Lola Cars International
And Its B05/40

dailysportscar.comThe completion (and despatch to Heathrow) of Bill Binnie’s Lola B05/40 was the signal to spend February 23 at Lola Cars International’s Huntingdon factory – for a real behind the scenes look at the company and its capabilities.

A job well done.....

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The rush of Lola news began last week, with the shakedown of the RML chassis. Watching and waiting from this distance, it’s seemed like an awfully long time since Lola released those early sketches of the 05/40 – sketches that now bear only a passing resemblance to the real thing.

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So why has it taken so long (in reality, it hasn’t taken that long – it’s just that we’ve all been impatient to see the second, true LMP2 car, after the Lucchini), and what has been happening in Huntingdon, during the last year?

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dailysportscar.comAdam Twinley (left) could certainly confirm what has been going on there for the last five weeks. He and Steve Hay – chief and no. 1 mechanics for Binnie Motorsports – have been working on the building up of this B05/40, a process that helps the team because it allows them to become familiar with every part of the car. Twinley and Hay can pass that knowledge onto the rest of the Binnie team members.

Adam’s father Pat is the crew chief, and the whole crew should be reunited by now, at the brand new Binnie Motorsports facility in New Hampshire.

“We’ll be flying down to meet the car in Florida at the end of next week – in Bill’s Westwind business jet,” explains Adam Twinley. “Bill takes the co-pilot’s seat.

“I joined the team just over a year ago, initially to look after Bill’s historic cars, but my father and I were involved with Bill racing the Intersport Lola B2K / 40 last year, at Monza and Le Mans. Monza wasn’t a good one for us, Bill having been attacked by a Porsche, but Le Mans was very much the opposite.

“I know Bill wants to win the class again at Le Mans – and to be honest, I’ve never looked forward to a season of racing more than I do now.” That has more than a little to do with the fact that Adam Twinley has a B05/40 to tinker with this year.

So what can the mechanic tells us about the B05/40?

dailysportscar.com“The Lola is a very impressive car, with some lovely details. We’ve got Penske 4-way, F1 dampers on it, the first time they’ve ever been used on a sportscar, we’ve got an F1-type refuelling nozzle… it’s going to be a great car.

“I’m very confident about the capabilities of the whole package – not least the Nicholson-McLaren engine. A lot of work has gone into the V8: it’s low, it’s light, it’s powerful, and as a Champ Car engine, it revved much higher than we’ll ever be using.

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“Bill is passionate about his motorsport, and that’s where the enthusiasm starts, with him.”

There’s much of that same enthusiasm pervading the atmosphere at Lola.

dailysportscar.comTake Chris Saunders, for example. His title is Technical Centre Manager at Lola Cars International: the four-post rig had a customer’s car sitting on it, after a morning’s development of the car’s dampers, while Chris is also in charge of Lola’s wind tunnel.

Have you ever been inside a wind tunnel? David Lord and I certainly hadn’t – until yesterday. Lola’s weapon for aero. development is a large tunnel, with a moving floor (which moves through a typical 4 degrees to simulate yaw) – and sitting there was the final version of the B05/40 model. Let’s say £80,000 worth of carbon fibre model: that gives an idea of the expense that has gone into producing the first few examples of the LMP2 car. At least the model can also be used for development of the LMP1 version.

The tunnel’s fans were made by Lola’s own Composite Tooling & Structures Ltd., and spinning at 800 rpm, they generate wind speeds of up to 145 mph (65 metres per second), which allows the aerodynamics team to explore every little detail of the B05/40 – with some CFD assistance from Phil Tiller, upstairs in the design office.

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Chris Saunders is an ex-Williams and McLaren aero. man (he joined Lola in 1994), while Senior Aerodynamicist Phil Tiller arrived at Lola from Jaguar’s F1 team, last year: There’s a vast array of skill and top-level experience on display at the company.

There has been considerable investment into the whole technical facility too, since Martin Birrane acquired the company in 1997. Here's one result of that investment: Lola Group MD Rupert Manwaring is on the left, receiving the an MIA Business of the Year award, from X-trac's Peter Digby.

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"About 260 hours, in total, perhaps a little more," is the length of time the wind tunnel team (Dan Cox, Mark Humphries, Terry Clifton Atfield, Nick Rowlerson, Russell Annison, Ben Pettitt, Andy Mount and Jim Davison) has spent with the B05/40 model. That's very expensive time - but very productive time.

dailysportscar.comPhil Tiller (right) took us through how Computational Fluid Dynamics simulations can support and speed up the wind tunnel work. Phil had a marvellous ‘slide show’ set up on a laptop, which worked through the CFD process in a simple, clear way that even David Lord and I could understand. One conclusion would be that no matter how hard the rule-makers work to create a ‘spec.’ aerodynamic package, the really clever chaps will take the basic package – then develop it to the fullest extent possible. What else would you expect of such clever ‘bods’, with all that brain and computing power at their fingertips?

We didn’t catch up with B05/40 Chief Designer Julian Sole – a man born and bred at Lola, where he began as a model maker – but Julian Cooper, Head of Engineering at the company provided a fascinating overview of the current ‘position’ of prototypes, as the company begins to work towards an LMP1 version of the new LMP2. Here he is with a Voodoo Aerial Target which was part-designed by Lola's composite arm, CTS, for Meggitt Defence. Aerospace, Military and Marine work is getting bigger and bigger for the Lola Group, with clients including GKN, Sikorsky, Lockheed Martin and BAe Systems.

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Chassis dimensions of the LMP1 and LMP2 versions can be the same, although Cooper admits that the LMP1 “might have a longer wheelbase, to accommodate a V10.”

Do you remember when the suggestion was put forward that there was actually little point in different manufacturers each building their own LMP chassis, because the regulations were so restrictive – therefore there might as well be a spec. chassis, with each company creating its own aero. package? Julian Cooper does, and it wouldn’t be hard to imagine Lola making a basic monocoque available to another manufacturer. But race car design and construction isn’t really like that, is it?

Small manufacturers, notably in North America, seem keen to build their own interpretation of the prototype rules, but they’re going to have a very tough job to create something (which might well be cheaper than the Lola product) that is anything close to competitive. Not that the Lola is expensive: more than once the thought occurred that the B05/40 is actually remarkable value.

Julian Cooper summed up the problem very simply: “There’s a cost-performance equation.” That says it all, doesn’t it? “It’s actually very difficult to make any money out of a limited run of prototypes.”

There’s little doubt that Lola could build a cheaper car than the B05/40 – indeed, what they have done is build a cheaper car than the EX257 / B01/60. How has that been possible?

“The B01/60 really was a manufacturer’s car, rather than a privateer chassis. That was a very trick car, with some very clever, but very expensive, components. It was built right down to the 675 kg weight limit, but with the B05/40, we’ve had another 75 kg to play with. That has meant we could use simpler composites for some parts of the bodywork, which has meant heavier bodywork: not heavy, just a little heavier. The hubs on the 675 car were very much ‘trick’ components, which have been made simpler on the new car. We also haven’t used titanium, but we have designed the car to have a separate bellhousing (so we can fit a variety of engines), rather than an integral component.

“Because it’s been designed as a privateer car, we’ve made access to components better – and we didn’t need to use the ‘starternator’ that was a feature of the 675 car. The alternator is now very accessible, while we’ve fitted twin starters and batteries, which should eliminate any problems firing up after a pit stop.

“The gearshift system is also unique: it’s packaged like a shoe box – you can simply slip it out and replace it.”

The B05/40 really is a beautiful piece of work. The Lola engineers have had to be patient throughout 2004, all the while having a degree of confidence perhaps unmatched in any recent Lola prototype. The details on the car are beautiful to behold.

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“We had to design and build the EX257 in just a few months, then rush down to Le Mans for the Test Day in 2001,” remembers Julian Cooper.

The 05/40 has had a much more extensive design process – but for the staff at CTS, and in the build shop, it’s just the same as ever. Work long hours and get them built in time.

Ian Beevor is the Purchasing Manager at CTS, where all the composite pieces are carefully manufactured: so that’s the tub, plus about 60 other bodywork components. It was a real education, discovering how much effort goes into making each part – and then how much time is spent adding all the fittings to each part.

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There were some conveniently placed components at hand – the largest of them unfinished, just as they came out of one of the autoclaves (above) – which fitted together beautifully.

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Notice how the floor panel displays the slope up towards the outside edge of the floor, and then the large radius leading to the vertical side panel.

“It was the ‘ramp’ of the floor that gave us the problems early on,” says Phil Tiller. “The downforce was awful initially, because the air just leaked out of the sides – just as the regulators planned that it should. But we have managed to achieve a sensible L/D.”

The most revealing (literally) image that Phil Tiller presented was the B05/40 colour-coded to show where the downforce was being produced. You could literally see how the nose and the wing work together to produce a balanced car.

With the stable regulations currently in place, it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine Lola Cars International matching or exceeding the 16 B2K/40s they built for the SR2 (then 675) regulations. Ultimately, demand for the product will depend on its performance: the first man to assess the Binnie Motorsports example will be Andy Wallace – at Moroso Park, on March 1. In more ways than one, he is the perfect professional to have at the wheel, isn’t he?

Track support will be provided by David Scotney, long time Lola support engineer and all-round sportscar afficianado. He was previously team manager for the Nissan Group C effort in 1989 / 90, a car that Lola built, of course - and he's a very familiar face around the sportscar paddocks of the world.

The LMP1 version will require larger radiators (therefore different side mouldings), bigger wheels & tyres, bigger brakes (15" instead of 14"), a stronger nosebox and the appropriate amount of ballast. Perhaps we’ll be looking at an LMP1 debut at Sebring in 2006? If the LMP2 goes as well as these clever Lola people think it will, perhaps there will be a queue forming in Huntingdon before long?

With thanks to Sam Smith, Press Officer at Lola Cars International.

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