In 1961 Eric Broadley formed the Lola Racing Car Company. The first cars were front-engined sports cars followed by Formula Junior racers. Soon, Lola was one of the top chassis suppliers in sports car racing.
In 1965 the Lola Racing Cars Group introduced the T70. During its lifetime from 1965 through 1969 over 100 examples were produced in three versions. They were designed for endurance racing with excellent aerodynamics and flowing lines. The chassis was constructed of aluminum monocoque that was both lightweight and rigid. The project was undertaken by Eric Broadley of Lola Cars with assistance from F1 world champion John Surtees. Originally, Broadley had been considered by Ford to build a racer that could defeat Ferrari at LeMans. Colin Chapman of Lotus and Cooper were also considered. After some consideration, the project was given to Broadley of Lola. Ford had been impressed with the Lola Mark VI mid-engined racer which was powered by a Ford 4.2-liter engine and produced around 350 horsepower. The sleek body had been created by John Frayling and utilized some of the most exotic materials available. By 1965 Ford had their Ferrari slayer and Broadley was ready to again work under his own supervision. He was not fond of how the GT40 had progressed and felt that it had gone in too many directions with each decision being analyzed by a committee. Work began on the T70 which would share many similarities to the GT40. In a sense, the Lola T70 was a result of Enzo Ferrari, since the GT40 had been created to defeat Ferrari at Le Mans. The first version was the MKII open-roofed version. The second version was the MKIII Coupe-version followed by the MK IIIB.
The straight back end soon gave it the nickname of 'breadvan' as it resembled delivery trucks of that era. The rear body shape was the result of lessons learned from the GT40 project and its handling on the Mulsanne straight at Le Mans. It was designed to eliminate some of the lift created at high speeds. The GT40 created 300 kg of lift at speed while the Lola T70 only created 200 kg of downforce though it did increase drag.
Though designed for endurance racing, the T70 proved most potent on the short sprint races where its lightweight body and superior handling made it very competitive. Reliability issues plagued the car on races of more than three hours. The Chevrolet small-block power plant was unsuitable to utilize the high-octane fuels which powered other racers. The engine was unable to fully utilize European fuels and as such, did not perform as well as intended in international competition.
The T70 MKII was entered in the competitive and newly formed CanAm series where it dominated at nearly every race it entered, winning five of the six rounds. John Surtees won the title after winning three of those races in a factory car. The cars were also successful in Group 7 racing until the series came to a halt in 1966. 1966 was the final year for a successful season for the Lola T70s in CanAm racing as McLaren would dominate the following year. The T70 would win only one CanAm race in 1967. The powerful McLaren M6 racers easily overpowered the T70. In retaliation, the T70 IIIB was introduced which improved power and performance. The front was improved to separate the airflow between the bottom and top of the car, thus, minimizing pressure underneath the vehicle. Power came from a 327 small-block Chevrolet engine which was later upgraded to a 350 cubic-inch unit. It would go on to win many international endurance races. One of the most famous of its victories was the 1969 Daytona 24 Hours driven by Mark Donohue and Chuck Parsons. The demise of the racer occurred when rule changes that limited the size of the engine made it obsolete. This benefited the Ferrari 312 and Porsche 917 as their F1 engines were appropriate and highly tuned.
By 1968 a new car was needed; Lola introduced the T160 which was lighter and more powerful than its predecessor. Various other Lola cars were created for Group 6 Competition including the T212, T28x, 29X, 38X, and 39X. When the CanAm Series was revived in the late 1970s, the Lola cars dominated the sport.
In the early 1980s, Lola introduced their T600/T10 range which was intended for IMSA GTP competition.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2007