A Lola has won a Grand Prix. In 1967, John Surtees proved victorious in a memorable Italian Grand Prix at Monza. This was his debut of the Honda RA300, but the fact that this machine was labelled as the ‘Hondola or ‘Lolanda’ at the time sheds some light on the matter.
Surtees had begun the season in the ill-handling overweight RA273, and by the middle of the year he had persuaded the Japanese manufacturer to enlist the help of Broadley on a new design. This car was built in just six weeks at a Slough workshop, ran on Firestones sourced from Brentford and used BP fuel. It also owed a lot to the influence of the Lola T90 (especially in its suspension) that had taken Graham Hill to victory in the previous year’s Indy 500 under the guise of the Red Ball Special.
After a few brief shakedown laps at Goodwood, the RA300 was taken to Italy, where little was expected of it. Once its front anti-roll bar mountings had been beefed up, Surtees qualified it ninth. 1.8sec shy of the pole-sitting Lotus of Jim Clark.
The Scot was to dominate the early stages of the race until he lost a lap with a rear puncture. Emerging from the pits, he soon caught up with the leading bunch, albeit a lap down, and dragged his team-mate Graham Hill into a huge lead.
Surtees, meanwhile, had fended off the advances of Chris Amon’s Ferrari, which retired with broken suspension, and was steadily closing the gap to Jack Brabham’s second-placed Brabham. Such was the pace of Clark and Hill, however, that the latter looked set to lap Surtees and Brabham on his way to victory and a Lotus one-two, when Hill’s Cosworth DFV blew up with just nine laps remaining.
Incredibly, Clark now became the favourite to win, unlapping himself as he drafted by both Surtees and Brabham to take the lead. Craftily, however Surtees used the flying Lotus to tow him up to Brabham with a view to taking second place. But this became a battle for the lead when Clark stopped on the last lap, supposedly out of petrol. Surtees took the lead as both he and Brabham were forced to swerve around the slowing Clark, and so Brabham had to plan a move at the final Parabolica corner. Unfortunately for him, the inside line of this was covered in cement dust in an effort to soak up Hill’s oil. Surtees showed him the inside and the Aussie went for it, only to lock up and slide wide on the dust. Surtees tucked back inside the Brabham and had just enough speed to hold it off to the line.
After the race, the Lotus mechanics went to salvage Clark’s car. It fired up first time. Its fuel tank still had three gallons in it!