“It’s in a Lola T70, Christopher”
A short pause.
“What time do you need me there for the Thursday test?”
When it comes to the Lola T70, you find time. I don’t really feel the need to explain the appeal of Eric Broadley’s slither of racing perfection, save to acknowledge that if you ask a child to draw a racing car in profile, it more often than not perfectly describes the profile of a T70 Mk3B. And if you asked an adult male of the species to write down the perfect recipe for a drivers’ car, the T70’s mix of vast Chevy power and light kerbweight is perfection.
The reason for that is simple. The motor is simple, the chassis is pretty simple and it goes like stink. Simples. The cars which superseded it, the Ferrari 512 and Porsche 917, are far more complicated and cannot really be run hard at several race meetings each year unless you are the richest man in the world.
But we wouldn’t be racing a real T70, we’d be racing a continuation car, made by a chap called Chris Fox. Can you just build a copy of a T70, call it just that and then go and race it? Of course not.
The man behind the car is Chris Fox, an ex-Lola employee who ran some of the teams’ race projects for several years. He founded Fox Racing developments and ended up taking over the sales and distribution of all parts for all of Lola’s older racing cars. Now he’s gone a step further and, because he has access to all the original drawings and has all the body mouldings, he’s building complete cars.
It’s called the Broadley T76, the name taken from the internal Lola designation for the very final specification Mk3B’s to leave the factory in the late 60s.
The transmission is a big old Hewland LG 600, five gears with a dog-leg first. Dampers are by Koni with two-way adjustment. Rear rubber is 16 inches in width and treaded. The differential has some locking ability and there is a steering wheel and three pedals. The rest is up to the driver.
Normally at this point you’d be subjected to a race report outlining the fascinating travails of myself and Mr Meaden as we race someone else’s beautiful car, but this time I just need to tell you what it’s like to drive the thing. The seating position is just what you’d hope of a 60s sports-prototype: laid back, on-the-floor with a surprisingly large wheel coming at your chest. No power steering here. The little gearlever sits beside your right thigh, pretty much on top of the fuel tank. This is a genuine bathtub racer; you sit between two vast fuel cells and that’s the last time we’ll mention that.
The motor fires cleanly with a little throttle and the noise is astounding. When a T70 fires, people instinctively come from nearby to find the source of the music. First takes a decent shove to the left and back, you just ease away from the floor-hinged clutch and roll away. But the moment you push the throttle pedal further, the motor splutters and dies and comes alive again and coughs and then booms into life as it passes 4,000rpm. Forget notions of lazy Yankie V8 torque and drivability. This small block on carbs works between 4K and 7.9K is a pure race motor. Outside of that it doesn’t want to know.
As befits its simple mechanicals, the car is a completely transparent driving device. In slower turns the rear wants to slide, so you simply manage your angles. As speeds increase the front begins to push more, and I’m told this is a result of a rule change that forces all T70s competing in 2014 to run 20mm higher and not use aero ‘flicks’ to push the nose downwards. The result is a disappointing film of understeer, but this does lead to amusing provocation to mobilise the rear and get the cornering angles you need. The gearshift is pure cave dweller: push the clutch all the way down and bang the lever with all your might. Just gorgeous.
How did we do? Pretty good given the car was only finished two weeks before the race. We qualified fourth from a grid of, I recall, around 50 cars. I think I counted seven Mk3Bs and a heap of other very fast V8-powered metal. The ex-Ickx 512M was also running, which made it rather difficult to concentrate. Is there a better looking machine?
From the rolling start the O’Connell Chevron B19 shot into the lead, leaving me to have a decent dice with Leo Voyazides in his real T70! It was nine laps of immense fun, overtaking and re-taking and sliding and the odd mistake, but all in good humour. I couldn’t match him on the straights, and the brake pedal went long on lap three, but when I pitted, thanks to the Chevron tripping-over a back-marker, we were leading the race.
The man from Evo got the bit between his teeth, pushed hard to catch Steve Tandy’s gorgeous yellow T70 and we had ourselves a podium! Not bad for two hacks in a two-week-old car.
So, the things you need to know are: the Silverstone Classic is a must for any car enthusiast. I loved it as a competitor and a spectator. The variety of machinery on offer, and the hard racing is infectious. Oh, and Chris is planning to put some license plates on a T76 sometime soon. I cannot wait to see the results.
who sadly died the day after our race at Silverstone. But he was a respected member of a community that provides some of the best racing car spectacles available to us. My thoughts are with his family and friends.