• Lola T260

    The Canadian-American Challenge Cup, in its original and purest form, existed from 1966 to 1974, and in that time it held 84 races over 71 rounds. And the Lola name was represented in every one of them. However, in all of those 84 races, a Lola race car was first across the finish line on just 9 occasions. And of those 9 victories, 6 came in the first Can-Am season, in 1966.

    In the 1960s through early 1970s, both McLaren and Lola generated an income through the sale of customer cars for various formulae, but the way they each went about this was quite different. McLaren were, first and foremost, a race team. Their focus was on winning races and championships, but through a relationship with Elva Cars, which was bought by Peter Agg of Trojan, they also made money from the build and sale of their cars to customers. This relationship allowed McLaren to do what they did best, go motor racing, but their on-track successes also brought about a nice little earner in the form of customer cars, the dog-work of which, that being, the building and selling of these cars, was taken care of by Elva/Trojan.

    Eris Broadley’s Lola, on the other hand, were not a race team. They built cars for any customer who wanted them, and their success or failure was determined by the success or failure of the cars their customers raced. In some ways, they had less control over their own destiny than did McLaren, because they weren’t directly involved as a race team to best promote their product on track. They did, however, work very closely with a small number of teams, in an effort to stay ahead of (or keep up with) the competition, and it was the John Surtees team with which they worked in the Can-Am, at least initially. But while Surtees could relay back to Lola any suggestions he could make to help improve the package, the partnership could never expect to adjust and adapt as quickly as McLaren could.

    And so, while the beautiful Lola T70 won six of the seven races in the 1966 Can-Am championship, so Lola’s fortunes beyond that first season quickly fell into decline compared to McLaren. While McLaren returned for 1967 with their new and much improved M6A, Surtees was simply given another mildly tickled T70. Indeed, the fact he reverted back to his 1966 car for the final race at Las Vegas suggests he considered the 1967 model wasn’t an improvement at all.

    In 1968, when McLaren made another huge leap forward with their M8A, Lola released yet another variant on the T70, the T160. Surtees was so unimpressed with his T160 he took it back to his workshop and gave it such a massive make-over, he actually renamed it a Lola TS. It mattered not. He entered just three rounds of the 1968 season, and finished none of them.

    However, as Surtees’ relationship with Eric Broadley soured, so a new challenger to push the Lola brand along in the Can-Am had arrived. Carl Haas became the US Lola agent in 1967, and by 1968, it was the Haas team who led the Lola attack. In 1968, with Chuck Parsons at the wheel of the Haas entered T160, the Simoniz sponsored car took a best result of fourth place, at the final round at Las Vegas. However, that was not the best result for a Lola in 1968. That honour fell to George Follmer, who scored an impressive second at that same Las Vegas event, in an ancient, and much modified T70.

    For 1969, Lola released the latest evolution on the T70 theme, the T163, which by all accounts, was a pretty good car, if not on the same level as the factory McLarens, which won each of the 11 races that season. The best result for Parsons in the Haas machine was a well-earned 2nd behind Denny Hulme at Riverside, after Bruce McLaren was eliminated in a shunt.

    And perhaps it was the different paths the two companies followed that ultimately showed up in later Can-Am events. For privateer teams, obviously they’d want to deal with a company that was winning races. During the first two Can-Am seasons, privateer numbers of McLaren and Lola were pretty evenly stacked. But by the start of the 1971 season, with the trophy cabinet heaving under the weight of four consecutive Can-Am championships, the numbers began to swing in favour of McLaren. At the opening round of the 1971 Can-Am at Mosport, 14 privateer McLarens were lined up on the grid, compared to just 6 Lola’s. By 1971, a privateer McLaren wasn’t going to beat a works McLaren, but it might just beat a privateer Lola.

    But Lola did make some effort to try and counter this. In 1970, the Haas Racing team entered just one car, an all-new Lola T220 with young hot-shot Peter Revson at the wheel. The T220 was, finally, a break-away from the old T70 variants. Only the Haas team had access to the T220. Privateers were offered yet another T70 evolution, the T165, although the T220 became available to anyone who wanted one in 1971, as the T222. That said, had Roger Penske wanted a T220 in 1970, you’d have to assume Eric Broadley would have found a way to get him one. The T220 was a magnificent, swoopy racer, with an impossibly short 88” wheelbase. Revson made good use of it, qualifying in the top four at most events, and even lining up next to Hulme’s factory McLaren at Elkhart Lake. This car was destroyed at Round 7s Road Atlanta, so Lola immediately sent out a replacement, which was 10” longer in the wheelbase, and on its first outing, Revson banged it on pole. But it wasn’t a McLaren beater. Despite his best efforts, the best race result Revson could muster in 1970, was second at Mid Ohio, after Peter Gethins factory McLaren dropped out with engine failure.

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