After the successes of the Lola T332 model which was driven to to two Formula 5000 Championshp victories in the United States by Brian Redman, in the UK by Bob Evans, in Australia with Max Stewart in a year old T330 and loosing only the Tasman Series to Peter Gethin’s Chevron B24 and the New Zealand Series to David Oxton in the Begg FM5 in 1974, Lola looked to be the manufacturer to go with in 1975.
The Lola T400 was designed with superior aerodynamics and rising rate suspension to the previous years T332 for the 1975 Formula F5000 season.
That at least was the theory although when customers like Richard Oaten Racing, van der Straten (VDS) and McKechnie Racing Organisation took delivery of theirs they found the rising rate suspension, designed to get stiffer the more the suspension traveled, was not so easy to set up, because they did not realise that the spring rates originally chosen were not stiff enough, infact the opposite they thought the spring rates were too hard and made the handling worse by attempting to rectify the problem with softer springs that reduced the contact patch of particularly the rear tyres with the road even further.
Despite being invoiced for today’s featured T400 chassis #HU5 on February 17th 1975 Richard Oaten Racing’s driver Ian Ashley started the first two races of the 1975, British based, European Formula 5000 championship driving the two year old Lola T330 chassis #HU17.
Ian won with the 2 year old car at Brands Hatch from 4th on the grid and crashed out at Oulton Park, not for the last time, on the opening lap again from fourth on the grid.
Two weeks later back Brands with the T330 not repaired sufficiently after it’s accident at Oulton Park Ian had little option but to drive today’s featured T400 #HU5 from the back of the grid to 7th in a race noted for being the first to be won by David Purley in his one off Chevron B30 powered by the 3.4 litre Ford GAA V6.
By Silverstone the Oaten T330 had been repaired with much new metal in the form of a new T332 tub fitted with T330 suspension and a mixture of T330, T332 and T400 body work with which Ian qualified 2nd and finished 5th in a race that became notorious when the good old Auntie British Broadcasting Corporation refused to televise it because of the presence of Richard Scotts T400 #HU8 which was sponsored by prophylactic brand Durex. Richard won the race in #HU8 after it had been fitted with the older type T332 suspension after future Williams design guru Patrick Head was consulted about the T400 handling issues.
Ian’s second and final public appearance in #HU5 was at Zolder after gearbox damage to the repaired T330/332 #HU17 forced Ian in to the T400 with which he qualified 5th behind 3 other T400’s and was classified 2nd behind the van der Straten VDS T400 chassis #HU4 driven by Peter Gethin.
#HU5 is then said to have been abandoned as uncompetitive before the next race at Zandvoort where Ian returned to the wheel the T330 HU17 and retired with a broken big end on lap 3 after starting from pole.
The T400’s of Peter Gethin in the VDS #HU4 his team mate Teddy Pelitte in the VDS #HU11 and Richard Scott in the McKechnie Racing Durex sponsored chassis #HU8 finished that race in the top three showing uncompetitiveness was not an issue for the new T400 model once fitted with the modifications first seen on Richards #HU8 at Silverstone.
Ian driving the repaired T330/T332 beat Teddy Pilette’s VDS T400 at Thruxton, but did not feature in the top three again while Teddy Pilette driving his VDS T400 went on to win four of the remaining nine races on his way to securing the 1975 European F5000 Championship.
As I understand it Ian latter crashed #HU5 in testing and at the end of the season Lola rebuilt it to the same specification as Teddy Pilette’s championship winning VDS car before it was shipped to the United States where it remained until 2008.
Canadian Hamish Somerville drove #HU5 in New Zealand in 2011 and the car is seen above with former Prosport LM3000 driver Lance Robinson at the wheel during a Silverstone Classic Press Day.
#HU5 is currently nearing completion after a rebuild necessitated by the accident Lance had in the car during testing on the day before 2013 Silverstone Classic meeting according to Kevin McLurg.
Thanks for joining me on this “Rising Rate Improvements” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow for Mercedes Monday. Don’t forget to come back now.