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.