Total Production: 12 1981 - 1983 In 1981, Lola Cars introduced the T600 as a customer chassis. It had an aerodynamic design that would be used by other manufacturers through the 1980s and Group C prototype and International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) cars.
The Porsche 935 Turbo had continued to dominate the IMSA Championship during the 1980 season and organizers began to fear that fans would lose interest in the series due to the domination of a single marque. Thus, a new Grand Touring Prototype category was introduced and it was consistent with FIA's plant to introduce a prototype formula to the World Endurance Championship in 1982 (Group C).
Brian Redman, who had recently retired from racing and became one of Lola's representative in the United States, asked Lola to develop a GTP spec racer based on the successful T70 chassis. Power would come from a Chevrolet 6-liter V8 engine offering 600 horsepower. Lola's Eric Broadley, however, wanted a new chassis and bodywork developed.
IMSA GTP regulations allowed a variety of engine types and ground effects. Aerodynamicist Max Sardou was hired to design a ground effects underbody for the car. Dr. Sardou was the first to realize their benefits, but was unable to convince Renault to use it for their Formula 1 program. Later, Lotus' Colin Chapman would pioneer the benefits in racing. Lola's first ground effects car was the 1980 T510 F500. Though the ground effects on the T510 provided extra stability at speed, it also increased the stress on the chassis. So Broadley designed the T600 with the company's first ever aluminum monocoque with honeycomb reinforcements.
Broadley and Sardou designed a low, aerodynamic body with long front and rear overhangs. It had covered rear wheels, per Dr. Sardou's suggestions. Underneath, the suspension was a conventional setup with double wishbones at all four corners. The venturis started at the cockpit and provided plenty of downforce. To handle this, springs and dampers were added to the rear and pushed as close as possible to the wheels.
The first T600 chassis was sold to the Cooke-Woods team. It was fitted with a small-block Chevrolet V8 engine which offered over 600 horsepower. It made its racing debut at Laguna Seca and would emerge victorious, ahead of the production based Porsche 935s. The car, driven by Redman, would continue to be a competitive force throughout the season, winning first or second in the next nine races. At the close of the season, he was crowned IMSA Champion.
The car's success quickly earned Lola requests for many more T600's to be produced. These customer cars were campaigned by independent teams and powered by a variety of engines, even a Porsche turbo engine which saw action at LeMans in 1981.
State sides, the T600s continued to have much success during the 1982 season. In Europe, however, they were not as success in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Part of their Achilles heel was what had made them so success in the US - the ground effects. It was effect on twisty tracks, but offered too much drag to achieve competitive speeds on Europe's high speed tracks. A T610 example was built for the 1982 season, but it was too little too late, as Porsche had responded with their 956.
In the United States, the T600's soon became outdated when March introduced their 82G. Nevertheless, the early successes of the T600, both on the race track and in production figures, made the T600 a very special car for the Lola Marque. They would continue to race well into the mid-1980s, with their final appearance in IMSA competition occurring in 1987. By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2011