Lola Le Mans 24 Hours Qualifying Report

Martin Birrane, Executive Chairman of Lola awarded with the prestigious ‘Spirit of Le Mans’ trophy  

Huntingdon based marque also celebrates qualifying success as highest placed petrol powered LMP1 car

Yesterday, Lola Cars were honoured in the build up to this weekend’s 24 Heures Du Mans,  as  company  owner  and  Executive  Chairman,  Martin  Birrane  received  the  prestigious ‘Spirit  of  Le  Mans’  trophy. 

Collecting  the  award  from  the  President  of  the  ACO,  Jean-Claude Plassart during the official function held at the famed ACO Museum at the Circuit De La Sarthe in  Le  Mans.  Birrane  now  joins  the  highly  acclaimed  list  of  previous  winners  that  include Paul Frere, Derek Bell, Phil Hill, Jacky Icky, Tom Kristensen and Wolfgang Ullrich.

The award is a fitting accolade to Lola’s 50th Anniversary celebrations at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours. Since 1997, the marque’s enviable position has been strengthened under the ownership of Martin Birrane, who has kept the company at the forefront of the motor sport industry, winning a variety of International series during his ownership of Lola. Birrane competed at the Le Mans 24 Hours a grand total of 10 times as a driver, winning his class  in  the  1985  running  of  the  classic  endurance  event.  Birrane  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.

“This is a special weekend in more ways than one. 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 50th Anniversary of Lola - another icon of world motor sport. I can think of  no better way to do this than to have our biggest entry at Le Mans this year (with 7 cars) since 1979.

“I  and  everyone  at  Lola  are  indebted  to  everyone  involved  in  the  Le  Mans  24  Hours  for  the prominence  it  have  given  us  on  this  landmark  occasion  and  I  thank  the  ACO  for  the  great honour it was to collect such an award.”   

The Huntingdon based marque had plenty to celebrate both on and off the track at Le Mans, after a Lola finished the final qualifying session in 6th position, to claim the highest place for a petrol  powered  entry  by  1.8  seconds  and  in  so  doing  beating  one  of  the  Audi  R10  diesel sportscars. Stefan Mucke set the time for the Charouz Racing System Lola B08/60 powered by Aston  Martin  with  a  superb  3m25.158s  lap. 

He  did  this  despite  the  team  losing  time  during practice  one  on  Wednesday  when  gearshift  problems  reduced  track  time  for  Mucke  and  his team mates Jan Charouz and Tomas Enge. Other notable performances by Lola sportcars included last year’s 5th placed LMP1 finisher, the Charouz (Cytosport) entered B07/10-Judd of Klaus Graf, Greg Pickett and Jan Lammers. The experienced trio line-up 12th on the grid and are confident that they can take their qualifying form in to the weekend’s race with the Judd powered Lola. Chamberlain  Synergy  completes  the  Lola  LMP1  entries  with  Bob  Berridge,  Amanda  Stretton and Gareth Evans enjoying a trouble free session to line-up 23d with a best time of 3m38.024.

The all-new Speedy Racing Team Sebah Lola B08/80 LMP2 Coupe showed flashes of pace in the  LMP2  division  but  were  denied  a  shot  at  the  Porsche  LMP2  Spyders  when  red  flags interrupted potential LMP2 pole laps on Wednesday evening. Steve Zacchia crashed the Judd powered at the first Mulsanne chicane on Thursday but excellent work by the Hugh Hayden led team saw the car return briefly in the final night session.

They line up 4th in the ultra competitive LMP2class. RML and Quifel-ASM are side-by-side on the grid in 6th and 7th on the LMP2 grid. RML fought back with typical tenacity after an accident befell Andy Wallace on Wednesday. Mike Newton and  Tommy  Erdos  will  be  hoping  to  go  for  an  unprecedented  hat-trick  of  LMP2  wins  in  the familiar and popular red, white and blue MG engined Lola.

As well as  immensely fast  sportscars, Lola also prides  itself in producing safe cars. This was proved  beyond  doubt  during  Wednesday’s  second  qualifying  session  when  Hideki  Noda crashed spectacularly on the entry to the Dunlop chicane. His Kruse-Schiller Lola LMP2 rolled five times, destroying much of the bodywork and suspension on the Huntingdon built chassis. With the survival cell protecting the Japanese racer from any injury, the team, with the help of Lola engineers, set about the massive task of rebuilding the car for the warm-up on Saturday morning.