Today saw Eric Broadley, the founding father of Lola, laid to rest in Cambridge, England after he died at the age of 88 on 29th May.
Here, his successor as custodian of the Lola name – Martin Birrane, gives a personal tribute to the man who built a legend on the race tracks of the world.
Many posts and many articles have been written about Eric Broadley quite rightly extolling his virtues as a great race car designer and providing details on a number of the 300+ Lola race cars designed and produced over his 39 years in charge of the iconic brand Lola.
I would like to express my admiration for the man whose genius extended to keeping a race car manufacturer running for 38 of his 39 years in charge. I am aware of how difficult that must have been through all of the peaks and troughs in the economy between 1958 and 1996. Whilst it is true to say that he had assistance from his cousin, Graham Broadley and Rob Rushbrook who ran the manufacturing side for many of those years, the major decisions are always taken by the boss and Eric was the boss.
Following my takeover of Lola in 1997 I invested heavily and worked hard to restore its reputation. We succeeded in that goal fairly quickly with some notable successes in Champ cars, in Japan, the USA and sports cars in Europe and Le Mans cars. It was important to me and most of the people at Lola that we live up to the high standards set by Eric for Lola. This meant competing at the top level of motorsport, building beautiful winning cars. It is still my hope to restart and revive the race car side of Lola in the near future.
Having been a customer of Lola in the early 1970s I got to know Eric who was a quiet, determined, good humoured man who like one of his greatest collaborators, the late great John Surtees, didn’t seem to be driven by ego. They were both my heroes.
Lola’s creations will live on beyond all of us.
Lola, the brand he carved in stone, will still be remembered as one of the greatest names in motor racing a century from now. I have already sent my condolences to Eric’s family through his son Andrew. May I send them again to the wider family of Lola owners and fans.
Ex Lola PR man Sam Smith adds this on Eric Broadley
It seems extraordinarily poignant that Eric Broadley should leave us on Indy 500 day and then be laid to rest today, during Le Mans week!
These two races, ones he was so entwined with throughout his time on this earth, encased many of his achievements and design genius. Racing life indeed moves in mysterious ways.
In 2008 I spent some time with Eric as we held several events to commemorate the Golden anniversary of his beloved Lola. Merely being in the same room with and dipping in to his memories of his career was utterly riveting even though he was so famously unassuming and low-key in most respects.
Yet, there was mystery and legend in Lola. It wasn’t quite as showbiz as Ferrari, not by a long shot. He was quite cagey about why he chose Lola as a name for his eponymous company. Was it, as history speculated, taken from the Broadway musical Damn Yankies and its headline song ‘Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets.’ Or was it to simply hack off rival Colin Chapman and come up with a similar sounding moniker? He kept the mystery going by refusing to fully come clean.
He would also not commit, to me at least, which his favourite model were, although he did state a soft spot for the Lola Mk6, T70 MkIIIB and the T330 F3000 designs.
Martin Birrane’s tribute above is heartfelt and effusive in its praise of a great man and one who will be greatly missed for all that he brought to our wonderful sport and industry.