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 bridged the gap between the dominant AER and Zytek LMP2 engines. The team raced the car throughout the 2008 Le Mans Series and at Le Mans. The B08/80's pace and reliability impressed friend and foe. The Lola Coupe was often the 'best of the rest' behind the ever dominant Porsches.
One of teams that suffered from the new Coupe was long time Lola customer RML. With their independently developed - B05/40 derived - MG-Lola EX264 they had been a top contender in the LMP2 class in Europe for three seasons, clinching back to back class wins at Le Mans and the Le Mans Series title in 2007. Despite a further upgrade and a new engine over the 2007/2008 winter, the team had visibly lost the edge. With the championship already in the bag of one of the Porsche teams, RML decided to make a brave and unexpected move for the final race of the season. Immediately after the penultimate race they transferred their new for 2008 EX265 to Lola and asked them to transfer all the mechanicals on a new, Coupe tub.
Little over a week before the Silverstone 1000 km the EX265C, complete with around 70% of the open car's parts, first turned a wheel at a test on the Snetterton track. During the Silverstone race weekend the limited tracktime of the brand new car meant that the team had a lot of ground to catch up. Interestingly both Tommie Erdos and Mike Newton reported that they had difficulties judging the speed now that the cockpit shielded them from driving wind. All the hard work paid off as the MG Lola EX265C crossed the line fourth in class after the 1000 km 'test.'
At the end of the season the RML team announced the end of the partnership with MG. Although the team will continue to run the Lola coupe, it will no longer be referred to as the MG Lola EX265C, making Silverstone its only appearance. The MG badged AER engine will be replaced by a similar Mazda badged, AER built 'four.'