The Ex – Eric Offenstadt 1965 Lola T60 Formula 2

The Ex – Eric Offenstadt 1965 Lola T60 Formula 2

1000cc Formula 2 was racing at all but the highest level. Engine manufacturers BRM, Cosworth and Honda all were contesting for top honours with these high performance, small capacity machines in chassis by Lotus, Matra, Lola, Cooper and Brabham to name a few. The cars were driven by some of the greatest names of all time such as Clark, Surtees, Hill, Stewart, Brabham and McLaren, with Clark contesting Formula 2 as reigning Formula 1 World Champion. They battled it out on the iconic and then undiluted circuits; Nurburgring, Spa, Reims, and Goodwood. 

Established in 1958 Lola cars had an influential impact on the motor racing world from the minuet they burst onto the scene with the stunning Lola MK1. The company remained at the forefront of racing car design and construction for over half a century and enjoyed remarkable success with single-seaters as well as in sports and GT racing. 

Founded and masterminded by one of most renown and regarded British race car designers Eric Broadley. Trained as an architect in the late 1940’s; and like so many of his compatriots, he started out building and racing his own  creations. Spurred on by the success of the Broadley Special he turned his attention to a new, more sophisticated venture.

In July 1958 the Lola MK1 made its debut and was an instant success, turing the sportscar world on its head. Single seaters followed with the Formula Junior MK2 and MK3 in 1960 and 1961 and after only four years of being in business Lola took on the Formula 1 establishment. Following the success of the Mk4 Formula 1 car and the Mk5 Formula Junior which became the T54 and then the T55 Formula 2 cars, Lola produced their first monocoque single seater, the T60. 

Rather than following the route taken by Lotus with their 1963 Lotus 25 monocoque, made from aluminium, Lola progressed their own skills to produce the T60’s monocoque in 18 gauge mild steel sheet. The steel skins were spot welded together and supported with bulkheads also formed from mild steel sheet, but with the difference of being joined by nickel-bronze brazing. 

With the minimum weight limit for 1000cc Formula 2 being a relatively high 420kg, Lola were afforded this use of steel over the lighter aluminium, and at much reduced cost, with the added benefit of being stiffer than the equivalent aluminium structure. Suspension was to be rocker arm and lower wishbone for the front, with a conventional radius arm  and wishbone on the rear. Power came from either the Cosworth SCA or BRM Type 71 in Formula 2, or the Cosworth MAE for Formula 3.

This car, chassis number SL60/4, was built pre season in 1965 and delivered new to Frenchman Eric Offenstadt. Having started his competition career on two wheels, Offenstadt raced a Lola Mk5A Formula Junior and Formula 3 before   ordering the new T60. He ordered SL60/4 in Formula 2 spec with the BRM Type 71 engine. 

In practice at Oulton Park, the first run for the new Lola, Offenstadt had the steering column come loose and part company with the rack as he was entering a corner. Unsurprisingly, an accident followed and the T60 was returned to Lola for repair. With Lola informing him that the repairs would not be complete until the end of the 1965 season, he continued in the Formula 2 series with a Cooper T75 – BRM. 

Offenstadt instructed Lola to rebuilt SL60/4 to Formula 3 specification, with the intention of travelling out to Argentina to complete the popular Temporada Series held in early 1966. The campaign was a success, with Offenstadt taking 5th at Buenos Aires, not finishing at Rosario, 4th at Mendoza and claiming victory at the final race at Mar del Plata. He and SL60/4 took third place in the series, before heading back to Europe with the T60 returning to England.

SL60/4 was then converted back to Formula 2 specifications, this time with the newer BRM P80 engine. Although entered for the second race of 1966 at Goodwood, Offenstadt is recorded as not arriving, likely because the T60 was still on the journey back from Argentina. Offenstadt did arrive for the race at Barcelona on the 24th April, but did not finish after retiring on the 37th lap with crown wheel and pinion failure. 

The next race in the Formula 2 season was Limbourg in Belgium, where Offenstadt finished 9th just behind Frank Gardner in his similar MRP run Lola T60. From Belgium, it was back to England for Crystal Palace. Offenstadt took  6th and in the points this time, one place behind Gardner again.

At Reims, Offenstadt finished 10th. His battery went flat on the start line, and it took four laps to get the car started. When he rejoined the race, he found himself slipstreaming in a group with Attwood, Beltoise and Spence. By the middle of the year, eight rounds had already been completed, with the ninth being held at Rouen on the 10th July. This time Offenstadt finished 9th, just behind Richard Attwood in another MRP Lola T60. Offenstadt and SL60/4 missed the Nurburgring round but traveled to Karskoga in Sweden for the following race.

It was here that Offenstadt really put a cat amongst the pigeons. He surprised Jack Brabham, Jim Clark and the rest of field by leading the race until he was hit off by an over enthusiastic Jochen Rindt. At Keimola in Finland, he finished in the points once more with an impressive 6th, this time ahead of Bonnier. 

Offenstadt’s mid-season performance had impressed Ron Harris Racing, the works Lotus Formula 2 team, and he was invited to race for them at Montlhery. Finishing 5th, he was hired by Harris for the rest of the season, leaving SL60/4 available and Offenstadt rented the car out to other for the remaining races of 1966. Jean Rolland finished 7th at Albi on the tail of Gardner and Attwood in the MRP cars, and Tony Lanfranchi concluded the season with a 14th at Brands Hatch.

At the end of 1966, Offenstadt sold SL60/4 through Robs Lamplough to Irish race John Cullen. Lamplough removed the BRM Formula 2 engine and sold the car as a rolling chassis to Cullen, who then fitted a Lotus Twincam to race SL60/4 in Formula Libre. After campaigning the Lola for several years, Cullen sold it to the U.S.A. in 1970, ending up with Gerald Hudson in Rockport, Texas. Hudson raced SL60/4 in SCCA Formula C races during the 1970s and then retired the car to his car collection.

The current owner bought SL60/4 directly from Gerry Hudson in 2014 and embarked on a full ground up restoration. The monocoque was fully examined and repaired where necessary, with a new chromoly roll hoop being added and braced well within the tub at its mounting points. The roll hoop brace was also made from chromoly, as was a new rear cross member which picks up the roll hoop stay and the gearbox mountings. A new bag tank was made by Premier Fuel Systems, and fitted. This is valid until 2021. 

The original front suspension rockers and wishbones were examined, crack tested and re-plated. New radius arms and top links were made and plated. The cast magnesium wheels and uprights were also crack tested before being chromated, with one front upright being replaced due to failing crack testing. The crack testing reports accompany SL60/4 in the file. The original brass Serck radiator was restored and painted in black. 

A Cosworth SCA Formula 2 engine was sourced, and then fully rebuilt by the owner who is more than qualified to do so. Injection was chosen over carburettors, and the system was made from scratch. On completion of the build, the engine showed 139.4hp at 9,000 rpm and 87lb/ft at 8,000 rpm. The Hewland Mk4 5 speed gearbox was also rebuilt, and then fitted in the Lola to complete the restoration. The time and effort which went in to SL60/4 is clear to see. SL60/4 then made the journey back over to England during 2018 and was tested ahead of the Goodwood Revival.

With an entry in the Glover Trophy amongst the 1.5 litre Pre-1966 Formula 1 cars, SL60/4 was driven by Ben Mitchell at Goodwood. SL60/4 performed faultlessly in qualifying, holding second position overall for a time during the session, before ending up 4th overall and just two tenths back from second place. SL60/4 went on to finish a competitive 6th overall in the Glover Trophy race, gaining a place after a long battle with a Lotus 24 and setting a best lap time of 1:26.058. 

As such, SL60/4 is a beautifully restored, exciting and cost effective entry to historic Grand Prix racing, whether it be with the HGPCA series or with the potential for an invite at Goodwood. The Cosworth SCA engine is surprisingly driveable, with a not too narrow rev range to operate in. The thoroughbred racer is a joy to drive, holding its own against the Formula 1 machinery of the same era.