The Lola B98/10: the return to endurance racing
Unveiled in Atlanta in September 1998, the Lola B98/10 marked the return of the Huntingdon constructor to the world of endurance racing. After a long absence since 1992 and the Lola T92/10, the English firm came back into business with a fine-looking, top-performance prototype. In the shadow of the “big” constructors, this Lola had nothing to be ashamed of.
At the end of the 1990s, Lola embarked on an ambitious project: to create an affordable prototype for racing teams, capable of competing in endurance racing at the very highest level anywhere in the world. The result was the B98/10, designed to compete in the American Le Mans Series, the International Sports Racing Series and, of course, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The project was led by Peter Weston, one of the first to join Lola after Martin Birrane acquired the firm.
The design may seem quite similar to other prototypes of the time – the Nissan R391, the Courage C52, the Ferrari 333SP or the Riley & Scott MKIII – all racing at the same time as the B98/10. And in fact, Peter Weston was indeed hired to design a car capable of beating the Ferrari 333SPs and the Riley & Scott MKIIIs (hence the “B” in the name of the new prototypes). The new car was an SR1 which could be modified to compete in both the American Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and in the LMP900 category.
A number of unique features set the little English newcomer apart right from the start – the front of the car, for example, which has such extremely curved wings that the headlights are mounted on the side. The air intakes are situated just beneath the roll-bar as in a single-seater, thereby freeing up a little more space on the front bonnet, designed entirely for speed. The car is built around a carbon fibre monocoque with an FIA and ACO approved crash box, ensuring safety and rigidity for an ultra-modern car. A major wind tunnel testing programme was undertaken to optimize the B98/10’s road-handling performances.
Among the other specific features of this Lola B98/10, we could cite, for example, fast access to the shock absorbers and anti-roll bars without needing to remove the car body. This allows greatly reduced intervention times for making adjustments or changes. The six-speed sequential gearbox using Hewland parts and the cooling system are both extremely efficient. In addition, the geometry of the steering was developed with the finest precision, giving a constant, highly communicative steering force that is reassuring for the driver.
Now let’s talk of speed. Several engines were compatible with this Lola B98/10. This was the case, in particular, of the Roush Ford 6.0-litre V8 engine, which the car’s development was built around. But if the customers so wished, it was also possible to fit a Ford V6 turbo, a Lotus V8, a Chevrolet V8, a BMW 6-cylinder in line or even a Judd V10 engine. It was a car designed for competition customers, that seduced several teams right from the start. It must be said that its very first official run, the day after the first edition of the Petit Le Mans, was impressive. According to on-the-spot witnesses, the Lola B98 / 10, with a Ford engine and James Weaver at the wheel, lapped in 1’12”4, while Allan McNish had placed a Porsche 911 GT1 in pole position in 1’13”7 …
Lola B98/10: the real alternative to Porsche?
In 1999, before Audi imposed its dominance for more than a decade, the world of prototype endurance racing was wide open, with both works cars and privately-built cars to be found at each event. At the 24 Hours of Le Mans in particular, Toyota or Mercedes opted for closed cockpits in the LMGTP class. BMW and Nissan went for an open cockpit (LMP class) while Audi could not make up its mind, entering cars in both categories. And what about Porsche? The German constructor chose to miss the greatest race in the world. Even worse than that, Porsche pulled out of endurance racing more generally, only keeping its traditional “GT” business with the 911 and in particular the new GT3. Consequently, at the beginning of 1999, many team customers found themselves with a problem. These were teams that were used to relying on the cars created by Porsche, or at least on the engines they supplied … Such was the case of Konrad Motorsport and Kremer Racing, for example.
Since Porsche was no longer involved in prototype competitions, Franz Konrad turned to Lola. He who, with his team, had won the last two Porsche Cups, suddenly had to get by without the Weissach firm. He bought one of the first Lola chassis B98/10s to be produced, the HU2 (the second in a total series of 8 open-cockpit cars). The idea was then to fit a Porsche engine, the one that equipped the victorious 911 GT1 in 1998. But Porsche did not agree with the idea (this engine, relieved of its turbos, was fitted in the new 911 GT3 entered in LM GT races). So, Franz Konrad had to find an alternative solution.
Same thing at Kremer Racing. The firm belonging to the Kremer brothers, which Erwin now managed alone, immediately jumped on the Lola B98/10 (chassis HU07). The winning team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans 1979 and the 24 Hours of Daytona 1995 with Porsche, after 30 years of faithful partnership, went over to Lola, with the intention of causing a surprise.
Before the season even began, the Lola B9/ 10 clan was looking in fine fettle. Konrad Motorsport, Kremer Racing, DAMS and Intersport Racing were all eager to join battle.
The Lola B98/10 Chassis HU06
HU06 had a very short race history, which means that today it is still in quite an exceptional state of preservation. Entered by the Whittington Brothers Inc. team for the Road Atlanta race in April 1999, in the ALMS class, it quickly distinguished itself. Sporting its lovely yellow Ferrari livery which beautifully set off its spectacular body lines, it started off in 13th position, in front of the Ferrari 333 SP of the Dollahite Racing team (USA). At the end of the race, it finished in 10th position, ahead of the other two LOLA B98/10s entered for the race. It was an excellent beginning … and yet it was not until February 2001 that it reappeared briefly in the qualifiers for the 24 Hours of Daytona, still sporting its yellow livery.
It was then stored in a practically new state before being acquired in 2006 by a Californian collector who did not put it back on the track until 2011. This just shows how little the car was used!
On this occasion, the Roush Ford 6-litre engine was overhauled, allowing it to take part in a LOLA rally on the California Speedway. Having been sold and imported to England the following year, its new English owner entrusted HU06 to Simpson Motorsport, which did work on it in 2017, such as the replacement of the tank, which is valid until 2022.
As Ascott Collection had previously acquired HU06’s sister car HU02, Xavier Micheron entered HU02 for the Daytona Classic in 2018, then in Endurance Racing Legends by Peter Auto at the beginning of the 2019 season, pocketing several places on the podium. When HU06 came up for sale, there was no hesitation – it was acquired by Ascott Collection because it was quite simply an ideal car to race in the historic series. HU06 will need some work to be done on it to make it race-ready.
Having been designed as a powerful and affordable prototype for private racing teams, the Lola B98/10 is an ideal car to race in the historic series. Its carbon shell provides rigidity and safety. The 650-horsepower, 6-litre Ford engine brimming with torque combined with the 6-speed sequential gearbox form a power unit wholly geared towards performance and driving pleasure. Added to this is a spectacularly imposing presence on the track and surprisingly easy handling that will delight its future owner.
It is eligible for the new series, both in the United States in the HSR Classics (the Sebring Classic and the Daytona Classic), and in Europe in the Endurance Legends Masters, the Endurance Racing Legends by Peter Auto and the le Mans Classic.