With the introduction of two brand new prototype racing cars, English racing car manufacturer kicked off the celebrations of their fiftieth birthday in great style. Originally founded in 1958 by quantity surveyor Eric Broadley, the company was struggling to survive after a very expensive and unsuccessful exploit into Formula 1 in the 1990s. Lola was rescued by enthusiast Martin Birrane, who turned the company in the most successful independent racing car manufacturer both commercially and on the track. The high-tech facility in Huntingdon even caters to the aerospace industry.
Complying with the revised regulations for Le Mans type racing, Lola launched the B05/40 LMP2 car in 2005, followed by the similar B06/10 LMP1 car. With the B05/40 and its derivatives Lola customers have won the LMP2 class at 24 Hours of Le Mans and the championship Le Mans Series for three years running. One of the big reasons of the Lola chassis' success is their adaptability to a wide variety of engines, ranging from the Turbocharged AER and Audi engines to the Naturally Aspirated Judd and Acura engines. Both open cars were succeeded in 2008 by extensively developed coupe bodied counterparts.
Dubbed the B08/80, the new LMP2 car was greatly overshadowed at its launch by the Aston Martin engined B08/60 LMP1 racer. Nevertheless, considering the current state of the LMP1 class, the chances of success are much bigger for the LMP2 car. Both cars follow the familiar pattern of a carbon fibre monocoque with double wishbone suspension all-round. The main difference is a slightly shorter wheelbase and a simpler rear suspension for the B08/80. Although similar to the previous generation Lolas, the aerodynamics package was subject to many hours of testing in the windtunnel and should be considerably more efficient.
The first customer for the B08/80 is the Swiss Speedy Racing, who have teamed with Hugh Hayden's highly experienced Sebah to run the car. They opted for the equally new 'DB' version of the Judd V8 engine, which will hopefully bridge the gap between the dominant AER and Zytek LMP2 engines. The team will race the car in the Le Mans Series and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and all these events the biggest competition will no doubt be formed by the Porsche RS Spyders, which dominated the LMP2 class in the ALMS in 2006 and 2007.
The Speedy / Sebah Lola B08/80 Judd is pictured at the official Le Mans Series test at Paul Ricard in March of 2008. Freshly assembled, this was the first time car took the track and still managed a fourth fastest time in class behind the RS Spyders and the fastest of the seasoned Lolas. Unfortunately the test was cut short after an engine failure. In the build up to the season opening race in Barcelona, the car was tested again at Magny Cours, where it clocked very competitive times.