Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler: BlackJack’sBriefs
As with my series on drivers, I started with the Wiki ‘List of Formula One Constructors’ and quickly reduced 136 to 43 eligible constructors by removing the Champions, and those hopefuls who failed to last beyond two or three seasons, and also those who only competed before 1958. [See Part-20 – Intro for details.]
“I’ll be back…”
Eric Broadley MBE, founder and designer of Lola Cars, was born in Bromley, Kent, in 1928 (as also were Chapman, de Tomaso and Colani) and yet seems barely known today, despite being one of the most influential designers of the 50’s and 60’s, and his cars continued to dominate around the world into the 90’s.
Not dissimilar to the career of Dallara, who shadowed Broadley’s footsteps in a bizarre manner, Lola were successful wherever they competed except, sadly, in F1, although they tried many times to establish themselves at the pinnacle of motor-sport.
Their first season, providing cars for the Bowmaker- Yeoman Credit team, in 1962, was to prove their best when John Surtees took the car to two 2nd places, one 4th, and two 5th’s in the nine-race season.
But I get ahead of myself…
During the 50’s Broadley was involved, as were Colin Chapman and many others, with the British, 750 Motor Club, a band of amateur motor-sport devotees who stripped the bodywork off 30’s & 40’s Austin Seven cars and used the archaic chassis, and side-valve, 750cc engine as a base for low-cost, road-going sports-racing cars. To provide a little more speed, club members also attacked the British-made Ford (‘Sit-Up-And-Beg’) Popular (known locally as, ‘The Dagenham Donkey’) with it’s 1,172cc engine – also side-valved – and, such was the success of these, that the Lotus-7 became ubiquitous and, in much the original form, is still made today – by Caterham…
After two years campaigning his ‘Broadley Special’ Eric created his first Lola, the Mk.1 – in 1958 – fitted with an 1100cc Coventry Climax engine which competed for five seasons and is thought, by many, to be the most beautiful sports-racing car made at that time – or since. It was also considered to be more innovative, a key difference being an asymmetric spaceframe chassis with tubes placed where they were needed, and where they could best be triangulated, rather than just having both sides of the car identical. This was both lighter and stiffer.
Several of Broadley’s ideas were adopted by other designers, including Mr Chapman. This car totally trounced the Lotus, and Broadley was the first driver to lap Brands Hatch in under one minute. He never expected to go from hobby to business yet, by 1966, he was selling more racing cars than anybody had ever done before.
In 1960 Lola produced a monoposto car for the new F.Junior, aimed at getting young drivers into racing without the budget needed for F3 – this has always been an insoluble problem. Using the powerful OHV Ford Anglia engine this Mk2 had one drawback – like his peer, Chapman, Broadley was caught hopping with the rear-engine revolution but, again, it was often regarded as the best, and most beautiful car of the front-engine era. And also finished 1-2 at the Nurburgring.
1961 saw the arrival of the rear-engined Mk3, and an innovation of having the fuel tank amidships, for race-long balance (which didn’t fully catch on in F1 for another twenty-five years), and was quickly followed, in 1962, with a F1 car (the Mk4) for Reg Parnell Racing, sponsored by the Bowmaker/Yeoman-Credit Finance Co. In their first race, in Holland, Surtees put the car on pole position… and how many times has that happened…? [Yes, I am asking… and I mean a manufacturer’s first F1 race, not just a car’s first appearance…]
In the following three races Surtees finished 4th, 5th, & 5th and then had two consecutive 2nd places (the only driver on the same lap as Clark, at Aintree, and just two secs. behind Hill at the Nurburgring), which put him 3rd in the Championship. Unfortunately things fell apart and Surtees suffered engine failures in the remaining three races… while his teammate, Roy Salvadori, failed to complete a single race. Surtees was pushed down to 4th, by Bruce McLaren, but Lola held on to 4th in the Constructors Championship.
In all, Lola competed in fourteen intermittent seasons of F1, between 1962 and 1997, but they never bettered this remarkable first season.
It might appear that Broadley was not the type of ‘businessman’ for which Chapman became famous, and Lola concentrated on sports/GT racing although their single-seater designs continued to enjoy success in F.J, F3, and F2 and, later, F.Vee, F.Atlantic and F5000.
In 1963 Lola produced their first GT coupe (Mk6) with a large, rear-mounted (another first) 4.7L American, V8, and Ford commissioned Lola to merge their design teams for two years to produce the legendary Ford GT40. Broadley extricated himself from this contract after one year, established a new factory at Slough, and went on to produce his also legendary, and definitively beautiful, T70, which had worldwide success during the next ten years and, with other models, remained at the forefront into the 80’s and 90’s – and also the 21st C.
Meanwhile… Eric Broadley assisted Peter Ashdown to adapt his original FJ car for F2, in 1960. The engine was changed to a 1460cc Coventry-Climax and entered at Crystal Palace, but it was not successful, partly because of the rear-engine revolution. Ironically the Motoring News correspondent at the time wrote: “It would be nice to see a front-engined car win a race…!”
In 1961 Lola introduced their first rear-engined car (the Mk3) for F.Junior. This was the first year of the new 1500cc F1 and, at the end of the year private customer, Hugh Dibley, had his engine bored and stroked to the limit and entered a non-Championship race at Brands Hatch, where he was able to run in 4th place until a wheel bearing failed. By 1962 the first official Lola F1 car appeared. [See above.]
At the end of 1962 the Bowmaker sponsorship was lost and Parnell soldiered on, under financed, before calling it a day. Four years later Honda made a foray into F1 and, with John Surtees, commissioned Lola to provide a better chassis than their own, The 1966 Indy car (the T90) was adapted to take Honda’s powerful engine and called (by Lola) the T130, and (by Honda) the RA300 – and (by the press) the ‘Hondola’.
After eight disappointing races in 1967, with their own chassis, the ‘Hondola’ made its debut at Monza, qualified 9th… and went on to win… And how many times has that happened, straight out of the box…? Surtees managed 4th in Mexico which, with earlier points, was enough to give Honda 4th in the Championship. The car had one more appearance, in South Africa the following year, finished 8th, and was replaced by the RA301, which was not a success… and so, after their second sojourn in F1, Lola returned to the wilderness.
Meanwhile, with Brabham poaching sales of racing cars, Lola had a look at the IndyCar series in 1965 and, in 1966, provided cars to be driven by Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill who romped away with the Indy-500. It was almost a 1-2 victory until Stewart’s Ford engine blew, leaving Hill to make history.
Lola continued their success in the States until 1972 but a return in 1983 resulted in a 24-year dominance until all the Indy teams were running Lola cars. The organisers then elected for a ‘spec’ series… and Dallara neatly stepped in and got the contract… while Lola received the FIA contract for F3000. In all Lola won 3 Indy500 races, and 11 Championships…
In F1 it would be another five years before, in 1974, Graham Hill’s fledgeling team commissioned Lola to build a replacement for their private/customer Shadow, the T370, based on their F5000 cars. They achieved one point for 6th in Sweden, and the car morphed into the GH-1 for 1975, when it scored three points, before Hill, and the mainstays of the team were killed in a plane crash at the end of the year – and the team was disbanded. A third attempt by Lola to enter F1 came to an end. However Lolas were still popular in other formulae and over a thousand cars had been built at this point.
Undaunted, Lola continued their successes west of the Atlantic, while IndyCar team-owner, Carl Haas (no relation to Gene), harboured a dream,,, and ten years later, with sponsorship from American food giant, Beatrice, and managed by Teddy Mayer (previously a partner in the McLaren organisation, who assumed control after Bruce’s death, then merged with, and later sold out to, Ron Dennis’ Project-4 team), Team Haas appeared on the late, 1985, grids.
This time would surely be Broadley’s turn; with 1980 Champion, Alan Jones, lured out of his second retirement, and stalwart, Patrick Tambay, joining for 1986, the car showed considerable potential and was much admired, “up and down the paddock” (to use Mr Horner’s trite expression…), but it was much troubled by the underpowered Ford turbo engine. When Beatrice was taken over, and their money withdrawn, the team was forced to follow suit.
Actually, it wasn’t quite that simple… The cars were built by Haas subsidiary, FORCE (Formula One Race Car Engineering), designed by Neil Oatley (brought in from Williams, and later assisted by Ross Brawn), and were only ‘officially’ known as Lolas, as Haas was the North American Lola importer. Haas effected a three-year deal with Ford for exclusive use of their new turbo engine (the TEC, to replace the aging DFV).
The car didn’t appear until the Italian GP, and the engine not until the following year. Jones qualified 25th, and the Hart engine managed six laps in the race. In the final race, at Adelaide, Jones qualified 19th but maybe the local excitement got the better of him because he stalled on the grid. However, with that ever-elusive extra that drivers get in their home GP Jones rocketed through the field to 6th place in just twenty laps, before the electrics went haywire.
For 1986 the new Ford engine still wasn’t ready so the team had to start with the previous year’s car When the new one appeared it was no better, and Adrian Newey was brought from March to help out. Although they managed 4th & 5th in Hungary the team was usually content if the cars just finished. Throughout the year the sponsorship money slowed to a dribble, and Brabham wheeler-dealer, Bernard Ecclestone, bought the entire FORCE assets. Ecclestone wanted to lose the BMW engines, and thus expected to acquire the Ford exclusivity, but Ford vetoed the arrangement and took their engines to Benetton. Yah, boo, sucks…!
Ecclestone used the factory to build Alfa Romeo cars for the ill-fated ‘ProCar’, silhouette touring car series, using F1 mechanicals. Newey returned to March, Oatley moved to McLaren, and Brawn went to Arrows… and Bernie continued his rocky road to eventual disgrace.
Many a lesser man might have given up long before this but Broadley was working on his next F1 car in conjunction with Larouse-Calmels, using a modified F3000 chassis. Gerard Larrouse had been very successful in rallying, and then racing sports-cars, before making two appearances in F1 in 1974. A change to management with Elf-Switzerland, and with Renault F1, saw him form his own team for 1987 with Didier Calmels, a lawyer by profession, a Judicial Trustee, “Wonder boy of the Parisian jet-set” (LeSoir) who, in 1990, was jailed for six years for ‘accidentally’ killing his wife… The team’s name then changed, to ‘Larrouse’.
This Lola team survived for five years, two with the DFZ, then two with a Lamborghini V12, and finally one year with the Ford DFR… They hired thirteen different drivers (Michele Alboreto, the only ‘A-list’ one), four of them Japanese (after the Espo Corporation bought 50% of the shares), the others mostly French. Their best season was 1990 when they finished 6th in the Championship.
Much of the design work was done by Ralph Bellamy, later joined by Chris Murphy from Zakspeed, and then Gerard Ducarouge, from Renault/Lotus and, in 1990, Aguri Suzuki scored the team’s first podium, at ‘home’, in Suzuka. But it wasn’t enough for Lamborghini, who took their engines to Ligier, leaving Larrouse to ‘resurrect’ the independent Hart units. At the end of the year the FIA disqualified Larrouse, for falsely declaring the cars to be Larrouse, and not Lola, which act miraculously promoted the politically well-connected Ligier team, who thus then received ‘significant FIA financial benefits’…
Espo subsequently withdrew, leaving Gerard Larrouse to soldier on without finance for 1991, Suzuki scored one point in Phoenix, but failed to finish another race, Eric Bernard scored a single point in Mexico, and crashed badly in Japan which delayed his career for three years, and ex-Jordan driver, Bertrand Gachot, who had been AWOL for two months, at Her Majesty’s pleasure (for spraying CS gas on a London cabbie), deputised for Eric, but failed to qualify.
With insufficient funds to even draw a veil of respectability across the Larrouse team, and after a failed attempt to gain protection from creditors in the courts, and a failed attempt to merge with AGS (a small, independent French team, which was in a similar financial state – See below), the business relationships with Lola and Hart were severed, with bills left unpaid. Larrouse was able to soldier on, almost race by race, for another three years but, when some of his ‘pay-drivers’ left with unpaid bills, and several of his ‘partners’ sued him, his karma came home to roost.
[I hope to use this series occasionally to mention a name or two about whom even dedicated fans might know very little – and which might even give the Autosport writers further inspiration.]
The AGS team (Automobiles Gonfaronnaises Sportives) was founded by French ‘amateur’, Henri Julien (1927-2013), who ran a filling (gas) station in the Provencale village of Gonfaron, called Garage de l’Avenir (Garage of the Future). Julien was a spectator at the Nice GP in 1946 and thought, “I can do that,” and set about building his own car, the JH1, with a 500cc Simca engine. Two years later it was replaced by a BMW-engined car, and then the JH3, in 1957, with front-wheel-drive DB Panhard mechanicals, which he entered in the new F.Junior in 1959, the year that Michael May achieved inaugural fame with his Italian Stanguellini. At Monaco Julien finished 19th, four laps behind May. And there it might have ended.
The irrepressible Henri accepted that maybe he actually, ‘couldn’t do that’, and the first half of the 60’s was spent driving ‘real’ cars, including a Lotus 22 in F3, but still without success, and he realised it was his driving that prevented his success and not his cars, and he returned to Gonfaron to create the JH4, for F.France, F.Renault and F3. It was a small undertaking and it wan’t until 1978 that AGS entered F2, winning three races (with Richard Dallest and Philippe Streiff driving) and then, with perhaps amazing tenacity, finally entered F1, in 1986, by purchasing some Renault parts when the French manufacturer pulled out after 1985. These were reassembled by Julien and his garage apprentice from 1959, Christian Vanderpleyn, into the JH21C. Using a Motori Moderni turbo enginem with backing from the Italian Jolly Club, the car appeared at Monza in the hands of Ivan Capelli.
With sponsorship from Mexican shoe and clothing company, El Charro, in 1987, Roberto Moreno finished 6th in Australia to take the team’s first Championship point… with (allegedly) little more than six employees, including the driver. AGS thus finished =11th in the Championship, with Ligier and March, and ahead of Minardi, Osella and Coloni. By the end of 1988 AGS suffered the sadly usual problem of increasing costs allied to falling sponsorship and Henri Julien, sold out. Without a single point they were at the bottom of the Championship, along with Lola, Dallara, Coloni, Ligier, Osella, Euro Brun, and Zakspeed.
While Larrouse, Ligier, Lafitte, Prost and others were struggling to acquire funding from the French government, and often defaulting on their financial obligations, Henri Julien just got on with it, did what he could and, I suspect, achieved considerably more satisfaction.
Henri was described as ‘goodhearted’: “It’s good to compete with others, as long as you don’t forget to eat and drink well afterwards.” He lived in the flat above the Garage de l’Avenir until he was taken ill and died in hospital, on 13th July, 2013, at the age of 85.
But what of Lola…?
Well, they were still trying, as BMS Scuderia Italia decided to drop their Dallara chassis in favour of Lola for 1993, but both car and their Ferrari engines were outclassed and were withdrawn before the end of the season, partly merging with Minardi for 1994.
During 1995 and 1996 Lola produced several test cars for a rumoured Ford team but, whoever was paying the bills, it never reached the starting grid.
By 1997 Lola were working on a car for a works team in 1998, financed by a nonsensical deal with MasterCard, but the sponsor couldn’t wait and ‘forced’ Lola to debut in 1997. With a clearly unready car (and an interim engine) the team arrived in Australia with the car having never seen the inside of a wind-tunnel… nor the outside of the Fat Hippo’s dining table… and the result was totally, but completely, disastrous…!
It was unfair on newcomers, Vincenzo Sospiri and Ricardo Rosset, who failed to qualify, being 113% (12 secs.) behind the pole time. They were even 106% (5 secs.) behind the last qualifier…! MasterCard (without, allegedly, paying a cent) disappeared faster than a snowflake on a BBQ. The team still went to Brazil but not a wheel was turned.
Sospiri moved to the IndyCar series and, in his first race, qualified 3rd for the Indy500. He later finished 2nd at New Hampshire but never achieved a career as a racing driver. After a poor showing at Footwork in 1996, Rosset moved to Tyrrell for 1998 when Murray Walker commented that people were debating whether he was F1 quality, and the ungracious Brundle quipped: “It’s a fairly short debate.” After badly damaging his car at Monaco Rosset’s unsympathetic mechanics swapped the first and last letters of his name – to ‘Tosser’. For non-English readers, this is an impolite term for idiot. Rosset retired from race-driving at the end of the season.
MasterCard used their ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card, Lola were left with debts of (allegedly) £6,000,000 and, a few weeks later, the entire Lola Group went into liquidation. Unable to find a suitable buyer, and after 39 years at the forefront of most formulae other than F1, Lola ceased trading.
An eventual buy-out kept the company going and, in 2009, Lola announced their intention to compete for one of the three new F1 places. The FIA was unimpressed. In 2012 Lola collapsed again.
Of the thousands of drivers who have started careers in Lola cars many became household names, along with Newey, Oatley, Brawn, Bellamy, Len Terry, and Patrick Head.
For those who feel I might be biased in including Lola in this list let me admit, you are perhaps not wrong. As a young school-kid, in 1961, I was told by an inept bureaucracy that I would have to delay entering university for a year. A visiting Careers Officer asked about other interests. I said I fancied making movies or being a racing driver. The poor chap knew nothing about one, and less about the other. The film industry then was a ‘closed shop’ – you couldn’t get a job without a union ticket and you couldn’t get a ticket without gainful employment. “So, what about motor-racing?” he replied. I had been educated as a designer/draughtsman and suggested I could write to racing car companies. The resourceful chap advised me to write to racing car companies… The whole session took four minutes.
I wrote to every established and fledgeling company in Britain. A nice reply from BRM informed me they were not hiring at that time, and wished me luck. Nobody else replied… except Eric Broadley, who invited me for a chat. At that time I was living a short bus-ride from the Lola ‘factory’ in Kent, and I arrived with a roll of drawings, and a pair of precision Vee-blocks from my engineering class… and Mr Broadley became simply one of the nicest men I’ve ever met. Like a big brother, even father-figure, we chatted for an hour until he showed me the drawing of his latest design and asked me to describe it, as if I was a technical journalist. I will never forget his silent smile as I seemed to get it all right.
Finally he asked where I saw such a position taking me. As a teenager, with no knowledge of interview techniques, I’ve always believed I then blew it. I had no idea where it might take me. I hadn’t even thought about it. At that time there were very few ‘names’ like Newey that one could desire to emulate, and to suggest I wanted to be another Chapman would have been undiplomatic, and I could hardly tell the boss I wanted his job… so I blurted out I would quite like to be a racing driver…! And that was that.
In 1962 Lola took on the young graduate, Tony Southgate, who was far better qualified than I was, and went on to design for Eagle, BRM, Shadow, Lotus, Arrows, Theodore, Osella – and others. At the same time an update in the University ‘Technical Directives’ allowed me to enter university after all. After a brief ‘wrong slot’ I later had a very satisfying career in films. And also did a bit of freelance design work. Now I’m a sort of motor-racing journalist. Funny ol’ world, isn’t it.
Previously: 20th – Dallara