Till Bechtolscheimer has high ambitions for where the one of the world’s greatest racecar constructors could make returns in the coming years.
The British sports car racer and ultra-successful businessman leapt at the chance to purchase the assets of Lola Cars, which had been defunct for a decade, and resuscitate the brand that once ruled IndyCar, dominated sports cars, competed in Formula 1 and trained decades of the world’s best open-wheel drivers.
With a plan to replenish its design, engineering and production staff while making heavy investments in modernizing its facilities, Bechtolscheimer wants to see the name that was synonymous with victory reclaim its place in the sport.
“It’s still early in the rebuilding process and specific goals are being defined, but we would love for Lola to go back to Indy,” Bechtolscheimer, founder of the New York-based investment firm Arosa Capital, told RACER. “At the moment, that’s not possible because it’s a single-make spec chassis, but could that change down the line? Sure, and I would like to have Lola in a position to make a credible play at being back at a place like Indy if and when the regulations allow for it.
“Whether the first major project be in sports cars or in single seaters, whether that be as lofty as IndyCar or Le Mans, or whether it’s something at a lower level, it’s about rebuilding a company around Lola’s capabilities. That’s the primary goal. We need to be careful not to get engrossed in vanity project. I love Le Mans. I’d love Lola to go back to Le Mans, yes, those are all true. But my main goal is building out infrastructure, getting Lola back on track, making sure that that we’re chasing the right opportunities rather than starting off by chasing the spotlight. I need to bring Lola back as a capable engineering and designing house in the world of modern motorsport.”
Lola supplied the Indy Lights series with spec cars for most of the 1990s and early 2000s, built championship-winning models in F3000, and supplied vast numbers of smaller junior open-wheel cars over the decades. With the loss of so many purebred race car constructors during the last 10-15 years, most of the world’s supply of open-wheel cars is handled by just three companies in Italy’s Dallara and Tatuus and France’s Ligier.
Bechtolscheimer sees a reconstituted Lola, working from its base in England, as a perfect option for global and domestic series to look beyond the new establishment and consider the firm for its next line of race cars.
“I think that’s exactly right, and when I think about it in simple terms, Lola was really one of one of the most prolific racecar constructors for more than half a century,” he said. “Lola was always involved in the lower categories and it was the bread and butter of the business. And right now if I’m honest, the opportunity for Lola to provide a full solution to a single-make series and allow us to staff up around an opportunity to do a higher number of chassis for a spec formula is just as exciting to me as doing a big and attention-grabbing project.”
Bechtolscheimer’s main focus at the moment is recruiting staff along with remodeling its composites and manufacturing houses to take on large-scale chassis production orders.
“We have the Technical Center, which houses the wind tunnel, the seven-post rig, the model room, etc., but what doesn’t exist anymore are the autoclaves and all the manufacturing tools, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” he said. “The world has moved on an awful lot in the last decade or two, and Lola happens to be right in the middle of motorsport valley in the UK, where there’s a huge and very capable industry there. Some of the best composites shops and so on are all right there, so the ability to outsource certain elements of your manufacturing supply chain is very doable. Then we’d bring some of that in-house down the line.
“But manufacturing can be done in a in a more effective way instead of spending our first dollars on autoclaves. The Technical Center is the more relevant asset, and the wind tunnel is a big part of that. The people who use the tunnel say it is a very reliable tunnel that gives you very good, reliable data that has high correlation to on-track performance. The issue with the tunnel is that it’s dated, it hasn’t really had any investment put into it in a long time. And so there’s new software, there’s new systems to integrate with the wind tunnel program and that’s a big part of our opening plan.
“Project 1 is upgrading the Technical Center. We’ve already concluded the full scope work for what that will entail and we have a very comprehensive plan for upgrading the wind tunnel. What we’re doing now is having meetings with some of the key customers of the wind tunnel to calibrate what our plans for the tunnel are with what their hopes for the tunnel might look like and make sure that we’re spending money in the right places, that we’re upgrading it in a way that they they’re excited for. In a matter of weeks, we will have concluded that phase of the project and will then move immediately into the actual physical upgrades, which will be about a year-long project. Were in a great position to build a talented team of designers and engineers to use Lola to develop new content.”