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NOTICE OF DEATH - ERIC BROADLEY MBE (1928 - 2017)

It is with great sadness that we must advise Members that Eric Broadley passed away on Sunday. He had been in declining health for some time. His death severs another link with a golden age of British motor racing in the late 50s through the 60s and 70s when the creations of such men as Colin Chapman, John Cooper, Derek Bennett and Eric were supreme around the world.

For Eric and his cousin Graham, it all began in a lock up garage behind the family gentlemen’s outfitters business in Bromley, Kent. Having trained as an architect, Eric’s day job was as a quantity surveyor but in the evenings he and Graham, members of the 750 Motor Club which did so much to nurture budding young talent, built a Ford Ten special around the ubiquitous 1172 cc engine. Graham’s father would not allow him to race on Sundays so Eric drove more often than not and, after finding their racing feet in 1956, the following year Eric won the 1172 Formula championship. By now the car had been christened ‘Lola’, most probably taken from a popular song of the time ‘Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets’ made famous by Alma Cogan.

This first Lola was sold, later to be re-named ‘Lolita’ after Vladimir Nabokov’s celebrated novel, to raise funds for a sports-racing car powered by the lightweight Coventry-Climax FWA 1100cc engine. Incorporating some ingenious and innovative chassis and suspension design features, this Mk 1 prototype was immediately competitive, winning at Snetterton in Eric’s hands in its second ever race. By 1959, requests for replicas were pouring in and Lola was in business as a racing car manufacturer. In the early years through Formula Junior and the first Formula 1 car, the Mk 4, which was commissioned by the Bowmaker team for John Surtees and Roy Salvadori to drive in the 1962 World Championship, Eric was very much the hands on designer, leading a minuscule workforce. John Surtees put the V8 Coventry-Climax-powered Mk 4 on pole position at Zandvoort for its first World Championship race and a few weeks later won the non-championship Mallory Park 2000 Guineas, but at World Championship level a win eluded the team with John’s second places in the British and German GPs being the best results.

Eric’s next milestone was the Ford V8-powered Lola Mk 6 GT which ran at Le Mans in 1963 in the hands of Richard Attwood and David Hobbs and attracted the attention of the Ford Motor Company as a means of winning the French classic. The relationship with Ford only endured 12 months but enabled Eric to move to much better premises in Slough. From here emerged the T70 sports-racing and GT cars and the T90 Indycar. Three of the latter were entered for the 1966 Indy 500 and looked set for a 1-2 result until Jackie Stewart’s leading car retired with engine failure 25 miles from the end, leaving Graham Hill in the sister car ‘to drink the milk’! Later in 1966 John Surtees won the inaugural Can-Am title with his T70-Chevrolet.

After his disagreement with Scuderia Ferrari part way through 1966, John Surtees moved to Honda for the 1967 F1 season and, finding Honda’s own RA273 rather overweight, prevailed upon the Japanese to let Eric provide the chassis, the RA300 so-called Hondola, with which John won the Italian Grand Prix. Subsequent ventures into Formula 1 with Graham Hill’s Embassy-backed T370s in 1974, the Lamborghini-powered Espo Larrousse cars of 1990/1991 and the abortive Mastercard-backed project of 1997 were sporadic and less successful although Aguri Suzuki did make it to the podium with third place in the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix.

Conversely in Indycar racing, Lola enjoyed considerable success. To Graham Hill’s victory at Indianapolis in 1966 were added subsequent wins by Al Unser Sr in 1978 and by Arie Luyendijk in 1990 while seven Champ Car/CART IndyCar titles were secured in Lolas by the likes of Mario Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Bobby Rahal, Michael Andretti, Paul Tracy, Cristiano da Matta and Al Unser Jr, all against strong opposition from such as Penske, March, Reynard and Eagle. In Formula 5000 and the later Can-Am series in the USA Lolas were championship-winning cars for Brian Redman, Patrick Tambay, Alan Jones, Jacky Ickx and Geoff Brabham and in Europe for Bob Evans and Teddy Pilette. Lola became the ‘spec’ chassis for Formula 3000 from 1996 having previously won the series in the multi-chassis era in 1990 with Erik Comas. In Japan and the Tasman championships Lolas also achieved notable successes.

Although the T70 will probably continue to be remembered as one of the great sports-racing/GT cars of all time by virtue of both its style and performance coupled with its ready availability for contemporary historic racing, there have been other successful models such as the T600 with which Brian Redman won the IMSA championship in 1981; the little T210 which took Jo Bonnier to the FIA 2-litre sports-prototype drivers’ title in 1970; and the spectacularly potent Group C cars built for Nissan’s unsuccessful bid to win the World Sportscar Championship and variations of which won the All Japan Sports-Prototype Championship in 1990 and 1991.

Following the collapse of the 1997 bid to re-enter Formula 1, Eric sold his company to Martin Birrane but remained in touch as a consultant with the sport to which he and his cars had contributed so much for 40 years. Without the presence of Lola chassis in just about every category from Formula 1 to Formula Ford 1600 during that time, the international motor racing scene would have been much the poorer. In 1991 Eric was honoured as a MBE for his services to motor racing. He was elected to the BRDC as an Associate Patron Member in 1988 and last year became an Honorary Member. To his widow Julia, son Andrew, daughters Penny and Diane, niece Jane Leslie and other family members the BRDC offers its most sincere condolences. A funeral service will be held on Thursday 15 June at 12.45pm at Cambridge Crematorium, West Chapel, Huntingdon Road, Cambridge, CB3 0JJ. Please RSVP to broadleyp@gmail.com if you would like to attend. Eric's family have requested that in lieu of flowers or wreaths, donations to the Stroke Association are most welcomed and can be sent to T L Cobbold Funeral Directors, 11-13 New Street, St Neots, Cambridgeshire, PE19 1AE. 

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