Eric Broadley's Lola Cars has a long and varied history in the world of Formula One. The small firm first appeared with the Lola Mk4 in 1962, right at the dawn of the controversial 1.5L era. With multiple motorcycle Grand Prix champion John Surtees (GB) and 1959 Le Mans winner Roy Salvadori (GB) behind he wheel, the Coventry Climax-powered car was surprisingly competitive.
Surtees claimed a pole position in the car's maiden event at Zandvoort, and points finishes were regularly achieved, although an outright win eluded the team. The car lasted until the 1964 season, after which Lola concentrated on sports cars.
In the years that followed, Lola would forge partnerships with Honda (1967-1968) and Graham Hill's Embassy Hill Racing (1973-1975) in the three liter era, and finally associations with Larrousse & Calmels (1987-1991) and BMS Scuderia Italia (1993) during the 3.5L years.
Though the Lola-built Honda RA300 did manage to win a Grand Prix due to it being much lighter than the Japanese-built chassis, the Lola name was never associated with victories on its own.
Though the Larrousse partnership was reasonably successful considering the budget, a series of intrigues including a murder and the costly mistake of mislabeling the 1990 cars as Larrousses quickly deflated the project.
Eric Broadley chose to forge a bond with BMS Scuderia Italia instead, which had previously run Dallara chassis. However, the resulting T93/30 turned out to be an irredeemably terrible design. With seven failures to qualify, eleven retirements and a best finish of seventh, just outside the points, the car performed so abysmally it took the entire team down with it.
As a bankrupt BMS Scuderia Italia merged with fellow Italian backmarkers Minardi, Lola was once again without a partner. Fed up with screwing together chassis for penniless F1-hopefuls, Eric Broadley decided to go at it alone once more.
In order to avoid the woes experienced with the T93/30, Broadley chose to test the new car extensively, hoping the improve it along the way. The BMS Scuderia debacle was a major financial hit to the company, as even the formerly lucrative Formula 3000 business was under threat by rivals Reynard. With very little money floating around, the new machine had to be good enough to attract a major sponsor, otherwise it was dead on arrival.
Despite the talented former Benetton designer Julian Cooper overseeing the project, the car was immediately in choppy seas. During the design process, the 1994 season saw the tragic losses of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at Imola, which sent a shockwave through the sport. The dramatic circumstances saw the FIA fly into an seemingly uncontrolled panic, do anything within their grasp to slow the cars down and make them safer.
With the technical regulations for 1995 mired in confusion and uncertainty, the 26 Lola design personnel were left scratching their heads. As the car was prepared with the continuation of the '94 regulations in mind, the cash-strapped team now had to try and modify it to the whims of a frantic FIA.
Among the suggested changes was a reduction in the size of the front and rear wing to reduce downforce, a stepped floor fitted with a wood resin board to prevent the cars bottoming out and losing control, thought to be the cause of Senna's accident. Additionally, holes were cut into the backs of the airboxes for the remainder of the 1994 season. This was done cancel out the ram air effect, robbing the engines of some 35 horsepower.
As a result, the Lola crew modified the aluminium/carbon fiber honeycomb chassis to accept the stepped floor, fitted smaller wings, and left the airbox out altogether. The lack of the traditional large hump containing the intake gave the car a very strange, unfinished look, hearkening back to the crude designs seen in 1987, when naturally aspirated engines were reintroduced.
Similarly, the car had to be retrofitted with the new Cosworth ED V8 engine, better known as the Ford Zetec-R. This powerplant was a descendant of the 3.5L EC, which had been developed for use in the Benetton B194, which had won the 1994 championship with Michael Schumacher.
But when the FIA decided to swap the allowance of airboxes for a decreased engine displacement, the EC had to be downsized to 3.0L ECA, bringing power down to 630 horsepower as seen exclusively in the Sauber C14.
The ED was then created for the lesser Minardi, Simtek, Forti and Pacific teams, and produced a mere 580 horsepower, a figure the Lola couldn't even match since it lacked an airbox. With only the odd Forti FG01 holding out as a manual Formula One car, the Lola was fitted with a six-speed sequential shift transmission developed by Hewland.
Owing to the uncertainty cast over the project, the car also lacked development in terms of rear end aerodynamics. With no clue what the FIA would decided about the use of diffusers or their specific dimensions if they would be allowed, the Lola was left without one entirely.
At the front it was a different story. Unlike the stubborn Ferrari and Jordan teams, the car sported the common raised nose arrangement first seen on the Tyrrell 019 in 1990. The feature had been popularized by Benetton in the following seasons, something Julian Cooper remembered fondly. In all, the car weighed 510 kg (1124 lbs), allowing for 10 kg of ballast to offset the 42/58 front/rear weight distribution.
Upon completion, the car was transported to Silverstone for a shakedown test. Behind the wheel was Scottish Formula 3000 driver Allan McNish, who had previously tested with McLaren and Benetton.
Fitted with the at the time popular Goodyear tires, the car was sent out on track to gather valuable data. However, McNish could do very little driving during the session. Due to an undetermined issue with either the radiators themselves, or the aerodynamic properties of the bodywork designed to draw in cool air, the car simply could not stop overheating.
With the test a complete disaster, and funds rapidly drying up, the T95/30 was shelved as another failed project. Because of the immense confusion and completely unconfirmed 1995 rulebook, the car was simply unable to conform to a set of specifications, and ended up as a strange hybrid between the two. A chronic lack of funds was a further obstacle in the car's development, essentially marking it as a failure before even being completed.
As very little positive publicity originated from the endeavor, no major sponsorship was found, and Lola's Formula One plans came to nothing. However, the car would show up one more time some two years later, painted in the striking colors of new title sponsor MasterCard.
Now fitted with an airbox and diffuser, the car was used as a promotional tool at the 1997 Birmingham Racing Car Show. There, it advertised Lola's return to F1 for 1997. After this final appearance, the T95/30 was sold on to an unnamed South America collector, where it is believed to remain to this day.