Cars Silverstone 1000 kms Warm-up
AD Group racing driver Thomas Erdos, and the team’s
Lola Mazda B08/86 racecar, were two of the stars
at an exclusive gathering at Lola Cars’
headquarters in Huntingdon on Wednesday 10th September.
event was a precursor to the final round of the
2009 Le Mans Series at Silverstone, and was an
opportunity for invited guests to quiz a panel
of experts including Robin Brundle, Managing Director
of Lola Cars; Damien Smith, Editor of Motor Sport
Magazine, Rob Bell, current Le Mans Series GT2
titleholder and soon to be co-driver of the new
Drayson Racing LMP1 Lola Coupe; Nicolas Prost,
co-driver of the Speedy Team Sebah LMP1 Lola Aston
Martin; Neil Primrose, drummer with Travis and
presently lying second in the 2009 Classic Endurance
Series in his historic Lola; and Thomas Erdos,
winner of the 2007 Le Mans Series LMP2 title and
co-driver of the RML Lola Mazda.
question-and-answer session, compered by John
Hindhaugh, lasted almost an hour and is now available
as a podcast
Le Mans. It began with an introduction to
the panel from John and then confirmation that
Lola has won this season’s Le Mans Series
constructor’s title in both LMP1 and LMP2.
to speak was Robin Brundle, who welcomed the audience
of about 60 invited journalists and key members
of the motorsport fraternity to the new car assembly
room at Lola, clinically clean and only finished
earlier that morning. He suggested that Lola now
designed and manufactured some of the best customer
products in the marketplace today, and had been
the first racecar manufacturer to embrace the
revealed that Lola was currently working towards
the release of the 2010 upgrades, made necessary
by the recent announcement of revised regulations
fro the ACO. These revisions had to be completed
in the light of the current economic situation,
and he was pleased to divulge the fact that Lola’s
materials and spares charges were expected to
fall by around 3% over the coming year.
Smith was the next to speak. He outlined the changes
that the Lola company has undergone since Martin
Birrane took over the organisation in 1997. It
has been a fantastic transformation of a company
that had been on the verge of disaster, but has
grown, and flourished during the last ten years
to become the UK’s last true independent
racing car designer and manufacturer – a
leader in automotive technology and an innovator
in the field of composites and fabrication. Not
only does Lola lead the world in the production
of contemporary racecars, but Lola is also at
the forefront of the huge growth area of so-called
“continuation cars”; re-manufactured
historic sportscars like the Lola T70 that celebrate
the heritage of motorsport. Historic racing is
now a major part of today’s motorsport scene
and a huge growth area for the future.
is interesting to compare the parallels between
Lola’s latest offerings in the form of the
LMP prototypes, in both open and closed forms,
and the T70, which is now also available once
again as an elegant coupe and low-profile open-topped
Hindhaugh then turned to Thomas Erdos, and asked
him how the experience of driving the coupe compared
to that of racing the open-topped Lolas that RML
campaigned between 2003 and 2008. Tommy explained
that the most significant difference was the loss
of any direct and physical sensation of speed
in the coupe, but that he felt it was an enormous
privilege to be able to drive a car that looked
so good! He also expressed how much he appreciated
the relationship with Lola, not just in terms
of the cars he’s raced, but the people he’s
came from a “formula” background of
single-seaters, and John asked him how he felt
the perception had changed over the years that
sportscars were a “softer option”.
The Brazilian countered that by stating that today’s
prototypes were every bit as physically demanding
to drive, with high-downforce and fast cornering
capabilities., and that the sensation today was
very similar to that of racing in a single-seater.
Ultimately, he admitted, he and drivers like him
race these cars because they love doing it.
up was Rob Bell, who will be getting his first
experience of prototype racing in a few weeks
when he joins Drayson Racing in the team’s
new Lola Judd LMP1, entered in the 10-hour Petit
Le Mans event in America. Rob’s recent experiences
have been in GT cars, and most especially Ferraris,
and John welcomed him to the Lola family.
Tommy, Rob also came from a single-seater background,
and admitted that he’d initially found the
transition to endurance racing a little difficult
– forgetting to get out of the car during
his first driver-change pitstop, and then fitting
tear-off strips to his visor, even though he was
driving a car with a full windscreen. “I
still had a lot to learn!” he conceded.
He has yet to test the new Drayson Lola, and his
first experience of the car will be when he climbs
into the cockpit for first practice at Road Atlanta.
discussion then returned to Robin Brundle, brother
to former Grand Prix driver and BBC TV commentator
Martin, and the question of Lola’s possible
future in Formula 1. The Huntingdon-based manufacturer
was one of several big names in motorsport, including
RML, which were linked with the recent selection
process for potential new teams to join F1. Brundle
admitted that Lola had not dismissed the idea
entirely, but it wasn’t on the current agenda.
was then asked to consider what had been a “difficult
year” for RML, with John observing that,
when the Lola Mazda has “gone”, it’s
“gone well”, but surely the team couldn’t
continue like this? What were the plans? Tommy
suggested he’d be “the last to know!”
Yes, it had been a difficult season, but the Lola
Mazda combination was a new project, still in
its early stages, and the team was going through
a steep learning curve. 2009 had been a generally
tough season in LMP2 anyway, but the team is committed
to its partnership with Lola, Mazda and AER, and
Tommy appreciated the efforts that all parties
had put into the 2009 season. “We’ve
had some great performances this year, and I still
want to be around when the engine really gets
then turned to the subject of Tommy’s co-driver,
Mike Newton – very talented, but not a professional
racing driver? Tommy was happy to say that Mike
is “highly intelligent, and he carries that
into his racing.” He’s also a very
knowledgeable electronics engineer, and his troubleshooting
skills are excellent. In fact he’s a “data
engineers nightmare!” because he knows as
much, and sometimes more than they do.
and Tommy started racing together in 2003, explained
Tommy, and during that first season Mike admitted
to having a “five year plan” to compete
at Le Mans. Tommy had conceded at the time that
the goal was certainly possible, but as it turned
out, Mike not only raced in the 24 Hours the following
year, but then went on to win it for the first
time in 2005! “He
didn’t put a foot wrong!” said Tommy,
“in what is the toughest race in the world.
That’s an incredible achievement.”
John then concluded that Mike was no longer a
“gentleman driver” but was perhaps
better described as a “sportsman driver”.
concluded the formal section of the discussion,
and the event was then thrown open to “the
floor”. Sam Collins (Racecar Engineering)
steered the conversation, and Robin Brundle back
towards Formula 1. “Lola has deferred its
entry into F1,” clarified Brundle, “but
we will be reconsidering our position for 2011.”
was then asked why Dyson Racing gets results in
the ALMS with essentially the same car, so why
can’t RML? Tommy explained that the cars
might look similar, but there were fundamental
differences between the RML and Dyson Lolas, and
also between the races they contest. The two cars
have different restrictor sizes and the two series
use different fuel formulations, but most significantly,
the ALMS races are very much shorter. “Our
issues have regularly occurred at two hours and
forty-five minutes,” said Tommy, by which
time ALMS races are over and finished!
did admit that it had been great to have Chris
Dyson in the car for Le Mans, although there had
been a potential for difficulty because Chris
is so much taller, but then again, “so is
just about everyone else!” joked the Brazilian.
Did RML have plans to race in the States? Tommy
admitted he’d personally enjoy the opportunity,
if it arose, but for budgetary and commercial
reasons, it was unlikely,
Andrew Cotton touched on the subject of the various
different series around the world, such as the
Le Mans Series, ALMS and proposed intercontinental
(Asian) series, and wasn’t there a need
to simplify this mix? Robin Brundle thought not.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix
it,” he said.
did, however, steer the conversation towards the
question of the differing ways motorsport is promoted
on each side of the Atlantic, and how vital and
exciting the race organisers make events in the
United States. European spectators are, perhaps,
more “hard core” serious enthusiasts.
Perhaps that needs to change?
Wagstaff wondered if Lola might be considering
a possible return to IRL and, more especially,
the Indy 500. Robin Brundle admitted that, if
the opportunity arose over the next three years
or so, it would certainly be something that Lola
might consider. The conversation then veered towards
the topic of one-make series in general, and thence
to the stability of construction and use regulations.
Several speakers agreed that the current lack
of such constancy was an increasingly taxing problem.
Sam Collins wondered if there was, perhaps, a
call for the amalgamation of the ALMS, currently
suffering from diminishing grids, and Grand Am.
Robin Brundle thought it both undesirable and
Primrose, drummer with pop group Travis, was then
introduced and John asked him about his Lola T212
that he campaigns in the Classic Endurance Series.
Neil is currently second in the 2009 championship,
and will be racing at Silverstone this weekend.
“It’s been a great year – hard
work and a steep learning curve, mixing motorsport
with music” and very soon he might have
to go back to work and earn some money.
Bell admitted that he and his JMW Motorsport team-mate
Gianmaria Bruni are “up against the wall”
in their attempts to win this year’s GT2
title. “We’re out to win the race,
but it’s ours to win and theirs to lose,”
he insisted referring to their rivals in the Felbermayr
did Tommy think RML’s chances were this
weekend? The team completed a successful shakedown
at Rockingham on Tuesday, before bringing the
car over to Lola for the day’s events. “We
know the chassis quite well now,” he said,
“but we have made a change with the engine
[since the Nürburgring] to achieve some reliability,
but that’s cost us a few horsepower.”
He wasn’t prepared to commit, but did feel
that the chances were fairly good.
Weston, Chief Engineer at Dyson Racing, then took
to the stage, and John asked him about the team’s
year in the ALMS. James Weaver, for many years
a key driver in the Dyson line-up but recently
retired, was also brought into the discussion.
“We’re back to Lola after a two year
hiatus with Porsche,” said Weston. He appreciated
the input the team had witnessed from Mazda, and
discussed some of the other differences between
racing Stateside and in Europe not touched on
previously, which included the challenging nature
of some of the tracks in America, which tend to
be narrower, very abrasive on tyres and hard on
Weaver is back with the team in a consultative
role, but looked back on his first ten years in
the States with some nostalgia, when he had been
one of very few European drivers to have discovered
the delights of racing in America. He then started
enthusing about witnessing the current crop of
prototypes, including the LMP1 Acura and the LMP2
Dyson Lola, as they tackled Turn 2 at Mosport
– perhaps one of the most demanding corners
anywhere in motor racing.
Hayden, Team Manager of Speedy Team Sebah running
Lolas in LMP1 and LMP2 this season, then spoke
at some length, and with passion, about the need
for the Le Mans Series, and especially its organisers,
to achieve a better interaction with the public.
“There must be a greater effort to promote
the races and offer more for the public to do
at a six-hour race,” he said. There was
general agreement that not enough was being done
to attract the public to endurance racing, and
that the ACO does not promote the series as effectively
as it needs to. There’s a dire need for
“family time” at these weekend events,
it was suggested. Perhaps races need to be of
different lengths, and start at different times
of the day – but not so late that they finish
in the early hours of the morning, as was the
case in the Algarve.
was also needed, Hugh suggested, was greater stability
in the regulations, and they should be fixed for
a period of three years.
White, Team Manager at Drayson Racing, talked
briefly about the team’s LMP1 Lola Judd
project. It was suggested that to debut a brand
new untried car in a ten-hour, 1000 mile race
at Petit le Mans was a brave move.
focus of attention then moved to the RML Lola
Mazda, with Tommy and Julian Sole, Chief Engineer
at Lola Cars, walking around the car, describing
the salient features, and the processes involved
in adding a roof to a car that had previously
been open-topped. One of the proposed changes
to the regulations will see the need to infill
apertures in the car’s bodywork that are
currently filled by mesh, or louvres, with solid
panels, and Julian explained how difficult the
late change to these specifics was making the
work for manufacturers like Lola.
also discussed high-and low downforce settings,
and Tommy observed how difficult it must have
been for Chris Dyson to adapt to the skittishness
of the car at a low-downforce circuit like Le
Mans having come over from the high-downforce
environment of the ALMS.
Nicolas Prost, who had arrived late for the occasion,
was welcomed to sportscar racing. How had he found
the move from single-seaters to sportscars? “Fun!”
he admitted. As racing drivers had been in the
past, Nicolas wanted to see a return to a time
when drivers could be versatile in the disciplines
they tackled, and he relished the opportunity
to race single-seaters in the winter and sportscars
in the summer.
concluded the discussion period. A tasty buffet
lunch was then enjoyed, while the drivers present
signed autographs and chatted with guests, before
the gathering was treated to a guided tour of
the extensive Lola premises. This included a visit
to the workshops where the Drayson racing LMP1
prototype is nearing completion, although photographs
were not permitted.
the above was written, the Drayson LMP1 Lola Judd
has completed a successful shake-down test on
the Silverstone "school" circuit. Mike
Hoyer of Ebrey Photography, and a regular contributor
to Dailysportscar, was on hand to record the occason.
hear the podcast of the Lola Preview, please click