourth in Mexico as well and this helped him to climb to fourth in the Drivers’ World Championship. A Honda RA301 was built and raced in 1968 but Honda then wanted to do its own car again. There was another brief dalliance with F1 in 1974 when Lola was commissioned to design a car for Graham Hill’s new Embassy team. This was called the Lola T370 although it was much-modified and later became known as a Hill.
In the late 1970s and 1980s Lola concentrated on Indycars and it was not until 1985 that the Lola name returned to F1 with Carl Haas’s Formula One Race Car Engineering operation, which was known as Beatrice Lola. The cars were known as Lolas because of Haas’s involvement as Lola’s agent in America but were not built by Lola itself. The team lasted only 18 months, but Lola returned in its own right in 1987 with a car designed for Gerard Larrousse’s new team. The relationship lasted until 1991 with increasing success, culminating in Aguri Suzuki’s podium finish that year in Japan. Things were nto so good in 1991 and the deal ended. In mid-1992 Lola was back in an alliance with Scuderia Italia – which had previously been using Dallara chassis. The team had Ferrari engines, sponsorship from Chesterfield and drivers Michele Alboreto and Luca Badoer, but the car was not competitive and the team ended up merging with Minardi and ending the relationship with Lola. This was followed by a period when Lola tried to create its own F1 team, building some prototypes but not having the money to race them, and then in 1997 with the Lola Formula 1 Ltd team. This was a complete disaster that caused Lola Cars to run into serious financial problems. Later that year it was put into receivership and bought by Irish businessman Martin Birrane, who concentrated on the customer business and left F1 alone for a decade before looking at F1 again.
The last Lola F1 project was in 2009 when Lola announced that it had commenced a project aimed at developing an F1 team. This was abandoned after the company failed to get an entry for 2010.
The Lola name is now licensed by Birrane to Multimatic Engineering and Carl A Haas Automobile Imports Inc. Multimatic will build the Lola LMP cars and Haas will distribute them and provide spare parts.
You never know, Lola might one day make yet another F1 comeback…