Lola has announced it is considering an F1 comeback in 2010, taking advantage of new rules to slash the cost of competition.
They are the second team to be linked with an entry in 2010. The other is the American entry previously known as USF1 and USGPE, which is now tipped to be called US-F1 Team.
Last time ’round
Lola has competed in F1 on several occasions in the past, but it’s most recent appearance was notable only for their lack of success.
Lola’s last F1 entry was in 1997 with backing from Mastercard. The original plan had been for the team to compete in 1998, but a late change saw the team make its debut a year early.
It was a complete disaster, with 1995 Formula 3000 champion Vincenzo Sospiri qualifying 11.6s off pole sitter Jacques Villeneuve’s time at Melbourne.
At the time only cars that lapped within 107% of the pole position time were allowed into the race, and Lola failed to make the cut. Then Mastercard pulled their funding and the team went to the wall – almost taking the Lola parent company with it.
Lola’s F1 history
Lola’s first appearance in F1 was in 1962. Five years later John Surtees won the Italian Grand Prix in a car which, though officially entered as a Honda, was based on a Lola chassis.
Since then Lola made a series of sporadic appearances. They were with Embassy Racing in the mid-seventies, then with the Ford-powered Haas team from 1985-6, followed by a longer partnership with French team Larrouse from 1987-1990, and again with Scuderia Italia in 1993. But few of these were competitive, and there were no further wins.
It produced an unusual-looking test car for 1995, which had no bodywork between the roll hoop and the rear wing, but wasn’t raced. Two years later came the abortive Mastercard effort.
Since then Lola has continued to produce racing cars for many different championships. It enjoyed particular success in the CART / Champ Car series, becoming the series’ exclusive chassis supplier until the end of 2006.
It also created the chassis which Aston Martin is using in the top LMP1 category in Le Mans this year – although the two are presently involved in a very public row. Aston Martin is co-owned by David Richards, boss of Prodrive, who was linked to a return to F1 via the team that eventually became Brawn, but he ruled it out saying costs are still too high.
When F1 grids have dwindled to such a worryingly small size it is encouraging to see a second outfit announce it is seriously considering competing next year.
It is crucial to Formula 1’s long term future that it can bring its costs down to a level where independent teams without manufacturer backing can thrive.