Friday, June 9, 2017

Eric Broadley, founder of Lola Cars takes Chequored flag

Funny, but when I think of Lola, I recall proudly sporting a Lola Cars IndyCar T-Shirt during the early 2000's, prior to Chump Carz', whilst still a CART loyalist.

Strange, how apparently Racer Magazine's uncharacteristically giving Eric Broadley the snub? As cannot find anythingy' in either the IndyCar, IMSA or WEC/Le Mans Online sections, as Karmically, the 88yr old Englishman passed away most appropriately on Sunday, May 28th, the same day as the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500...

Alas, I mostly think of Messer Broadley, Lola Cars International Ltd founder as the man who designed the marvelous Sports Car, the Lola Mk6 which ultimately became the Uber Bad Arse, Nasty Ford GT 40 MkII! Along with his company's predecessor, the Lola T70.

Lola first won the Indianapolis 500 in 1966 with Graham Hill at the wheel of John Mecom's racecar, with Lola winning twice more at Mother Speedway with B-I-G AL" (Unser) in '78 and lastly, when the "Flying Dutchman," aka Arie Luyendyk won his first 500 aboard the Domino's Pizza-wagon in '90.

Ironically, Formula 1 was the only racing category Lola Cars never cracked, as their abortive factory Mastercard Lola F1 Team project nearly ruined the company, for which Broadley was forced to sell his business before finally turning out the lights in 2012 after failing to survive being placed under receivership.

Yet Lola made many attempts at Formula 1 success as a chassis builder for some three-plus decades (Excluding the failed 2010 F1 Comeback...) with many diverse projects including the Bowmaker-Yeoman Racing team managed by Reg Parnell in 1962 and Honda's earliest F1 forays were with the Lola T130 chassis, nicknamed the "Hondola," with the Honda RA301 winning the 1967 Italian Grand Prix with John Surtees at the keyboard, Lola's solitary Formula 1 victory.

Then there was the original Haas F1 Team project; Carl Haas's FORCE/Lola short lived effort, later followed by my personal favourites, the Larrousse and Calmels Lambo V-12's, albeit these wonderfully colourful chassis ran under the Larrousse banner.

Lola was contracted to build a chassis for the debutante Larrousse and Calmels F1 team in 1987, producing the LC87 chassis propelled by the ubiquitous Ford/Cosworth, now in DFZ guise.

Fast forward to '89 when the team inked a 3yr supply deal with Lamborghini, then under the auspices of Chrysler ownership for its powerful 3.5-litre normally aspirated V-12 lumps' mated to the backside of the Chris Murphy penned LC89.

Yet the team was forced to rebrand itself simply as Larrousse after Didier Calmels was convicted of killing his wife!

As the LC89 and subsequent LC90 were utilized to score many points, including Aguri Suzuki becoming the first Japanese F1 Driver to stand atop the podium, at Suzuka no less!

Larrousse's eventual demise began slowly in '91, the final year of a Lola produced chassis, the LC91, now sporting another Ford Cosworth derivative, the DFR, before the team defaulted on payment to Lola and brought in Robin Herd to design the LH92 successor, while Lola joined an unpromising Scuderia Italia effort.

Lola unwisely launched it's horrendous factory Mastercard F1 project a year early in 1997, and after one abysmal race at the season opener Down Under in Melbourne, along with never turning a wheel at the following round in Brazil effectively cratered the company, as Broadley was forced to sell the financially ruined company to Martin Birrane, who continued the storied chassis builder's business until it's ultimate demise late 2012 when partial assets were bought by the consortium of Canada's Multimatic and the Carl A. Haas Automotive group, as Haas was Lola's longtime North American importer.