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Lola F1 gets the green light

British racing car builder Lola is going ahead with its plan to enter Formula 1 with a factory team in 1996. Lola has enjoyed enormous success in its history, most recently in Indycar racing and Formula 3000; but several attempts at F1 have been largely unsuccessful, the most recent of which ended in a debacle with the Chesterfield-sponsored Scuderia Italia Lola-Ferraris in 1993. Fed up with unsuccessful partnerships, Lola decided to set up its own team but plans to enter F1 in 1995 were frustrated because of lack of money. The company did, however, build a prototype F1 chassis which tested briefly last winter. The car is not expected to be run again until June; but Lola engineers have been busy running rig tests on various components, notably the gearbox. A second chassis is expected to be built within a couple of months and Scottish driver Allan McNish is standing by to undertake a test programme with the team. The prototype has been designed by former Benetton designer Julian Cooper, and he has recently been joined by ex-Williams aerodynamics engineer Chris Saunders who has been busy developing the chassis using the 40% scale windtunnel at Britain's Cranfield Institute automotive research facility, with which Lola has an exclusive deal. The company has recently completed the construction of a completely new building for its composite departments and a second autoclave has been installed. In addition, the company has invested heavily in a state-of-the-art CAD/CAM system. All this means that Lola now has the capability of producing up to 300 racing cars a year if there is the demand. The F1 programme has so far swallowed up as much as $3.5million, but more money is being raised by the team's head of marketing Brett Trafford while recruitment for the team will begin shortly. One name we have heard as a possible team organiser is former Arrows team manager John Wickham. On the technical side, Lotus designer Chris Murphy, who worked at Lola in the late 1980s, has been tipped as a possible technical director.

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