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Reviving Lola, The Greatest Racing Car Company Time Forgot

Road & Track 1 hr ago A. J. Baime
Till Bechtolsheimer, who is aiming to relaunch Lola and make it what it once was: an innovator in global motorsport. © Matt Rainwaters Till Bechtolsheimer, who is aiming to relaunch Lola and make it what it once was: an innovator in global motorsport.

“Well,” says Till Bechtolsheimer, “here goes.” We’re standing in pit lane at Harris Hill Raceway in rural Texas under a blazing July sun. Bechtolsheimer is wearing his full racing suit, standing beside a 1958 Lola Mk1. He slips on his helmet, climbs in, and fires up the four-cylinder Coventry Climax, tickling the throttle with his toe. Then, off he goes onto the track. The man who has just bought the Lola brand is driving a Lola car for the first time.

This story originally appeared in Volume 13 of Road & Track.

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It’s hard to think of a legendary driver who hasn’t raced a Lola at some point. Andrettis, Rahals, Sir Jackie—all of them. The storied British brand used to be one of the most respected in the business. Founded in England by Eric Broadley in 1958, the company was successful in almost every form of racing. Lola built Indy 500 and IMSA winners, Le Mans GT and LMP2 cars, and Can-Am, Formula 1, and Formula Junior machines. It built legendary sports racers of the Sixties like the Mk6, which Ford used to develop the world-conquering GT40. But Lola has now been dormant for a decade.

A Chevrolet-powered Lola T332 in the hands of Brian Redman, at Riverside in 1974. © Road & Track - Hearst Owned A Chevrolet-powered Lola T332 in the hands of Brian Redman, at Riverside in 1974.

Bechtolsheimer, who purchased the Lola assets in late 2021, could rival anyone for the title of the world’s most interesting man. He runs an Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint at vintage racing events and the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. An aviator, he flies himself to races sometimes and owns a World War I fighter with a machine gun mounted on its wooden nose. He runs an investment business called Arosa that focuses on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Educated at one of the world’s oldest universities, Trinity College in Dublin, the 40-year-old Brit comes off as laser sharp and egoless—and good-humored when people mangle the pronunciation of his name.

Bringing Lola back from the dead will not be easy. But as he is quick to mention, even people who could become his competitors in the future are pulling for him and helping him open doors. Who wouldn’t want to see Lola back on the world’s starting grids?

The story began two years ago. “I received a text message from a friend with a link to an article saying that Lola’s assets were for sale,” Bechtolsheimer explains. “Lola is one of the most iconic motorsport brands in history, a marque I followed starting as a kid. It felt sad that it was disappearing, and if I could play a part in keeping it from being consigned to the history books, that would be a satisfying project.”

Bechtolsheimer at Harris Hill Raceway in Texas, at the wheel of a 1958 Lola Mk1. © Matt Rainwaters Bechtolsheimer at Harris Hill Raceway in Texas, at the wheel of a 1958 Lola Mk1.

While the sale price is off the record, the assets are not. Bechtolsheimer describes them as “three buckets.” One: the brand itself and the trademarks. Two: the intellectual property. “If you go to the Lola Technical Centre in England,” he says, “there’s this dark archive room, and you’ve got drawers full of original drawings and blueprints for all the cars. There are servers with all the digital assets, the CAD drawings, plus all the email correspondence and minutes from meetings. There is value in preserving that, from a custodian’s point of view.” Three: the Lola Technical Centre itself, with its own wind tunnel (originally built by British Aerospace; the Concorde was partly developed in it) plus all the equipment needed to design and engineer modern racing cars. What Lola doesn’t have is a manufacturing facility—something Bechtolsheimer sees as a plus.

“These days,” he says, “it’s an advantage to be a bit asset light—to focus on the design and engineering of cars and support for those cars once they’re out in the world racing.” Lola is based in the heart of England’s Motorsport Valley, home to all but three F1 teams and endless automotive everything. So a small constructor can contract out the manufacturing.

Bechtolsheimer’s intent for this brand? “To bring Lola back to what it was: a well-respected constructor of race cars and an innovator in motorsport.” There is more change going on in the automobile industry than at any time since the Model T. “That means opportunity,” he says. “The key area of innovation that the automobile industry needs is energy efficiency. Motorsport has always been the place where innovation happens, and anything that’s driving efficiency is something I am interested in. Electrification is not the only solution. Motorsport’s role is to explore how far can we take electrification but also to explore what are the other alternatives. What can we do with hydrogen? There’s going to be a hydrogen class at Le Mans in 2025.”

Among the litany of race-winning Lolas is the T70, the most iconic Lola of them all—pictured here at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1969. © Matt Rainwaters Among the litany of race-winning Lolas is the T70, the most iconic Lola of them all—pictured here at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1969.

Already, Lola has made a key hire in Michael Wilson, who previously ran Mercedes’s DTM program and worked in the Mercedes F1 engine department. Lola is looking at four projects Bechtolsheimer can use to build a company around, and he’s hired consultants to help vet them. He is mute on what exactly they are but does say two are complete race cars while the other two are smaller projects. He built his investment company inside the clean-energy ecosystem and intends to re-create Lola as an innovator within that same environment.

As he motors around the Harris Hill track, the stopwatch is already running with regard to his Lola venture. He is spending money on this company, and he’s not naive about how hard it’s going to be to succeed. When he pulls the 1958 Mk1 back into the pits, he jumps out and starts talking to his team of mechanics. The car has a clutch issue, he says, and there’s work to be done. It’s a fitting metaphor for the challenge ahead, of driving this classic motoring brand into the modern world. As founder Broadley reportedly said so many years ago, “Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets.”

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