Looking at Lola

Very few new designs in the history of motor-racing have been as successful as the 1,100-c.c. Coventry Climax-engined Lola, designed and built by Eric and Graham Broadley. In the 1959 season, the first full season of competition for the team, they have won practically every 1,100-c.c. race they have entered, and in 1,500-c.c. races have often finished very high in the results including an outright win in the two-hour sports car race at the Circuit d'Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand and sixth place overall in the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood.

Eric Broadley was engaged in the building trade when he decided to build a sports/racing car and having had architectural training he was in a good position to put his ideas on paper. His first car was a design for the 1,172 Formula with separate front wings and a very highly tuned Ford 10 engine which swept practically all before it in 1,172-Formula racing in the hands of the designer. In 1958 he designed and built his first 1,100-c.c. sports/racing car, selling the Ford-engined car to Alan Wershat, who has had a great deal of success with it.

The car features a space-frame of 20-gauge 1 in. round and square tubes all fully triangulated, and being painted yellow for easy crack detection. For extra stiffening the floor and transmission tunnel were riveted to the frame tubes with hollow rivets. The engine in this first car was a normal Coventry-Climax 1,098-c.c. model inclined 10 degrees to the left, the gearbox being a B.M.C. "A" type unit as fitted to Sprites and A40s but with special stronger close-ratio gears. The differential is also of B.M.C. manufacture in a light alloy casing with axle ratios available from 3.75 to 5.375, which are suitable for most circuits.

The engine is mounted quite far forward in the frame which is counteracted by the driver being well back, giving a 49/51 weight distribution. The engine being inclined to the left allows a long steering column with no universal joints to be used for the rack-and-pinion steering. The front suspension is by coil spring and wishbones with the wishbones being widely spaced to take braking loads. An anti-roll bar is fitted. The brakes are Lockheed 2LS 10 in. X 2¼ in. with Al-fin drums. The rear suspension is extremely ingenious and undoubtedly forms the basis of the car's excellent roadholding. The layout is of the wishbone type but in this case the unsplined drive shafts act as the rear upper wishbone and the trailing radius arm acts as the front link of the wishbone. The lower wishbone consists of three tubes, one ahead of the rear hub and two behind. This gives absolutely positive lateral location of the rear wheels and prevents any rear wheel steering. The lower wishbones have alternative mountings provided so that the handling characteristics of the car can be changed to suit different drivers and circuits. The rear wheel camber can also be easily altered. The wheels are the Cooper cast electron type.

The first car was completed near the end of the 1958 season, and one or two Club races were entered with good results, but at a Goodwood Members' Meeting a collision with another car necessitated a rebuild before the Goodwood T.T. The car ran well in this race with Broadley and Gammon as drivers but a puncture lost them a lot of time as they had no spare wheel. This was their last race of the season and Broadley retired to Bromley and Byfleet to prepare cars for the 1959 season. Cars were built for Michael Taylor, Peter Gammon, Peter Ashdown and American driver Alan Ross. Taylor and Gammon bought their cars outright but Ashdown provided only the engine which he had removed from the Lotus Eleven he had been using during 1958. Ashdown's car was therefore a true works entry, although the two other cars were always included in team entries.

First race of the season for the team was at Snetterton where Ashdown won and Taylor came second, but Ashdown was later penalised for jumping the start. At the Easter Monday Goodwood meeting the marque really came of age as in the Chichester Cup they fielded three cars and took first three places after a terrific scrap amongst themselves, honours eventually going to Ashdown from Gammon and Taylor who spun off at Woodcote but still gained third place. At the British Empire Trophy in April Ashdown came second in the 1.500-c.c. race to Stacey's Lotus Fifteen, with Michael Taylor in fourth place.

And so the season went on -- a runaway win at the International Silverstone meeting, a win in the Anerley Trophy at Crystal Palace, but subsequent disqualification because of being push started -- the penalty of a small battery and high compression-ratio. The team's first big foreign race was the 1,000 Kilometres at Nurburgring, with Ashdown and Broadley as drivers. After a great run in which they held thirteenth place overall for some time Broadley spun off and had to receive outside assistance to return to the race. At least this ensured that the name of Lola became known on the Continent and entries were much easier to obtain. Ashdown competed at Roskilde and Clermont-Ferrand, where he won the Two Hours' sports-car race for 1,500-c.c. cars, beating Behra's Porsche (albeit with a sick gearbox), and a host of Ferraris and OSCAs.

The Lola was made to understeer which suited Ashdown admirably but he found the transition to the oversteering Formula 2 Cooper rather difficult in his only two attempts at driving them during the season. At Aintree during the G.P. he attempted to follow the technique used by regular Cooper drivers of going into a corner too fast, letting the rear end slide out then putting on opposite lock. He tried this twice on the slowest corner and spun both times In all fairness though his car was fitted with rain tyres when it wasn't raining which adversely affected the handling. Nevertheless, he still prefers the understeering Lola.

Erie Broadley has now given up all other commitments and will be building a number of 1,100-c.c. Lolas during the winter for private owners. A natural development of course, is to fit larger engines now that the team has conquered the 1,100-c.c. class, and enquiries have been received from such notables as Stirling Moss and Briggs Cunningham. They would like a 2-litre Climax engine fitted but the present car is not designed for such power and a new chassis will have to be designed, while disc brakes will probably be necessary. Erie Broadley is by nature very cautious and he will not introduce a new car until it is absolutely ready for the track. The Swiss driver Vogele has ordered a 2-litre car on the understanding that Ashdown co-drives with him in all the Sports Car Championship events, starting with Sebring, an invitation which Ashdown was not long in accepting.

Besides these developments Eric Broadley is actively engaged in building a Formula Junior car using the new Ford 105E engine, which if it is as successful as the sports cars will give the better known constructors a lot of trouble in the season to come. -- M.L.T.