JANUARY 29, 1996

Whatever happened to Lola's F1 plans?

LOLA CARS has been planning to return to Grand Prix racing ever since its disastrous involvement with Scuderia Italia came to an end in 1993. Every year, however, the Huntingdon manufacturer is unable to put a program together.

Lola actually built an F1 car during the winter of 1994/95 with the intention of testing throughout 1995 and entering F1 this year. The prototype Ford-engined T95/30 was designed by ex-Benetton engineer Julian Cooper with help from ex-Williams aerodynamics engineer Chris Saunders, who developed the chassis using the 40% scale windtunnel at Britain's Cranfield Institute automotive research facility. The T95/30 was displayed at the Paris Racing Car Show and briefly ran in England with Allan McNish driving, but the program stalled when the company could not find enough money to do the job properly.

Although Lola has enjoyed enormous success in all manner of competition, its F1 programs have been largely unsuccessful. Lola was commissioned to design a Formula 1 car for the Bowmaker Yeoman Credit F1 team in 1962, and John Surtees finished fourth in that year's World Championship. The team closed down at the end of that year and Lola did not return to F1 until 1974, when Lola supplied Graham Hill's F1 operation with chassis, until the 1975 air crash wiped out the team.

It was 10 years before the Lola name returned to F1, but the FORCE Lolas were only named Lola because Carl Haas was Lola's North American importer.

Lola's real return to F1 came in 1987 with Larrousse. This continued until the end of 1991 when Lola refused to go on supplying cars as Larrousse had not paid its bills.

A deal was struck for 1993 with Scuderia Italia, but the Ferrari-engined, Chesterfield-sponsored cars were hopelessly uncompetitive.

Fed up with unsuccessful partnerships Lola decided that it was best to establish its own operation, and much work has been done at Huntingdon to prepare the necessary facilities with heavy investment in computer design equipment and composite departments.

We hear that Lola is now talking with Pacific Racing boss Keith Wiggins about a possible tie-up for the 1997 World Championship - but, as always, this will depend on whether or not the money can be found.