From Mk1 prototype via F1 car, Le Mans and Indy winners, Lola found its niche as a supreme customer car-builder by the 1970s, as David Malsher (almost) discovers
Show me a motor-racing fan who does not enthuse about the shape of the Lola T210/212, and I’ll show you a liar. Oh, the Alfa Romeo shield as worn on the nose of the T33s holds more charisma, the Chevron marque may tug at the heartstrings in a local-boys-made-good kind of way, but on pure aesthetics, Eric Broadley’s firm put itself a lap ahead of its rivals with this aluminium-skinned monocoque.
The long nose is blunt enough to look mean rather than mimsy, and is balanced by the elegantly scalloped front wheel-arch. Above this, the top profile of the front wing curves down ever so slightly to meet the door which then rises at its trailing edge to meet the rear bodywork. That too, is gently curved until, on its only flat plane, sit little winglets, on either side of the engine bay.
Like the Porsche 917, photographs tend to fool you into thinking the T212 is a large car. It isn’t, as I was to discover when I failed to squeeze my posterior into the narrow confines of the immovable, unadjustable seat in Martin Birrane’s superb example. (this, the second such car Martin has owned, was purchased three years ago from Steve Pontin-Waltier.) But even so, a T212 appears large enough in the fibreglass to persuade the uninitiated that there is something bigger under that rear bodywork than an 1800cc Cosvvorth FVC. Butits 250bhp was enough to give Jo Bonnier, driving a T210, the wherewithal to wrestle the Chevron B19-mounted Brian Redman to the final chequered flag of the 1970 European Trophy for Makes. Lola missed out by just one point, but included in the Swede’s tally for the year were wins at Salzburgring, Anderstoip, Hockenheim and Enna — and a very close squeak at Spa: Redman passed him at the last corner of the last lap.
Bearing in mind Brian’s traditionally sensational speed around the Belgian circuit, that JoBo was able to make such a race of it lends credence to Redman’s assertion that the T210/212 was superior to the B19. John Bright, who drove the Lola for us at Donington, echoes his former business partner’s sentiments.
“The T212 is very precise as well as quick, perhaps because of the very stiff front anti-roll bar,” he muses. “Treaded tyres give it a very light feel, making it easy to handle in the slow corners. I drove a Chevron B19 a few years ago and that felt heavier, more unwieldy. The Lola is more driver-friendly.”
That ‘light’ feel to the T212— it’s 560kg with about 25 litres of fuel aboard — is not the sort to cause a driver any trepidation in fast corners. “Absolutely not,” assures Bright. “The engine isn’t heavy and it was excellent through the high-speed stuff. Its balance was neutral, and it was very forgiving.”
The T212 (a T210 with resited oil coolers and bigger radiator) was the thing to have by 71. Helmut Marko, driving a Karl von Wendt-entered model took the European Championship, and this Ecurie Filipinetti car, in Bonnier’s hands, clinched the last of five wins for Lola to present Broadley with a thoroughly deserved crown. The irony is that it was a Filipinetti car that robbed Lola of a Grand Prix victory at the Nürburgring nine years earlier.