Lola racing cars to star in special Huntingdon parade
RACING cars capable of speeds up to 200mph will parade through the streets of Huntingdon later this year for the first time ever – many with world-renowned drivers at the wheel. Among them are expected to be some of the 10 Formula 1 World Champions who ha
RACING cars capable of speeds up to 200mph will parade through the streets of Huntingdon later this year for the first time ever - many with world-renowned drivers at the wheel.
Among them are expected to be some of the 10 Formula 1 World Champions who have raced Lola Cars.
As part of the Huntingdon-based company's celebration of 50 years making sports and racing cars, the parade on Sunday October 12 will travel from Lola's headquarters in St Peter's Road, round the ring road to Huntingdon's historic market square, where they will form a spectacular paddock.
The event could attract as many as 30,000 people to see some of the 4,000 powerful racing cars the company, which moved to Huntingdon in 1971, has produced over half a century in the fast lane.
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Lola is keeping details of cars and drivers close to its chest at the moment, but The Hunts Post believes some of the surviving World Champions could be at the wheel on the day.
The list of F1 winners ranges from the late Graham Hill, champion in 1962 and 1968, to Fernando Alonso, who won the championship in 2005 and 2006 after competing in a Lola Formula 3000 car in 2000.
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Also in the roll of honour are John Surtees (1964), Denny Hulme (1967), Sir Jackie Stewart (1969, 1971 and 1973), Emerson Fittipaldi (1972 and 1974), James Hunt (1976), Mario Andretti (1978, who drove Lolas from 1966 to 1995), Jody Scheckter (1979), Alan Jones (1980), Nelson Piquet (1981, 1983 and 1987), Keke Rosberg (1982), Nigel Mansell (1992) and Damon Hill (1996).
Lola is Britain's and one of the world's longest-surviving racing car manufacturers, and it is not the first time its vehicles will have been on the public roads.
"We paraded through the streets of Birmingham [probably in 1971], and we used to drive the sports cars on the road," the company's founder, Eric Broadley, who lives in Broughton, told The Hunts Post. "They were taxed and insured, of course, but it was before the days of the need for type approval.
"It was also before the national speed limit, and we used to take the Mk 6 up the M1 at 160-170mph."
Mr Broadley, who will be an honoured guest at the October showpiece, sold the company to the current executive chairman Martin Birrane in 1997.
Mr Birrane said this week: "With so many of our workforce based in the Huntingdon area, we wanted to create an event that would enable our staff, their families, friends and the Huntingdon community to join in our 50th celebrations and to see some of our great heritage at close quarters.
"Lola is very appreciative of the support provided by the local authorities and we aim to make this a day that the town of Huntingdon can be proud of."
To support the public parade of cars, Lola will be handing out free copies of a limited edition 50th anniversary poster. The glossy A1 poster depicts one Lola car from each of the 50 years, ranging from the first Lola model built - the Mk1 - through to the latest LMP1 Coupé, that will race in the 2008 Le Mans 24 Hours.
The company's portfolio had broadened since Mr Birrane took the helm, and now includes extensive involvement in composites for the aerospace, defence and communications industries.
Mr Broadley added: "I am pleased to see Lola still racing all over the world. It is good to see the success at Le Mans because we first went there in 1960 with the Mk1.
"I'm very proud of this. It's not something I would have thought about 50 years ago. Motor racing is not very sympathetic to the long term."
Mr Birrane agreed. "Motor racing is the most volatile business in the world. I'm the only person apart from Eric who knows what it's like to sit in the chairman's seat here, so I know how magnificently he did to bring to this point."
Town mayor, Councillor Jennifer Sarabia, added: "Firms like Lola bring great kudos to the town, giving people of the town pride of place.
"The golden anniversary celebrations will be a popular event for local people, and I expect this will bring many visitors to the town. I applaud Lola for its initiative."
Racing driver Mark Blundell, who was brought up near Huntingdonshire, predicted that the event would be a great spectacle for the town.