Honour at Le Mans for Huntingdon's Lola cars

HUNTINGDON-based Lola Cars took centre stage off the track at last weekend s Le Mans 24 Hours race and came ninth overall in the race itself. The Aston Martin-engined Charouz Racing System Lola B08/60 was one of the fastest petrol-driven cars in a race do

HUNTINGDON-based Lola Cars took centre stage off the track at last weekend's Le Mans 24 Hours race and came ninth overall in the race itself.

The Aston Martin-engined Charouz Racing System Lola B08/60 was one of the fastest petrol-driven cars in a race dominated - as predicted by Lola engineer David Scotney in last week's Hunts Post - by the diesels from the works Audi and Peugeot teams. Only Porsche was quicker among the petrol-engined cars.

Off the track, Lola's owner and executive chairman, Martin Birrane, who competed as a driver on many occasions in his youth, was honoured on Thursday, before the race on Saturday and Sunday, with the award of the prestigious 'Spirit of Le Mans' trophy.

He joins the highly-acclaimed list of previous winners that includes, Derek Bell, Phil Hill, Jacky Ickx and this year's race winner, Tom Kristensen.

Mr Birrane competed at the Le Mans 24 Hours a total of 10 times, winning his class in the 1985 running of the classic endurance event.

He said: "Since my first visit I have always been touched by the spirit of the Le Mans 24 Hours. This award is a great honour during a year when Lola has a record seven prototypes competing in the race.

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"We are not only celebrating the 76th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours - the most prestigious and the greatest motor race in the world - we are also celebrating the 50thAnniversary of Lola - another icon of world motor sport."

Off track tributes to Lola's golden anniversary also saw Great Britain's longest-serving manufacturer of racing cars featured as the central theme of the official parade, which took place in the town centre of Le Mans on the Friday before the race.

As part of the celebrations, a Mark 1, the first car built by Lola, and the Lola T70 MkIIIB, (a sleek design widely acclaimed as one of the most beautiful sports cars ever built), headed the parade. Thousands of fans packed the streets of the town.

The event provided a suitable setting for Lola to stage its own tribute to the late David Leslie, who tragically died in a plane crash this year. David Leslie was one of Britain's best-loved drivers, who regularly competed at Le Mans 24 Hours and in more recent years was a popular Le Mans commentator for both Eurosport and Motors TV.

David's Mk 1 Lola, which he regularly raced at classic sports car events, was on static display by the main grandstand, while his son Graham was invited to drive a similar Mk 1 Lola as the leading car of the parade. David Leslie's wife Jane, who is the daughter of Lola co-founder Graham Broadley, was there to support her son. The second car in the parade was the striking red Lola T70 that raced at Le Mans in 1969.

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