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  Lola T600 Chevrolet
 

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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced from:1981 - 1983
Numbers built:12 (all engines)
Designed by:Eric Broadley for Lola
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:September 30, 2011
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Click here to download printer friendly versionLola was the first manufacturer to develop a car for the new IMSA GTP (Grand Touring Prototype) class that came into effect at the start of the 1981 season. The main driving force behind the project was Brian Redman, who had recently retired from racing to become one of Lola's representatives in the United States. After reading a draft of the new regulations, he convinced Lola's Eric Broadley to design and build what would be the company's first sports prototype in some years and the first closed racer since the legendary T70.

The IMSA GTP regulations allowed for a wide variety of engine types by determining the minimum weight of the car based on the size and potential performance of the engine used. The FIA would adopt a very similar set of regulations for the equally popular Group C class a year later, with the addition of a fuel limit per race. Another key ingredient was the acceptance of underbody venturis to create downforce through 'ground effect'. Originally pioneered by Lotus' Colin Chapman, Lola's first ground effect machine had been the company's 1980 F5000 racer, the T510. This provided valuable lessons that could be used during the development of the new T600.

One of the things all manufacturers experimenting with ground effect quickly discovered was that the additional downforce put considerable more stress on the chassis. Accordingly, Broadley laid down Lola's first ever aluminium monocoque with honeycomb reinforcements. Leaving nothing to chance, Broadley called in the services of French aerodynamicist, Dr Max Sardou. He had actually discovered the benefits of underbody aerodynamics before Chapman but he failed to convince Renault to use it for the manufacturer's first Formula 1 car. High in demand, Sardou only briefly offered his services to Lola, joining rival March soon after.

With the help of Sardou, Broadley penned a very low body with long front and rear overhangs. One of Sardou's suggestions was the cover the rear wheels. The two venturis started at the cockpit and, although not quite as efficient as on the Formula 1 cars due to the lack of skirts, they generated an abundance of downforce. That was exactly what the doctor ordered on the tight and twisty tracks used in the United States. The new T600's suspension was conventional in configuration, with double wishbones all-round. At the rear the optimisation of the venturis called for the springs and dampers to be pushed as close to the wheels as possible.

Lola's first customer was the Cooke-Woods team, who considering his earlier retirement reconsiderations not surprisingly employed Brian Redman as lead driver and team manager. The Cooke-Woods T600 was fitted with a small-block Chevrolet V8, which produced well over 600 bhp. The car debuted at Laguna Seca where Redman overcame early problems in the race to take victory ahead of the production based Porsche 935s, which had dominated American road racing for a long time. It was the start of a hugely successful campaign, which saw Redman finish either first or second in the next nine races. He was crowned IMSA Champion at the end of the year.

Redman's success had quickly filled Lola's order book and eventually a dozen T600s were built. Campaigned by independent teams, they were powered by a variety of engines. One fitted with a Porsche turbo engine was entered for Le Mans in 1981 but lack of any preparation meant that the effort was an embarrassing failure. There was some success however for the T600 in Europe as an example fitted with a Cosworth V8 won the Enna Pergusa and Brands Hatch rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The Chevrolet powered versions were most successful with more IMSA victories being scored in 1982.

One of the reasons the T600 struggled in Europe was its high downforce and drag, hampering the car at high speed tracks. A special 'low drag' T610 was built for 1982 but by this time Porsche had entered the fray and raised the bar considerably with the 956. In the United States the arrival of the more advanced March 82G also marked the end of the T600's successes. Among the weaknesses revealed was the poor high speed stability caused by a chassis that was still not strong enough. The early results did earn Lola contracts to develop GTP cars for both Lola and Chevrolet, both of which were raced successfully well into the second half of the 1980s.

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