Lola celebrations: John Surtees interview
JOHN Surtees OBE was one of the men of the moment on Sunday. A Lola Cars legend, Surtees was undeniably the most famous of the racing drivers who took part in Sunday s 50th anniversary event. The 74-year-old is the only man to win a world championship on
JOHN Surtees OBE was one of the men of the moment on Sunday.
A Lola Cars legend, Surtees was undeniably the most famous of the racing drivers who took part in Sunday's 50th anniversary event.
The 74-year-old is the only man to win a world championship on a motorcycle - he actually won numerous titles in both 350cc and 500cc classes - and in a car, winning the F1 season with Ferrari in 1964.
Surtees, dressed in the overalls he used to wear in the 1960s, joked he was happy to still be able to fit his red and white colours - the colours used by his own racing team in the 1970s.
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His connection with Lola goes back a long way - the firm had been operating from a workshop in Bromley when he first met Eric Broadley, one Lola's founders, he told The Hunts Post. They worked together on the successful Lola Mk IV car in 1962 as well as the T70 and a Honda F1 car.
After completing his short trip behind the wheel of a 1969 Lola T70 at the weekend, he said the brief ride had evoked many memories.
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"It takes me back to the first time I got involved with Eric when at the time he was working in Bromley from a little workshop."
The meeting was at a time when Surtees was driving for Honda and eventually led to Honda and Lola developing a F1 car together - the Honda Surtees had been driving in the championship had not been performing as well as he had hoped.
"I told [Honda] we need to take action and that we needed to change the chassis to save some weight. We did it in conjunction with Lola. The team from Tokyo and the team from Lola came together and a hybrid was produced.
"It set a record for being the first collaboration between a Japanese manufacturer and a British one.
"Work started in Bromley where Eric and Rob were running Lola cars - it was very much a backyard operation, but produced results.
"We finished fourth in the F1 championship beating both Ferrari and Porsche.
"Eric was very hands on. He had driven cars and understood what someone required, his cars were user friendly."
Surtees remained a fan of Lola despite having a nasty accident whilst driving a Lola in Canada in 1965 when the front wishbone broke.
Surtees went on to describe how there were no crash barriers when he was racing and that he once ploughed into a bike park. "It stopped the car wonderfully," he added.
Asked how important Martin Birrane, the current owner of Lola, had been to the Huntingdon firm, he said: "What's important is that we're standing here today celebrating 50 years of Lola.
"Racing car makers cannot survive inn the old fashioned way. We have technology which has to be utilised in the wider society and Martin has done that with Lola.