His Royal Highness The Duke of York..

supports Lola’s Golden celebration in motorsport

On Tuesday 7 October, Prince Andrew, His Royal Highness The Duke of York, made a special visit to Lola Group’s state-of-the-art facilities in Huntingdon.

After serving for 22 years in the Royal Navy, The Duke  of  York  is  now  the  UK's  Special  Representative  for  International  Trade  and  Investment.  The Royal visit was supporting Lola Cars 50th Anniversary celebration in 2008. Upon  arriving  The  Duke  of  York  was  cheered  by  a  group  of  pupils  from  St  Peters  School  in Huntingdon,  all  waving  Union  Jack  and  Lola  flags  to  greet  the  Royal  visitor. 

The  young  party  had eagerly  gathered  next  to  Lola’s  impressive  car  display,  that  included  the  A1  Grand  Prix  Team Malaysia Lola-Zytek and the all-new Lola B06/80 LMP1 Coupe of the Charouz Racing System that recently recorded a superb 2nd placed finish at the Silverstone Le Mans Series round. Fresh from his weekend success at Zandvoort, A1 GP Team Malaysia driver Fairuz Fauzy was on hand to talk the Duke of York through his spectacular Lola machine that brought the team four race victories in the World Cup of Motorsport since its inception in 2005.

 The Duke of York was accompanied by HM Lord-Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Hugh Duberly Esq CBE. They were welcomed by Martin Birrane, Executive Chairman of the Lola Group. The Royal tour of  Great  Britain’s  longest-serving  manufacturer  of  racing  cars  started  with a visit to the company’s design office. Julian Cooper, Head of Engineering, introduced the Duke to his highly acclaimed team who presented latest technology at Lola designers disposal such as FEA (Finite Element Analysis) programmes  and  the  latest  CFD  (Computational  Fluid  Dynamics)  software. 

The  current  Lola  team follow in the footsteps of famous designers that have worked under the yellow and blues colours of Lola, including Tony Southgate, Patrick Head and John Barnard. The next section of the visit enabled Andrew Manahan, Group MD of Lola Group, to reflect upon the multi-faceted  aspects  of  Lola,  whose  winning  technology  now  expands  in  to  the  Defence  and Aerospace   industries.  

 The   Duke   was   introduced   to   Lola   Composites   staff,   who   have   been instrumental in the design and build of Defence exhibits on show. These included the Talisman Un- manned Underwater Vehicle, the Voodoo UAV (Un-manned Aerial Vehicle) and a scale model of the new  Mantis  UAV  developed  jointly  by  BAE  Systems  and  the  Ministry  of  Defence.  Having  secured contracts with some of the biggest names in defence and aerospace, Lola has signalled that these areas of industry are an expanding area for a company widely renowned as a leader in motorsport technology.

The  Duke  of  York  was  then  escorted to the  assembly area where he spent time discussing Lola’s illustrious race history with two of the company’s longest serving employees, John Church and John Bedrikovs, who have both been with the Huntingdon-based marque for 37 years. It was a fitting area to  meet  such  experienced  Lola  personnel  as  one  of  Lola’s  most  famous  race  cars,  the  iconic T70 Mk111B was being ‘re-born’ with one of the latest Continuation cars being readied for a proud new customer.

Dr  John Davis, who heads up Lola’s highly advanced and renowned Technical Centre granted the Royal party a rare insight in to how a windtunnel programme is conducted. Known as one of the best commercially available facilities in the UK, the 50% scale Lola tunnel gives Lola and its customers the benefit of a full research and development programme in a confidential setting. At the end of the visit, HRH The Duke of York was presented with a pair of limited-edition Lola 50th Anniversary cufflinks, which are based on the design of the 1969 Daytona 24 Hours winning Penske Lola T70 MkIIIB.

The Duke was then invited to unveil a commemorative 50th Anniversary plaque to mark his action packed visit to the Lola factory. As a fitting finale to the morning’s activities, the Lola LMP1 Coupe of the Charouz Racing System, which  is  powered  by  a  V12  Aston  Martin  engine,  completed  a  pit  stop  demonstration  on  the  Lola courtyard, under the watchful eye of His Royal Highness.

At the end of the demonstration, Charouz Racing  System  driver  Stefan  Mucke  received  a  richly  merited  round  of  applause  for  his  dramatic   entry in to the ‘pit bay’ that left a strip of rubber the length of the directors car park!

The  enviable  position  of  Lola  has  been  consolidated  since  1997  under  the  ownership  of  Martin Birrane, whose vision has helped make Lola into a worldwide contender in many aspects of design and technology. Birrane, himself a successful racer of many Lola cars over the years, commented, “It was a privilege to introduce His Royal Highness The Duke of York to our latest technical capabilities and the talented team that we can draw upon here in Huntingdon. The Duke of York provides an important role for companies like Lola, as we continue to gain international recognition and keep British industry at the forefront of leading edge technology.

“To welcome a member of the Royal family to be a part of our 50th anniversary celebration was a great honour for everyone involved with Lola. These are very exciting times for the company. Since 1997  we  have  grown  and  we  now  look  towards  the  future  to  expand  our  winning  technology  for another 50 years in a variety of exciting industries.” Lola Cars 50th Anniversary celebrations continue on Sunday 12th October when a parade of up to 16 Lola designs drive through the streets of Huntingdon, with the cars forming a spectacular ‘paddock’ in the town’s historic market square.  

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