On the heels of Friday’s news that Lola Cars and its technical assets have been purchased by Till Bechtolsheimer, Sportscar365 caught up with the 40-year-old U.S.-based Englishman for further details into the sale and what’s next for the legendary motorsports brand.
What was the initial interest behind purchasing the rights of Lola Cars?
“I think the initial interest in it was… I’m kind of passionate motorsport fan, have been all my life, and I’ve always been a big fan of historic motorsport as well, and the history of motorsport, and so Lola is one of those really iconic brands that I think any motorsport fan is fond of the Lola brand.
“So when I saw an article, whatever it was, about a year ago now, that mentioned that the Lola assets were for sale, and I don’t know what it was exactly, maybe curiosity initially, that led me to kind of send an email and find out what deal was, what the process looked like.
“I guess that somewhat romantic notion of hoping to play a small part in trying to import such an important brand from being consigned to the history books, I think was that initial motivation, at least, to take a look at it.”
When did you complete the acquisition?
“It has been a few months. So we’ve been keeping it quiet, and doing some work in the background, having lots of discussions with industry people. We officially closed on the transaction in December of last year.”
In these months since, what have you been brainstorming? Have you been building up an organization to support your plans?
“So we’re working on two projects simultaneously. One of them is the Technical Centre, and upgrading that, so we want to bring the Technical Centre back to bring a very capable technology center that is really state-of-the-art.
“And with all the industry conversations I’ve had with people who know the Lola wind tunnel, the feedback has been universally positive. They view this as a very solid tunnel that gives off very reliable data, with great correlations to car on-track performance.
“The issue is just it’s dated, it hasn’t had investment in a long time. The control systems don’t talk to modern software, and things like that. And one of the things we’ve been working on in the last several months is fully scoping out what those upgrades should be.
“We’ve completed that work at this point, and now having discussions with some of the key customers of the tunnel to make sure that these upgrades that we’re intending align with what their hopes are for the tunnel and their use cases are for the tunnel.
“We expect to have that phase of it concluded in pretty short order, so I think in the very near future, we will be starting the physical upgrades of that tunnel, and that’ll be about a year-long project. And it’ll be a significant investment into the Technical Centre.
“In parallel, we’ve been working on trying to find what that first project will be that will result in new Lola designs making their way back on track. There are a number of conversations ongoing at the moment in different forms of motorsport that are all potentially really exciting that would put Lola cars back on track in the not-so-distant future.
“None of them are really readied for public consumption yet, just because they’re not fully baked, but that’s kind of what we’re actively working on at the moment. It’s a blank canvas, where we don’t have a kind of top-down view, ‘It must be a sports car, it must be a formula car, it must be this, it must be that.’
“The beauty of Lola is, since the late 50’s it’s been involved in almost all forms of motorsport at the highest level and has had success in all of them. And so the brand resonates across all different forms of motorsport, and I think that means that we can try and find the best opportunity available to us and focus on that.
“And for me, the most important thing for the first project is having a project that really allows us to sink our teeth into in a way that allows us to staff up, build our infrastructure around, and really build the company around a halo project, and we’re getting pretty close to one.
“I’m hoping that we’ll be able to announce something in the not-so distant future.”
Do you have a workshop in place or is there space at the Technical Centre for designing and constructing cars?
“There’s space in the Technical Centre, certainly for the design and engineering work that needs to take place. When it comes to manufacturing and assembly, that’s not really… You could do some assembly, but not at scale in the Technical Centre.
“You don’t really have the floor space for it. So we are looking for new space, so certainly in the early years, and potentially longer term.
“I’m not sure though, the necessary extent to which we need to rebuild manufacturing capabilities. We’re based in Huntington, kind of in the heart of motorsport valley. So there’s a lot of… You know the motorsport industry is really thriving there, and I think that there will be the ability for Lola to partner with manufacturing partners and so on to kind of take advantage of the infrastructure that already exists in the areas, rather than recreating it.”
Is there a personal desire to bring Lola back to sports car racing?
“I’ve got a soft spot for sports car racing in particular. That’s the paddock that I’m the most familiar with, and I love sports car racing.
“When I think about Lola, I think first and foremost about sports cars. And I know a lot of people will think more about IndyCars and Champ cars, and probably to a lesser extent, Formula 1 cars, touring cars, and everyone probably has their own kind of memories of Lola, but for me its sports cars is the first thing that comes to mind.
“And yeah, I would love to bring Lola back to the sports car paddocks, both in the U.S., and Europe.
“To take Lola back to LeMans would be a dream of mine, but I didn’t buy Lola to fulfill a dream of taking it to Le Mans, I built it to try to rebuild a genuine business, and we need to focus of the project that let us do that, first and foremost.
“But there are opportunities that we’re looking at that are very much focused on that very kind of sports car and Le Mans goal in mind.”