I note with interest the article in the April issue on the finding of another Lola-Aston Martin, and particularly references to myself.
I would like to point out that the whole responsibility of creating the Lola-AsIon Martin programme and the original idea came from myself. We carried out as much testing as engine availability allowed, engines being scarce and very late. No sponsorship involved the cars in using materials which were inferior or unsuitable, and I certainly have no knowledge of any problem experienced with Marchal plugs, which of course were largely used by Ferrari at that time, nor of any advice from Aston Martin that the plugs they would have used in their test bench running were unsuitable.
The problems experienced at Le Mans were largely due to one thing — revised cylinder-head gaskets and sealing which we had not tested in the car and were not aware had been changed. It is also quite incorrect to surmise some 29 years later that the retirement of the car at Reims was due to my over-revving and breaking a crankshaft. I never recall having broken a crankshaft with a Chevrolet engine, and if overrevving for whatever reason had taken place, it is more likely to have created other problems. Certainly a suggestion of one-upmanship over gearing would be wrong. As the official Lola development team we were quite aware of the capabilities of our cars, and having been at Le Mans would have had gears available for speeds in excess of 190mph. Also I doubt whether we would have needed to sit in Paul Hawkins’ slipstream for performance purposes: more likely with a 12-hour race in front of us it would have been strategy to let someone else set the pace.
In relation to the Nurburgring, I don’t recall any of the circumstances surrounding the comments made. As to the remark that we retired with broken suspension, it is a wonder that your correspondent has not attributed this to me hitting the kerb or something. The Lola-Aston project unfortunately failed. It was low-budget, and the car did approximately 12 hours testing at Goodwood prior to Le Mans, but the lessons learned were not acted upon by the engine suppliers and they did not commit the resources to meet the levels of development and preparation required. What was possibly most important of all was that the various people working on the engine did not make a co-ordinated effort in resolving the problems.
The Lola-Aston Martin project should have worked. The chassis/driver combination we had was capable of beating the opposition. The engine just needed to have a reasonable power curve and moderate power, and, with perhaps the help of a wet spell witness the fastest time set in the Le Mans test trials in the wet we would have been in with a chance. It didn’t happen because the resources, time and level of co-operation and dedication to make the engine work just did not happen.
It is therefore wrong for people who have recreated these cars with engines that have had close on 30 years of further development carried out on them to look at this project through rose-coloured spectacles and try to attribute blame without any knowledge and based on hearsay from uninformed people.
John Surtees, Edenbridge, Kent.