The Lola Group has revealed that it has begun work on a project that aims to see the company return to Formula 1 in 2010 for the first time in more than a decade – following the ill-fated venture back in 1997 that led to its financial ruin.
The Huntingdon-based concern – founded just over half a century ago by Eric Broadley – made the announcement in the wake of the FIA's resolution to introduce an optional cost cap for teams from next season onwards, decreed following the landmark meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris last month.
The Lola Group has since launched a full technical, operational and financial evaluation of what would be required to successfully compete in the top flight in F1's revolutionary new 'low-cost' era, with the governing body's ultimate aim being to bring annual budgets down to somewhere in the region of £30 million. Last season Honda is reputed to have spent some £147 million on its Brackley-based operation, for a meagre return of just 14 constructors' world championship points.
A statement from the illustrious Cambridgeshire concern underlined that 'subject to the publication of both the technical and cost-capping regulations for 2010, [Lola] is in discussions with a number of parties with a view to creating a Lola-designed, manufactured and developed car for the FIA Formula One World Championship.
'Lola has appointed key new staff to the project and allocated some of its top engineers to this stage of the evaluation. Lola is extremely well-positioned to respond quickly to this opportunity, having already at its disposal an F1-standard wind tunnel, latest CFD and FEA and a seven-post dynamic chassis rig.'
Over four decades from the 1960s to the 1990s, Lola developed machines that went on to compete in F1, making its debut at the pinnacle of the sport when it supplied its Lola Mk4 model to Reg Parnell's Bowmaker-Yeoman Racing Team, driven by John Surtees and Roy Salvadori – with the former putting the car on pole position on its very first appearance in the 1962 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. Honda Racing, the late Graham Hill's short-lived team Embassy Hill, Haas Lola/Beatrice, Larrousse and BMS Scuderia Italia were other recipients of Lola chassis' up until 1993, but the initial level of success was never replicated.
The fundamentally-flawed, 1998 MasterCard-Lola T97/30 was the final nail in the coffin, with the cars of International F3000 graduates Vincenzo Sospiri and Ricardo Rosset failing to qualify for the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne after embarrassingly lapping more than eleven seconds off the leading pace. With the sponsors rapidly pulling the plug, they would go no further and the company went into receivership, before being rescued by Martin Birrane – the same man who now intends to give F1 another go.
“The announcement that Formula 1 teams may opt for a prudent, financially responsible 'cost-capped' regime from 2010 has resulted in us deciding to fully evaluate the opportunity to develop a car to compete in the FIA Formula One World Championship,” Lola's executive chairman contended.
“Providing world-class engineering excellence and offering high-quality solutions governed by a tightly-controlled financial regime has been part of Lola's DNA over the last decade. The current necessity for Formula 1 to adopt a responsible approach in times of economic uncertainty has created the ideal conditions for us to consider developing a car for the world championship.