On Sunday 12 October, an estimated 10,000 spectators packed the streets of Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire to support Lola Cars landmark 50th Anniversary parade of racing cars. The impressive display of 16 cars represented the marque’s most iconic models from the past half century through to Lola’s all-new 2008 designs. Some of Lola’s most successful drivers were reunited with the winning line-up of cars supporting Lola’s Golden celebration.
The Lola legends included John Surtees OBE, Richard Attwood, Hugh Dibley, Teddy Pilette, Chris Craft, Mike Blanchet, James Weaver, Julian Bailey, Anthony Reid and Peter Ashdown. Current racers included Le Mans Series driver Mike Newton, Malaysian A1 Grand Prix driver Fairuz Fauzy and Danny Watts.
At midday and in brilliant autumn sunshine, Councillor Saeed Akthar, the Mayor of Huntingdon, waved the Union Jack to officially start the parade from Lola’s state-of-the-art headquarters in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. The roadside was packed with spectators from start to finish as the snake of 16 cars travelled up the 1.6 route via the local ring road and in to the historic market square where Oliver Cromwell rallied his troops during the Civil War.
Heading up the parade was the all-new RML MG-Lola LMP2 Coupe dressed in the patriotic red, white and blue livery, followed by Lola’s latest track day car B07/90 which had Jonathan Djanogly, MP for the Huntingdon constituency enjoying a passenger ride with sportscar driver Calum Lockie. Other star participants included a Lola T70 Mk111B that cemented the marque’s status in world motorsport during the 1960’s, Sir Jackie Stewart’s 1967 Indy 500 Lola T92 driven by Lola owner and Executive Chairman Martin Birrane and the Mark 1, the first car built by Lola driven by James Leslie, son of the late, great David Leslie.
At the end of the route the cars parked up in a specially constructed paddock area that had been assembled in Huntingdon’s historic market square. As the crowd eagerly awaited a glimpse of the first Lola cars to enter the paddock they were treated to a display from the Blue Vision Huntingdon Majorette team and a demonstration from the Huntingdon Olympic gymnast club, that trained Louis Smith who recently claimed a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics.
Motorsport presenter and personality Tony Jardine hosted a number of interviews on the Town Hall balcony overlooking the packed out paddock area, with Martin Birrane and the founder of Lola cars, Eric Broadley joining racing legend John Surtees for an enthralling Q & A session. Lola has been located in Huntingdon since 1970 and continues to be an important business for the local community. In recognition of the town’s support, David Monks, Chief Executive of the District Council, presented Martin Birrane and Eric Broadley with a commemorative scroll in front of the applauding audience that had filled the market square.
MARTIN BIRRANE – EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, LOLA
“Lola means so much to so many people. It has been a real pleasure to show the people of Huntingdon this exceptional collection of designs.
“The fact that personalities such as John Surtees came to Huntingdon today shows terrific devotion to the Lola name. The company celebrated 50 years today but tomorrow will be hard at work creating new projects in a wide variety of industries. Lola are now much more than just a motorsport company with key customers in Aerospace, Defence, Automotive and Communications. I believe that the next 50 years are going to be just as exciting as the first 50.”
JOHN SURTEES – FORMER LOLA DRIVER
“This was a superb event and a great way to mark 50 years for a company that is very close to my heart. Like any relationship there were ups and downs both on and off the track but the fact remains that Lola build world class racing cars.
“When I was involved in A1 GP the job Lola did was very good indeed. Martin (Birrane) saved Lola and his business sense and skill have seen it through the tough times to where it is now, back at the top in world motorsport.”
HUGH DIBLEY – FORMER LOLA DRIVER
“I loved driving Eric’s (Broadley) cars. They were very practical and usually very quick. I also tested the safety of the cars a few times too, especially when I flipped a T70! That was a biggy. The engine came to rest in a tree and the cockpit about 300 yards away. Interesting times. I wish Lola a very happy birthday!”
JAMES WEAVER – FORMER LOLA DRIVER
“I have driven quite a few Lola’s but the one I drove today (the B2K/40) was not one I actually competed in. I did test it at Phoenix in 2000 but I was more familiar with the LMP675 MG car that Lola built. That was a great car, ahead of its time in many ways. Martin Birrane has done a fine job in directing Lola in what is a very volatile industry and it was an absolute pleasure to be here today to witness this very fun event and see some great old colleagues.”
TEDDY PILETTE – FORMER LOLA DRIVER
“I always enjoyed racing Lola cars. The T400 that I won the F5000 title with in 1975 was a truly great car and I just loved driving it. Eric was a genius designer and to recognise what he and now Martin Birrane have achieved is a real honour to be part of.”
TONY SOUTHGATE – FORMER LOLA DRIVER
“What a thrilling day. Meeting so many old faces was very nice. The variety of Lola’s that were in the parade was excellent and for the company to be celebrated like this in front of its own people in Huntingdon made for an unforgettable day.”