1972 Lola T290
- Formerly owned and raced by Bobby Rahal, the three-time IndyCar champion and Indianapolis 500 winner
- The car that put Rahal, an American motorsport legend, on the map
- Extensive period American competition history
- Fastidiously prepared in recent years by Tim Samway’s renowned Sporting & Historic Car Engineers outfit
- A great value and competitive tool with which to enter the most prestigious historic motorsport events, including the Le Mans Classic.
What is it?
It’s a Lola T290, which was one of the British marque’s most successful two-litre designs. Beneath its pretty, diminutive, Ferrari 312PB-like body was an aluminium monocoque, independent suspension, outboard brakes and, most often, a Cosworth engine developing around 290bhp – more than plenty when you consider the car tips the scales at a touch over 600kg.
Such was the core strength of the T290’s design that the car remained competitive for more than a decade. But when you look at the careers of the three men who designed it – Bob Marston, Patrick Head and John Barnard – we suppose that was never really in doubt. It might have narrowly missed out on the European Sports Car Championship, but the T290 won numerous races and titles around the world.
Lolas were seriously hot property for gentlemen and privateer racers across the world, such was their inherent speed, ease of use and strong reliability. This T290 is one of 32 examples to have been delivered in 1972, and its story is remarkable.
Could you tell me about the history of this particular T290?
Well, it could be argued that this is the very car that put Robert ‘Bobby’ Rahal, the three-time IndyCar champion and Indianapolis 500 winner, on the motorsport map.
Chassis HU34 was delivered new in 1973 via Carl Haas to one William Marsh from Indiana, who entered just one race at Indianapolis Raceway Park before selling the car to Michael Rahal, Bobby’s father. The father-son pairing campaigned the car in that year’s SCCA Midwest Division with great success. In fact, as a result of his stellar performances with the car, young Bobby was voted the Chicago region’s ‘Rookie of the Year’.
Bobby certainly didn’t let the publicity get to his head. The following year, he entered eight races with the car, setting three track records and scoring two victories. In becoming the SCCA Central Division National Champion, Bobby was invited to the fiercely contested SCCA Run-Offs at Road Atlanta. He drove this little Lola as beautifully as he had all year, finishing an impressive third behind Jerry Hansen and Mike Hall.
Did the Rahals keep the car?
Because of his strong showing with HU34, Bobby Rahal earned himself a Formula Atlantic seat for 1975 and the Lola was sold. The rest, as they say, is history. HU34’s two subsequent custodians took advantage of the open prototype’s longevity and campaigned the car in Can-Am and CASC events well into the 1980s.
Fast-forward to 2001, and in what was a brilliant turn of events, Bobby Rahal tracked down he and his father’s old Lola and bought it back. He promptly set to work on getting HU34 comprehensively restored at the Team Rahal workshop in Ohio, entrusting his mechanic Clay Filson with the task. The work was extensive, and included the overhaul of the suspension corners, uprights, brakes, plumbing, wiring, fuel cells, fire extinguisher, engine, gearbox and bodywork.
And was history written twice?
It certainly was! The American racing legend raced HU34 just twice during the 11 years he owned it for the second time, the latter of which was in a support race for the Le Mans Series 1,000km of Silverstone in 2009. Lo and behold, he crossed the line first. The words ‘fit’ and ‘glove’ spring to mind.
What can I do with it today?
Value and eligibility are this beautiful prototype’s trump cards today. In his nine years of ownership, HU34’s current owner has raced it at all of Europe’s prestigious historic motorsport events. From Spa-Francorchamps and Mugello to Imola and, of course, Le Mans, this Lola is a chance to walk the stage at the history steeped motorsport dream theatres of the world. Accompanying this Lola today are its original racing logbooks, its FIA Historic Technical Passport, which is valid until December 2028, and an extensive spares package.
Furthermore, in recent years HU34 has been fastidiously prepared and maintained regardless of cost by Tim Samway’s renowned Sporting & Historic Car Engineers outfit.
In the winter of 2017-18, the Ford BDE engine received a full strip, inspection and rebuild. A set-up and run-in session was also carried out on a dyno.
In the winter of 2018-19, the engine was inspected and compression tested, the Hewland FT 200 gearbox was inspected, the fuel cell was removed and recertified and a full crack test was carried out on the chassis. In addition, the suspension was removed, inspected, cleaned and relubricated, and the wheel bearings were cleaned and repacked with grease.
Sell it to me in a sentence…
It’s a pedigree-laden and very competitive open prototype racer that put one of America’s greatest names on the motorsport map, is prepared to the very highest standard and is eligible for the world’s most prestigious historic motorsport events, including the Le Mans Classic – what else do you need to know? The price perhaps – we think it’s a steal at £150,000.
What’s included in the spares package?
- Four additional wheels with new slick tyres
- Four additional wheels with new wet tyres
- Two new wishbones
- Two new radiators
- One new bellhousing
- Two new uprights
- Three new headlight lenses
- Four new dampers with springs
- Four pairs of springs
- Two gearbox shafts
- A starter motor
- An oil cooler
- A box of various gears
- A box of various engine components including conrods, camshafts, etc.
- A box of various suspension components
Price: £150,000 (GBP)
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