PEOPLE: ERIC BROADLEY
Name: Eric Broadley
Nationality: Great Britain
A near-legendary figure in motor racing circles, Eric Broadley was the founder, the chairman, the chief executive and the chief designer of Lola Cars. Trained as an architect in the late 1940s in the southern suburbs of London, Broadley became an enthusiastic club racers in the early 1950s as a member of the 750 Motor Club. At the time there was very little money in Britain and so racing enthusiasts built their own cars, based around the Austin Seven. The 750 Motor Club graduates would include Colin Chapman, Brian Hart, Len Bailey, Frank Costin, Arthur Mallock, Len Terry and others and their early experiences would result in the birth of Britain's world-dominating motor racing industry.
The first Lola ran in 1957 - named Lola after a popular song at the time called "Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets". It was followed in mid-1958 by a front-engined sportscar in which Broadley became the first man to lap Brands Hatch in under a minute. Other drivers asked for replicas of the car and so Broadley and his cousin built three chassis. The following year Lola sportscars won everything and the company was launched. In 1960 came the first single-seater, a Formula Junior, and two years later Lola entered F1 with Reg Parnell's Yeoman Credit team and drivers John Surtees and Roy Salvadori. Surtees put the car on pole at the first Grand Prix of the year. The team ran out of money and so Broadley concentrated on building customer cars for Formula Junior, Formula 3 and sportscars. His sportscars attracted the attention of the Ford Motor Company and Broadley became consultant engineer on the famous GT40s.
The racing boom in the 1960s saw Lola become the world's largest manufacturer of specialist racing machinery and the cars enjoyed success in virtually every formula, ranging from CanAm to Formula Ford. In 1968 Lola built the Honda F1 cars and returned to Grand Prix racing in 1974 with Graham Hill's Embassy team. In the late 1970s and early 1980s Lola concentrated on America, winning many Indycar races. The Lola name returned to F1 in 1985 with Carl Haas's FORCE, although the cars were not built at Huntingdon - where the company has been based since 1970 - but were called Lolas because Haas was the Lola agent in America.
From 1987-1991 Lola built F1 cars for Gerard Larrousse and although there was no great success Broadley's contribution to British motor racing was recognized in 1991 with the award of an MBE.
Broadley always considered Formula 1 to be unfinished business and despite a disastrous F1 program in 1993 with Scuderia Italia, he insisted on pushing ahead with a Lola factory team in 1997. The program was ill-considered and underfunded. The cars were considerably off the pace on their debut in Australia and the team pulled out of F1 almost immediately. Within a matter of weeks the entire Lola car company went into receivership. It was bought by Irish businessman Martin Birrane who began to rebuild the company's damaged reputation, concentrating on the Indy Lights and Formula 3000 deals and on a small CART program.