Posts Tagged ‘Lella Lombardi’

Sandown main straight, November 1974, Matich A51 Repco-Holden (autopics.com)

‘Who the bloody hell is Lella Lombardi?’ I thought.

The Sandown and Oran Park promoters were bringing an ‘unknown chick’ to contest back to back Gold Star rounds at Sandown Park and Oran Park- the Australian Grand Prix that year, in November 1974.

The series needed some fizz too.

The season looked good on paper at it’s outset, but Warwick Brown nicked off to the States to race after the first round, then John Walker and Graeme Lawrence boofed their Lolas at Surfers Paradise, whilst John Goss didn’t seem to have the dollars to run his ‘spankers’ ex-Frank Matich, A53 Repco. All of a sudden the grids looked decidedly skinny.

I thought i knew what was going on in Europe too.

You couldn’t buy Autosport in yer suburban newsagent in Oz back then, still can’t. So, once a month after school on a Friday i jumped on a tram and headed into Melbourne’s emporium of fine publications, ‘Tech Books’ in Swanson Street to buy a copy.

Lella did not jumped off the pages, nor should she as her European F5000 Championship performances aboard a Lola T330 Chev were average to good rather than the ‘next greatest thing’ since sliced bread. Her machine, T330 ‘HU18’ is now Peter Brennan’s car which has been well ventilated on these pages; https://primotipo.com/2014/06/24/lellas-lola-restoration-of-the-ex-lella-lombardi-lola-t330-chev-hu18-episode-1/

Oulton Park 12 April 1974. Brian Redman, Lola T332 Chev (winner) with the two VDS Chevron B28s on row 2- Pilette #1 and Gethin #8. Yellow car is Ian Ashley, Lola T330 Chev, the blue Lola alongside him is David Hobbs T330 with Mike Wilds, red with yellow striped March 74A Chev- Lella’s yellow Lola is at far right. Redman won from Hobbs and Ashley (S Jones)

 

Lombardi during 1974- top shot, where folks? Lola T330 Chev (unattributed)

 

Lombardi at Brands during one of the 1974 Euro rounds held there (unattributed)

 

Five foot two inches of Lella, in the Australian colloquially uncouth circles in which I mix, is a ‘Pocket Rocket’. She fits rather easily into the Matich A51 designed to keep just under 6 foot of Frank Matich comfy. Love to know what she thought of the A51 Repco-Holden compared to her T330 Chev- both 1973 model 5000’s, here at Oran Park

So it was with a great deal of interest i watched her at Sandown.

What struck me was how small she was, strong too. Those 500bhp roller skates are not for the faint hearted or weak. She was very self-contained, focused on the job at hand, not the attention of thousands of males wanting to check her out. She was here to do a job, her mind was concentrating on just that- new country, unfamiliar langauge, new car, no testing, new circuit- a lot to process quickly.

Alf Costanzo was on hand to interpret, it was a wise choice of a racer to interpret set-up communication, whilst noting, with an affectionate smile on my face, that Alfie’s English after only fifty years in Australia still requires concentration on the part of the listener!

Frank Matich was in attendance to lead the crew looking after Matich A51 chassis ‘5’, one of the two cars FM used in the 1973 L&M F5000 Championship stateside. FM retired after the 1974 Tasman Cup, by that time Kevin Loy owned the car but a lease deal was done- this machine was the same chassis Gossy used to win the AGP at Sandown in 1976.

On circuit she was quick, right into it despite not being familiar with the car. Beautifully timed changes up and down, on the throttle nice and early and ‘Matich precise’ with not a lot of attitude on the car rather than ‘Bartlett sideways’.

Lella was race fit big time. She had come off the back of the eighteen round Euro championship, many of which had heats, as well as a final, plus a couple of races in the US so she had raced the big cars over thirty times between mid-March and late October in addition to test sessions and practice.

In the Brands pitlane during the Race of Champions weekend, March 1974, NC. Nose of Gethin’s Chevron B28 behind. Jacky Ickx Lotus 72E Ford won the F1/5000 race, Ian Ashley’s Lola T330 the first 5 litre car home (P Diegoli)

 

Lella, Sandown Park, punching out of Dandy Road (B Keys)

 

Lombardi during the 1973 Monaco GP weekend, Brabham BT41 Ford-Novamotor (R Pagliacci)

 

Lombardi from Sam Posey at Riverside in October 1974- Lola T332 Chev and Talon MR1 Chev (M Hewitt)

Fresh out of 1.6 litre F3- again with average results, she started the European Championship with back third of the field qualifying and mid-field finishes, and ended it with front third of the field qualifying efforts and top five finishes.

That year the series had depth too- the likes of Redman and Hobbs were there early on, before heading to the US with regulars Peter Gethin, Teddy Pilette, Guy Edwards, Bob Evans and Ian Ashley doing the championship in full.

In Europe with grids of around twenty cars, her best qualifying performances were fourth, fourth and fifth in the final three rounds at Snetterton, Mallory Park and Brands Hatch, whilst Lella’s best finishes were fourths- at Brands, Monza, Oulton Park and Mallory Park.

Between the 26 August Brands, and 8 September Oulton Park Euro rounds Lombardi contested two SCCA/USAC F5000 Championship meetings in the US- the California Grand Prix at Ontario on 1 September and the season ending Riverside Grand Prix on 27 October.

At Ontario she qualified an Eagle 74A Chev fourteenth, then finished a good fifth in her heat and retired from the final but was classified fourteenth- Brian Redman won in a Lola T332 Chev. At Riverside, Lella ran the Lola T332 Hunt had raced at Ontario, she was a poor Q21 and finished eighth in her heat. Mario Andretti won the race in another T332, with Lombardi ninth.

In front of Lella that weekend were Andretti, Redman, Warwick Brown, Al Unser, Graham McRae, Brett Lunger, John Morton and David Hobbs, all experienced hands and in the case of Andretti and Redman arguably two of the decade’s Top 20 Racing Drivers regardless of class.

What comes through strongly looking at her European Championship results is progressive improvement and speed and a great finishing record throughout the season. A reasonable conclusion is that the car was well prepared, that she had mechanical sympathy, was easy on cars which were and are notoriously fragile.

Lets not forget the jump straight from 160bhp F3 to 500bhp F5000, not necessarily an easy transition.

Lets go back to Australia. At Sandown Lombardi started from the second row of the Victoria Trophy nine car grid. She had second place ‘in the bag’ of the 32 lap race behind Max Stewart’s Lola T330 Chev until the car started to splutter for want of fuel on the last lap letting Kevin Bartlett’s T332 Chev back into second- she shared fastest lap of the race with Stewart.

It was a great start to the tour. The promoters worked things pretty hard, there were good crowds at both races with large chunks of Australia’s Italian population turning out to support their intrepid female racer.

Lella and Australian ace Test fast bowler Dennis Lilley at the Sydney Cricket Ground, 12 November 1974. And below. Quite what this has to do with the AGP i’m ferked if i know- any column inches are good ones i guess, to get bums on seats

 

 

Lella, Oran Park

At Oran Park in a race of misfortune up front, Warwick Brown ran away with the race from the front row and looked a winner until his crankshaft harmonic balancer failed taking with it an oil pump belt and a fuel line.

Lombardi’s Matich was out the lap before with a seized oil pump whilst running third. Bartlett led until he too had dramas, his engine was starved of fuel when a one way valve in the fuel line restricted the flow of fuel on right hand corners- allowing lucky Max Stewart to take the AGP despite a rear anti-roll bar mount breaking very early in the race, slowing him. Lella was quick again too- clutch problems limited her practice on the short, tight circuit, but she still did second quickest lap of the race behind Brown.

It would have been magic had Lombardi contested the 1975 Tasman Cup where she would have been up the pointy end but there were bigger fish to fry in 1975- F1.

A pair of Matiches- Lella’s A51 from Jon Davison’s lapped A50- Davo was fourth behind Stewart, McCormack and Lawrence. AGP 1974

 

Lella wheels the A51 thru BP and onto the main straight- big crowd there on the day. Oran Park AGP 1974 (R Garth)

 

Shidday or the Italian equivalent are the words of Lombardi and Kevin Bartlett at right- and lucky Maxxie at left. Still, to finish first, first yer have to finish. Stewart is 6′ 2″ and Lella 5′ 2″- it says a lot about a Lola’s capacity to absorb drivers of all shapes and sizes! AGP Oran Park (Fairfax)

The ‘Tigress of Turin’, Maria Grazia Lombardi was born in a small town of about 2,000 people, Frugarolo, Piedmont on 26 March 1941- 80 km south-east of Turin. Hey, it was a great ‘handle’ by one journalist, which stuck even though she did not live that close to Turin.

Lella was the last born of four daughters, her father was a butcher/meat trader who operated between Frugarolo and the Ligurian Riviera. Her early competition years are a bit hazy, it’s variously said she started in Karts or local touring car races and rallies in the mid-sixties, with her savings bolstered by contributions from her partner Fiorenza, her sister and brother in law.

She bought a C.R.M. Formula Monza 875 during 1965, with money tight, the machine was paid for by instalments.

The new 500cc C.R.M. arrived on a truck only an hour before her first race, Lella’s team comprised the local blacksmith who ‘knew a bit about engines’ and Pino, a childhood friend. By May 1965 she had some support from Sandro Moroni’s automotive business in Lodi. Lombardi contested the first F Monza ‘Trofeo Cadetti’ in the C.R.M. at Monza that May, the machine was entered by Scuderia Moroni, she was unplaced in the big field.

Lombardi did not have the overt support of her father, but when she was not around he proudly spoke of his racer daughter and accomplishments reported in the local papers.

In 1967 after scrimping and saving Lella entered four rounds of the Italian F3 Championship aboard a Branca Ford for three DNQ’s and an eighteenth at San Piero a Sieve in June, part of the old Mugello road course.

The Branca F3 was a ‘Brabham knock-off’ built by Aquilino Branca in a Buscate workshop on the outskirts of Milan. There was nothing wrong with them either, Grand Prix winner GIancarlo Baghetti drove one to victory in the 4 June Monza Lottery race which Lella, Dave Walker, Allan Rollinson and Wal Donnelly failed to qualify for.

She did some Formula 850 events that year in a Biraghi, including the occasional hillclimb. In 1968 Lella raced in one Italian F3 round at Monza in April, but in essence she needed to step backwards to advance,

In 1970 she raced a Biraghi Fiat, Formula 850 winning four races and taking the well contested championship overall. Lella also raced an Alfa Romeo GTA in May in the Coppa Piemonte at Monza, a relationship with a marque she would renew several years later. She won two further F850 races at Monza and Vallelunga early in 1971 which allowed her to put together a good F3 program for 1972.

The Lotus 69 Ford-Novamotor was one of the great F3 cars of 1970-1971, it was perhaps a tad over the hill in 1972 but still not a bad thing to have, the machine was run under the Scuderia Jolly Club banner. Her program comprised twelve Italian F3 meetings and the Monaco F3 GP. Lella’s best results at home were a pair of fifths at Imola and Varano in July and August, the Brabham BT35 was the winningest car in Italy that year. Lombardi’s later teammate at March, Vittorio Brambilla  won the title using a mix of Birel 71, a Brabham BT35 and BT38, Lella was tenth.

At Monaco the winner was Patrick Depailler’s Alpine A364 Renault, the long list of non-qualifiers included Lella, James Hunt, Alan Jones, Tony Brise, Vittorio Brambilla and Tom Pryce.

Only Barrie Maskell in England and Claudio Francisci in Italy achieved more with a Lotus 69 in 1972- Lella did well with the tool at her disposal.

Demonstrating versatility, Lella’s Alfa Romeo interlude that year was the Monza 4 Hour where she and fellow F3 pilot Carlo Giorgio raced a GTAm to twelfth place. Another opportunity to broaden her experience and compete in a powerful car was at Interlagos that September- she was eleventh in an Abarth 3000.

Lombardi appropriately stayed in F3 in 1973 with a campaign of nine meetings at home, and four in England later in the year, her weapon of choice was a new Brabham BT41 Ford-Novamotor. It was a car which did plenty of winning that year in Italy at least, three of the top five cars in the Italian F3 Championship were BT41s- Carlo Giorgio won in a March 733 Ford.

Lella’s best result was a win in her heat and fourth in the final at the season ending Vallelunga meeting in November and a pair of of fifths at Alessandria and Varano early in the season. Lella finished eighth overall- that is not really indicative as she missed several rounds. Still had the odd DNQ too- Italian F3 then typically had entries of over thirty cars.

Monaco met with more success too- she was ninth in her heat and twelfth in the final won by Jacques Laffitte’s Martini Mk12 Ford. DNQ’ers of note that year included later F1 drivers Tony Brise, Brian Henton, Alan Jones, Larry Perkins and Bob Evans- that was and is such a tough event!

Lombardi in a Branca Ford F3 at San Piero a Sieve, 20km north of Florence on 11 June 1967 (N Ricci)

 

Lella during the 1967 Coppa CPF Cavagna- Sarezzo-Lumezzane hillclimb, Brescia on 17 September 1967- Biraghi Formula 850. FTD that day went to later Ferrari driver and Team Manager Peter Schetty’s Abarth 2000 Prototipo from Nanni Galli’s Alfa Romeo 33 Fleron (A Vimercati)

 

Lombardi with her Biraghi Fiat, Formula 850 during 1970 (Getty)

 

Lella at Monaco in 1972- Lotus 69 Ford-Novamotor- missed the cut that year (unattributed)

At this stage John Webb, Britain’s most successful race circuit owner and promoter spotted Lombardi and saw her potential as a drawcard.

‘She performed exceptionally well (at Monaco). ‘We’d just started the Shellsport Celebrity Series (for Ford Escort Mexicos) and my wife Angela invited her to compete at Brands Hatch in July. She won from the third row, beating Jacques Laffitte and Mike Wilds and we became friendly and kept in touch’ Webb said when interviewed by MotorSport.

Whilst Lella shone in the Escort her four British F3 events in July, September and October were unimpressive- a DNQ, DNF and twelfth at Brands and a thirteenth at Oulton Park was the yield. The BT41 was competitive in Italy, it was not so in the UK, no BT41 figured in the Top Ten of the BRSCC John Player British F3 Championship with Russell Wood the only driver in the Top Ten of the BRSCC Lombard North Central F3 Championship, to put Lella’s BT41 British performances into perspective.

Looked at objectively Lombardi had not done enough to jump clear of F3, but, after a decade of toiling away, doing the hard yards and paying her dues she was about to get her big chance.

Back to John Webb, ‘Jackie Epstein was running a Formula 5000 team out of Brands (he ran Vern Schuppan and Alan Jones in Lola T332 Chevs in the Australian Rothmans Series a couple of years later) and we pursuaded him to give Lella a try that winter. She impressed him not only with her driving but also by her mechanical knowledge and feel. Towards the end of the test she pitted because she correctly thought the car had developed a puncture; not severe but enough to make a difference.’

And so it was that Lombardi raced a Shellsport Lola alongside Ian Ashley in 1974 finishing fifth in the championship behind Bob Evans, Lola T332 Chev, Peter Gethin, Chevron B28 Chev, Ian Ashley, Lola T332 Chev and Teddy Pilette in the other VDS Chevron B28. This was no mean feat as all of the guys in front of her had extensive F5000 experience with Gethin a Grand Prix winner- all became GP drivers.

Lella also had a serious crack at qualifying for the 1974 British GP aboard a Brabham BT42 Ford run by Hexagon Racing. By Thursday’s end she was within 1.1 seconds of John Watson’s sister car but had a broken driveshaft later in the day preventing a final crack at the grid. The pint sized Italian lapped as quickly as Tom Belso, who had raced her Lola T330 for Epstein in 1973, Vern Schuppan, John Nicholson, Howden Ganley, Mike Wilds and Leo Kinnunen.

Other one-off endurance drives that year were in a Lola T282 Ford DFV for third in the Casale Interserie round in September and the Brands Hatch 1000 Km with Pino Pica, DNF.

Lombardi at Brands Hatch during the 1974 British GP weekend, Brabham BT42 Ford. DNQ race won by Sceckter’s Tyrrell 007 Ford  (MotorSport)

 

Anderstorp 1975 March 751 Ford. DNF fuel system after 10 laps from Q24. Lauda won in a Ferrari 312T (unattributed)

 

Race of Champions, Brands Hatch, March 1975, March 751 Ford. DNF from Q11. Tom Pryce won in a Shadow DN5A Ford

 

Lella and March Director/Partner Max Mosley who was also her Race Engineer

Lombardi had done enough to break into F1, plenty have ascended having achieved far less, this she did with March in 1975 thanks to the financial support of Italy’s Count ‘Gughi’ Zanon di Valgiurata.

Lella famously became the only woman to score a championship point so far when she gained a half point from the flagged off ’75 Spanish GP at Montjuic Parc after the accident which befell Rolf Stommelen’s Hill GH1 Ford.

Somewhat well known now, Lombardi did not get the best opportunity with March due to a problem with the car diagnosed by Lella but which was failed to be acted upon by the team.

After a crash during practice in Monaco, and the car was repaired, Lombardi complained consistently of a problem with her car, (751-2) which understeered badly into corners, then its rear end would suddenly ‘fall over’ into a big oversteer when the power was applied.

March’s Robin Herd, ‘He (Max Moseley), a much better engineer than some people might think, asked me if he could borrow Vittorio (Brambilla) for a few laps. Vit would come back and say, ‘Yeah, yeah, car’s perfect’. But i don’t think he ever did a flying lap in that car. I totally trusted him. On reflection, however, he was probably looking after himself.’ When Ronnie Peterson described the same handling characteristic in 1976 Lella was vindicated. We gave Ronnie a new chassis for Monaco after his misundersanding with Carlos Reutemann in Belgium’ said Herd. ‘He did a few laps and said, ‘It’s neutral, It’s perfect. The damaged monocoque was still in the workshop so we took it apart- and discovered a crack in its cast-magnesium rear bulkhead. Poor Lella, she’d had bad traction all along. I feel sorry for her and wonder about it even now’ Herd concluded.

No one is suggesting Lombardi would have gone as quick as Peterson but for sure her results would have been better than they were. She had eleven championship starts with March in 1975 for one DNQ, four DNFs due to mechanical failure, a collision at Monza, with her best results the point-winning sixth at Montuic and seventh, and on the same lap as the winner, at the Nurburgring, the first time she had raced there.

Vittorio Brambilla showed just how fast a good 741/751 was, he rarely qualified outside the top ten, won at the Osterreichring and had even more DNFs than Lella so even someone as biased as i am in the pint sized powerhouse failure cannot say her March was not as well (or poorly) prepared as Vittorio’s…Whilst noting that cracked rear bulkhead which cost her dearly, in noting that i am not saying she would have been as quick as her countryman, but for sure she would have been faster than she was.

In a very full season Lombardi was also engaged by Alpine Renault to race a 2 litre Alpine Renault A441 which was shared with French racer, and regular visitor to Australia, Marie-Claude Beaumont. The pair contested six events with best placings fourth in the Monza 1000 km and sixth in the Mugello 1000 km. At Le Mans they failed to finish.

Lella aboard the Alpine A441 Renault 2 litre V6 at Le Mans in 1975, shared with Marie-Claude Beaumont- DNF after only 20 laps with fuel feed problems. Race won by the Bell/Ickx Gulf GR8 Ford DFV (unattributed)

 

Lombardi, Brazilian GP practice 1976, March 761 Ford- fourteenth in the race won by Lauda’s Ferrari 312T (unattributed)

 

Lombardi/Dacremont Lancia Stratos Turbo, Le Mans 1976. Twentieth and second GTP. Race won by the Ickx/Van Lennep Porsche 936 (unattributed)

 

Austrian GP 1976, Lella the Brabham BT44B Ford- twelfth from Q24 race won by John Watson’s Penske PC4 Ford (unattributed)

Peterson’s departure from Lotus at short notice was the end of Zanon’s support- Count Gughi was a huge Peterson fan and supported his return to March whilst ‘smoothing Lellas’ departure MotorSport wrote. Lombardi’s final race for March was the 1976 Brazilian GP- Q22 and fourteenth.

She had three unsuccessful Grands Prix in a RAM Racing Brabham BT44B for two DNQs and twefth at the Osterreichring, that really was a waste of time for a team which never did much outside British national events.

Lella had a full season of endurance events aboard a factory Osella PA4 BMW and Porsche 934. Her best placings were fifth places at Silverstone and the Nurburgring Interserie. Lella and Christine Dacremont were twentieth at Le Mans in 1976 aboard a Lancia Stratos Turbo.

In 1977 she raced an Inaltera Ford DFV (née Rondeau) in the two 24 hour events at Daytona and Le Mans for a DNF and eleventh. She also raced an Osella PA5 BMW to third at Imola, a Porsche Carrera and Lola T282 Ford.

In a low key year for Lombardi, Fiat contested the 1978 European Touring Car Championship with a 128 Sport Coupe, in seven events with the Jolly  Club car, Lella achieved three class wins with Carlo Giani at Brands, Salzburgring and Estoril. Other interesting drives included a couple of races in the Heims owned Porsche 934, an Alfa GTA in the Giro d’ Italia, Osella PA6 and a Toyota Sprinter Trueno in the Spa 24 Hour where she shared a car with Thierry Boutsen and Avez, their race over with conrod failure after only 5 laps.

Her relationship with Enzo Osella continued in 1979, a good season of fourteen events yielded a win in the Vallelunga 6 Hour and seconds at Wunsdorf and Ulm. More of the same in 1980 resulted in second place at Varano and third placings at Magione and Vallelunga.

It would be intriguing to know what Lella thought of the Jolly Club Chev Camaro she raced in six events in 1981 for a best of third in the 500 km Tourist Trophy at Donington where she shared the car with Anna Cambiaghi. The nimble Osella PA9 BMW was a different kettle of fish, she and Georgio Francia had a great season- a win in the Mugello 6 Hour, a pair of seconds at Monza and Enna-Pergusa and a third at Magione resulted in fourth place in the drivers World Championship.

Lombardi then had a long period as a mainstay of Alfa Romeo’s Touring Car program racing GTV6 and the 75 Turbo from 1982 to 1986, with a best result of sixth place in the 1985 title, her final full season was aboard a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth in 1987.

She fell ill with cancer after the 1985 season and died in a Milan clinic on March 3 1992.

Silverstone 6 Hours 1980, Lella in the Osella PA8 BMW, shared with Vittorio Brambilla DNF. Race won by de Cadenet/Wilson De Cadent LM Ford DFV (M Lee)

 

Lombardi and Tony Parma, Alfa GTV6. 1982 RAC Tourist Trophy, Silverstone (unattributed)

So, what to make of Maria Grazia Lombardi, whilst noting i am about as objective here as i am writing about Kevin Bartlett, Frank Matich and Chris Amon! Lella wriggled into my favourite driver category all those years ago on that fleeting visit to Australia.

Lombardi was a racer to her core, she was smitten by it at a young age. Of modest means she did it the hard way, earning and cadging money from family, friends and the trade to graft away in F Monza and F850, two tough schools in Italy. By the time she got her first decent F3 drive with the secondhand Lotus 69 in 1972 she was already 31- no spring chookin’ even by the standards then.

Were there more deserving drivers of the Shellsport F5000 drive in 1974? Of course, make your own list, it’s not difficult at all. But John Webb was looking through a slightly different prism as a promoter than the average team owner. There were better credentialed drivers but John and Angela Webb’s end game was to promote a female driver. That was laudable, even more so as Lella was homosexual at a time when most were a lot less enlightened than fifty years hence.

She was no more or less physically attractive that most of the 1974 F1 grid, not many of the blokes would have been invited onto the catwalk either! Other women have come into F1 since Lella, none has yet matched the Lombardi’s half championship point- none have come up the hard way either. Desire Wilson was perhaps the female with the greatest F1 potential, but that my friends is a debate for another time.

Lets not forget Lella Lombardi, The Tigress of Frugarolo, a most capable elite level racing driver…

Etcetera…

Formula 875 Monza was created by Romolo Tavoni, Sporting Director of Monza- later Ferrari Team Manager and the Automobile Club of Milan’s Director, Luigi Bertett as a cost effective entry-level single seater racing class. Italy’s Formula Vee if you will.

The cars were based on Fiat 500 components, the ‘875’ bit is that the racer’s purchase price  be less than 875,000 lire- a little less than a new Fiat 500 at the time.

The class started in 1964 with Lella contesting the first Cadet Trophy on 10 May 1965.

Vast numbers of Italians cut their racing teeth in the class and its Formula Panda successor (1983), F1 graduates include Lella, Michele Alboreto and Fabrizio Barbazza.

May 1965 Cadet Trophy, Monza. Lella’s C.R.M is #29

Lella’s Fiat Giardiniera powered C.R.M. was built in Modena, the chassis constructed by Manicardi & Messori and the body by Fantuzzi.

I am intrigued to know more about C.R.M. if any of you can assist, it was one of a vast number of constructors which popped up to cater for cars in a class which exploded with interest, other makes included; Plastic Thiele, Ambivero, Bianchi, Oleari, Amilcar, Cavallini, Vargiu, Lab, Melesi, Santandra, Reggiani, Libertini, Mercatelli, Corsini and more…

Lella with her Biraghi Fiat Formula 850 at Monza during 1970- a strong year with four wins and the championship.

In the shot below she leads an F850 bunch in the Coppa Autodromo di Monza- Lella’s Biraghi from Georgio Francia in a Dagrada, then Piero Bongiovanni in a De Sanctis then a Tecno.

(unattributed)

 

(unattributed)

Lella during the 1974 season, whilst the shot below is the Epstein Lola T330 at Zandvoort on 3 June.

Q12 and seventh in the race won by Gethin’s Chevron B28.

(unattributed)

 

(unattributed)

At home during the European F5000 Championship in 1974- the Monza paddock on 30 June.

Familiarity with the circuit showed too, she qualified sixth and finished fourth behind Gethin, Pilette and Evans.

(Fairfax)

International Formula 5000 buffs will know this as one of Kevin Bartlett’s cars, in this case a Lola T332 Chev at Oran Park during the 1974 AGP weekend.

As an obscurity it would be great if Lella had done a few laps in it, but she didn’t, it seems the car was used as a background shot for the daily papers given her own Matich was late arriving at the circuit.

(unattributed)

That pointscoring race at Montjuïc Parc, Barcelona, Spain in 1975.

Lella’s March 751 Ford in front of Bob Evans, BRM P201, its early in the race as the BRM only completed 7 laps. Rolf Stommelen’s Hill GH1 Ford accident happened on lap 26 with the race ended after 29 laps.

Jochen Mass, McLaren M23 Ford took his only GP win in an extraordinary day.

(LAT)

Lombardi in fifth position ahead of another Porsche 934 (Striebig/Verney/Chasseuil) during the Silverstone 6 Hours on 9 April 1976.

First Group 4 car home, the winner was the Fitzpatrick/Walkinshaw BMW CSL 3 litre.

(unattributed)

Lombardi aviating her RAM Racing Brabham BT44B Ford at the Nurburgring on 1 August 1976- German GP practice.

She did not make the cut, the car carried both #33 and 37 that weekend.

(unattributed)

Le Mans 1977 aboard the Inaltera (Rondeau) LM77 Ford DFV she shared with Christine Beckers to eleventh place, the race won by the Ickx/Barth/Stommelen Porsche 936/77.

The same pair shared the car at Daytona but were outed after Beckers collided with another Porsche having its own moment after a tyre blew.

(unattributed)

Lombardi returned to Australia to contest an endurance Group C touring car race, the 1978 Rothmans 500 together with Sue Ransom at Oran Park- DNF.

Pity she didn’t have a run at Mount Panorama in an outright car, Lella had plenty of taxi experience throughout her career.

Lella aboard the Luigi Racing 5.7 litre Chev Camaro she shared with Anna Cambiaghi, Tourist Trophy, Silverstone, September 1981.

She qualified the car third but the pair failed to finish with engine problems.

Bibliography…

‘She Made Her Point’ Paul Fearnley in April 2015 MotorSport, oldracingcars.com, F2 Index, racingsportscars.com, ‘Formula 875 Monza’ on motormotion.it, ingegnere.it

Credits…

Getty Images, Rosanna Pagliacci, Steve Jones, Bruce Keys, Martin Lee, Russell Garth, Paolo Diegoli, Niccolo Ricci, A Vimercati, Rico Harman, Michael Hewitt, Roger Gerhold

Tailpiece…

Lella at Sydney Airport before heading off to Melbourne for her first race in Australia, 30 October 1974.

Finito…

 

 

(N Stratton)

 

Kevin Loy’s Matich A51 ‘005’ Repco F5000 departing Oran Park in Vice-Regal style, 2 February 1975…

No standing on ceremony here, although its a you-beaut ANF1 car- the Formula 5000 machine is travelling in no more comfort than my Formula Vee and considerably less so than my old Lola T342 Formula Ford. And its off to Surfers Paradise, 850 kilometres away in the hands of Ian Douglass to whom it has just been sold.

I’ll bet Frank Matich, Derek Kneller and the boys looked after the thing much more nicely in the US- this chassis was new for the US L&M Series tour Team Matich undertook during 1973. It was FM’s primary weapon, A51 ‘006’ went along for the ride as the spare. Here is a story about Matich and his F5000 cars;

https://primotipo.com/2015/09/11/frank-matich-matich-f5000-cars-etcetera/

Matich A51 ‘005’ in the Mid Ohio paddock 1973 (T Capps)

 

Lella Lombardi in A51 ‘005’ during the 1974 AGP- car was overseen by Matich himself. Lella pushed Max Stewart, the winner very hard before oil pump failure ended a great run (HAGP)

In many ways this little baby would be ‘the’ F5000 Matich to own. It toured the US, was raced by Lella Lombardi at Sandown and Oran Park in 1974, and, sold to John Goss to keep A53 ‘007’ company, won the 1976 Sandown Park Australian Grand Prix modified to A53 spec.

Another shot of Lombardi, this time at Sandown Park’s Dandenong Road corner in 1974 (B Keys)

Later still French sportscar ace Henri Pescarolo raced it at Calder in 1977, so too did Jim Richards in its ‘period dotage’ in 1979.

A very nice jigger indeed, here looking a bit forlorn on an open trailer behind an XA Ford Falcon Wagon rent-a-rocket.

Still, the serious money should be spent on the car not the trailer…

Goss wins the 1976 AGP aboard his Matich A51/53 ‘005’ from Vern Schuppan’s Elfin MR8C Chev, Sandown Park (HAGP)

Credits…

Neil Stratton, oldracingcars.com, Terry Capps, Derek Kneller, ‘History of The AGP’ G Howard and ors, Bruce Keys

Tailpiece: A51 ‘005’ fitted with Repco V8 flat-plane ‘Shaker’ crank in the Watkins Glen pitlane 1973…

(D Kneller)

Finito…

Lola T330 P Island

Peter Brennan blasts his Lola down Phillip Islands straight on Saturday 27 September 2014, the car last ran in John Turners’ hands at Brands Hatch on 19 October 1975, only 39 years ago!…

Over the last three episodes of ‘Racers Retreat’ we have covered Peters’ purchase of the car in the US, and its rapid restoration commencing in August 2013, the car finally made its debut at a Phillip Island test day a month ago.

Australian readers should get to Sandown on 7-9 th November to see the car make its first race appearance in a huge field of F5000 cars in the Victorian Historic Racing Registers’ annual historic race meeting at the great Melbourne suburban venue.

John Taylor lola T330 Thruxton 1975

John Turner at Thruxton in ‘HU18’ earlier in 1975 (tinkerwinkerTNF)

John Turner bought the car from Jackie Epstein at the end of 1974, after Lombardis’ year in it. He raced the car in  many rounds of the 1975 Shellsport UK Series, finishing fifth in that final race at Brands, Peter Gethins Team VDS Lola T400 Chev won the race and the sister T400 of Teddy Pilette won the championship.

Turner sold the car to Jim Burnett for use as a central seat CanAm car, and as covered earlier in the series of articles the car was damaged in a factory fire until rescued by Peter many years later…here in his workshop just prior to the massive job of restoration.

brennans workshop

Phillip Island Test…

Lola T330 Brennan P Island

Peter Brennan all loaded up…livery all 100% period correct 1973 ‘shellSport 208’ team. Front brake ducts taped over in this shot

It was a beautiful September day, fortunately the ‘Islands weather gods were smiling…’I had been looking forward to the first run of the car, checking and re-checking the thing over the prior weeks, and firing it up a million times, then the bloody thing wouldn’t start for the first session!’

‘I had plenty of advice of course, but the bloody magneto had cacked itself, they are like a flighty girlfriend , here one minute and gone the next! I didn’t take a lot of spares with me, but i did have a spare mag, so we fitted that and were ready to rock and roll’.

‘Off we go ot onto the circuit in session two, i went about eighty metres and it died, i slowed down and it cut out. I checked the fuel pressure and volumes, the engine is on Webers. After a lot of thought i took the air-boxes off the carbs and that did the trick. I hadn’t created vents in the airboxes to allow excessive pressure to escape, the set-up cannot be fully sealed, i got advice from Peter Molloy and others after the weekend’.

vent tubes

Look closely at this shot, on the RHS of the carb base plate near the rollbar and you can see the breather holes cut to relieve surplus pressure in the airbox…4 thirsty 48 IDA Webers…’nasty’ magneto cap just visible to the left between the oil tank and carb base plates

‘After that change the car was sensational, even using the basic initial settings. Later in the day i did 6 1:36 laps without pushing hard at all. The thing is a jet, really quick. Most of the fiddling around on the day was just getting comfy in the car, the gearchange is a little close to me and the cockpit is as tight as…i’m not a svelte 18 year old anymore!’

‘Before Sandown we need to just check the thing over, the airbox bleed is done, re-align it and so on. Its amazing how much fuel the thing uses 3.7 litres per lap. I can afford the car but not the fuel to put in it, i used 90 litres on the day at $3.75 per litre! Time to drill an oil-well at home in the eastern suburbs’.

Lola T330 P Island front

Lola T330 Brennan up

See the rear wing compared with episode # 3. Far-back original wing supports banned by FIA at the end of 1973..attention to detail in the restoration superb, our mature age driver doing his best to find some space…

Lola T330 B & W

‘HU18’ to early, original T330 spec. Carbs common in the UK then, early airbox setup, far rear mounted wing, and none of the T332 mods to the tub, bodywork and suspension that most 330’s modifed to T332 spec received in period to keep them competitive

Lola T330 nose

Front suspension typical of period. Upper and lower unequal length wisbbones, coil spring damper units (Koni double adjustable alloy shocks), adjustable roll bar

Lola T332 Chev 'HU18' Phillip Island

Lola T330 Brennan P Is front straight

Roll on Sandown for Episode 5 in November, be there if you can!…

Photo Credits…

Peter Brennan, Jay Bondini

Finito…

 

cutaway

Superb Tony Matthews cutaway drawing of ‘HU18’ in 1973 spec…

The first instalment of Peters’ restoration of the Lola was its history, acquisition of the car and its journey from Portland, Oregon to Melbourne, Australia…

Once unloaded, there was no doubt, not that there ever was, that the chassis was completely hors’d combat, so the big initial question was who to get to repair it. This months account is essentially  the first 8 months of work…

tub

HU18 tub as it arrived in Melbourne. Note delicate placement of Hewland bellhousing, general state of tub, RH front aluminium melted by workshop fire and ‘fried’ state of steering rack. Original Lola wheels crack-tested ok, ‘wets’ use perhaps.

Monocoque…

unpicking

‘Unpicking’ the old tub at Borlands. Fire damage clear, side pontoons in front

‘My choices were the Kiwi’s,  Mark Bahner (in the US) or a local. Price-wise their was little difference between the US and NZ once exchange rates were taken into account but I wanted to be involved in the actual build itself. I was never going to be happy just sending $ overseas, then there are airfare costs to keep an eye on things so I settled on Mike Borland of Borland Engineering. He had done tubs from scratch for 2 mates and some great work over 10 years on a range of other cars and he was happy for me to be involved. His workshops in Mordialloc are a helluva lot closer to home than the West Coast of the US!’

Borland Racing Developments are a renowned local builder of Spectrum Formula Fords, and a whole lot more, rather than go off on that tangent here is a link to their website…

spectrum

http://www.borlandracing.com/

Tub 1

Measuring assembly of chassis

‘Decisions needed to be made regarding its construction, the original alloy sheet was 1.3mm, no wonder they were called the ‘flexi-flyer’! We decided on 1.6mm, marginally heavier, but they are my legs!’

‘The task was a big one though, the RT4’s I have rebuilt have been relatively simple. In essence the tub is laid on the floor, templated, holes punched and popped into a folder. The Lola was far more complex, we ‘unpicked’ the tub, what a mess. We were never likely to be able to salvage much of the ‘tinware’. There was a huge amount of work to duplicate the inner support panels. Everything is handmade. There are metal bits inside the tub, which are beaten, riveted works of art. Internal brackets are then solid riveted to external panels’.

fabrications

Fabrications, old & new

‘We borrowed the wrecked tub of ‘HU1’ off Darcy (Darcy Russell owns the ex-Stewart T330 HU1, and had Chas Talbot build a new tub for it having destroyed the old one in an Eastern Creek accident some years ago) to help with key measurements and reference points. We kept the front and rear roll hoops of HU18 but the rest was rooted. All internal bulkheads had to be remade, new front suspension ‘top-hats’, gearshift linkages etc.’.

The process commenced before Christmas 2013 and took around 8 months.

stteering mount

Steering mount/roll hoop. Front master cylinder bulkhead in front

 

tub 3

Continuing assembly, constantly measuring and checking images as reference, steering mount/roll hoop original.

 

tub 2

Carefully squaring the chassis up pre-drilling rivet holes

 

chassis 2

Front of new monocoque

 

chassis 1

Chassis workmanship apparent, front bulkhead in situ. Centre section cross beam also in place. Steering mount/roll hoop on the floor behind.

 

mount

The rear attachment point for the lower front wishbone is weak in a frontal impact, this in period ‘Lola Limp’ brace connects the two pickup points and minimises the risk of part of the A arm /wishbone piercing ones leg…

 

front

Dummy fit of steering mount/roll hoop, roll bar, suspension top mounts, nose-cone support. Roll-over bar leg just visible in far left middle of shot.

fuel cell

‘Harmon’ 60 litre fuel cell sourced in the US. Front & rear rollover fabrications original.

Suspension…

‘The suspension was all pretty good. All the wishbones are made of T45 steel, we oxide blasted, then crack tested using magnaflux the lot, Paul Faulkner helping us out. The cross beam which mounts the lower ‘A arm’ or wishbone was remade, as was the anti ‘Lola-Limp’ cross beam, refer to the photo above.

‘Finally we nickel plated the lot, all new spherical bearings used throughout of course’

‘The uprights both front and rear were also all good. Oxide-blasted, crack-tested, then re-diechromated. This blackens everything and gives a nice finish, but also protects the magnesium to which we apply WD40 regularly to keep it  (the magnesium castings) moist.’

Hewland DG300…

box before

Hewland had been reputedly rebuilt 30 years before and then unused…as was the case

‘As I had been told, it had been rebuilt years before but it was all good. No surprises. We still had to pull it apart to diechromate it but that was just time not bulk $.’

bax after

Shot of dismantled DG300 courtesy of Motorsport Solutions NZ

Fuel Cell…

‘People who have never taken on one of these projects before would be stunned on how much stuffing around there is just on the relatively small things.The Marston fuel cell was useless of course. One of the poor bits of the original design is that whilst the cells hold 100 litres of fuel, the last 20 litres in each isn’t picked up. Our historic races are short so in the end we sourced a cell from ‘Harmon’ in the US , 1 60 litre cell on the left handside only.’

Steering Rack…

‘The steering rack was a complete pain in the arse, i couldn’t find one anywhere in the world. Its Lolas own rack, in the end it turned out Jay Bondini, a mate in Melbourne had one. It was bent but I was able to create one good rack using Jays bent one, the centre section in all Lola’s racks are common, they then have different ‘ends’ to suit the particular application…and the centre on my ‘fried’ one was ok’

steering

Radiators and Additional Ducts…

‘The radiators were an interesting exercise as I think we may have worked out the reason the car was fitted with the odd additional ducting to keep the thing cool. My bloke is a racer himself, ‘Aussie Desert Cooler’s in Thomastown. When Norm looked at them he found there were no dividers in the radiators so that the coolant goes across the core, and down and back the other side. The coolant was going straight down and not through the core and therefore not working effectively. No other 330 seems to have had a cooling problem so i think we have idntified what they did not in 1973-4’

rad ducts

This shot is of Lella at Brands at the 1974 ‘Race of Champions’ in which she finished fourth. This close-up shot shows the additional aluminium panel (the mirrors are mounted to it) made to inprove airflow into the radiators, which 40 years later trnaspired to be radiators which were not properly made…(Unattributed)

 

radiators

Wheels…

‘I got a swag of wheels, original Lolas’ which all crack-tested ok and may be alright for wets. I looked at the available alternatives , in the end Noel Robson and I had some centres cast and machined and then had Whitehorse Industries ‘spin’ the outers at their Lilydale facility’.

Addendum…

lola heritage

‘Lola Heritage’ shot of assembly of the T332, late 1973 or 1974, Huntingdon factory.

works 2

‘Lola Heritage’ shot, again assembly of T332

Lola Heritage…

lola 3

http://www.lolaheritage.co.uk/

lola 1

 

lola2

Episode 3 in late August…

The chassis is completed, assembly of the car begins, and the engine, ‘Old Midnight’ comes in for some attention.

Photo Credits…

Lola Heritage, Tony Matthews cutaway drawing, Peter Brennan

 


 

 

 

 

 

  1. lella brands

    Lella Lombardi, Lola T330 Chev ‘HU18’ , Brands Hatch ’74

     

Lola’s T330…

Lola’s F5000 domination started with the ’72 model T300, the process completed by the ’73 T330, and 332, 332C, single seat Can Am T333 variants of the car built over a decade.It is one of the most successful competition cars ever in terms of race wins and longevity, if not THE most successful.

Eric Broadley’s evolution of the T300 produced an extremely competitive car for one of F5000′ s most competitive seasons, the cars aluminium monocoque ‘dressed’ in curvaceous bodywork executed by Specialised Mouldings. If ever an F5000 looked right this was it.

The 1973 season and those which followed proved that beauty was far from skin deep.

T330 ‘HU18’…

T330 ‘HU18’ was sold in March to Jackie Epstein Racing for the ’73 European F5000 championship. Epstein was a long time race entrant of sports cars before changing to F5000 after the death of his business partner, racer Paul Hawkins.

The Radio Luxembourg # 208 sponsorship was iconic at a time when the BBC had a monopoly on the radio airwaves in the UK. Radio Luxembourg, on frequency 208 medium wave were an offshore broadcaster of popular shows into the UK.

The car’s driver for 1973 was ’71 Le Mans and ’72 British F5000 Champion Gijs Van Lennep. His best results a 2nd at Snetterton and 3rds at Mondello Park and Jyllands-Ringen. Whilst Gijs was away on sports car duties Tony Trimmer, Clive Santo and Ray Allen also raced the car, albeit without success.

Teddy Pilette won the 1973 title with a demonstration of consistent speed in his Chevron B24.

brands van l

Into 1974 Epstein signed Lella Lombardi, she had come through Italian racing and European F3 and immediately impressed with her handling of HU18. Her best results 4ths at Brands, Monza, Oulton Park and Mallory Park. In ’74 the title was won by Bob Evans in a T332.

Lombardi raced in F1 for March in ’76, HU18 was sold by Epstein to John Turner, the car also driven by Keith Holland and Richard Scott that year. Hollands 4th at Brands was the best result.

monza

From Europe to Obscurity in the US for 34 Years and into Peter Brennan’s TLC…

Peter Brennan picks up the story, ‘Allen Karlberg was an American working in the UK at the time and was commissioned by countryman Jim Burnett to acquire a car for conversion to a central seat Can Am spec, F5000 having morphed into Can Am in an attempt to improve crowd numbers. The car was shipped to Portland, Oregon in 1977 where it remained for 36 years’

‘It was disassembled and some work done, for example the DG300 had a new crown wheel and pinion but essentially it was untouched, the only thing preventing considerable damage to the car was the fact it was in parts and the bits and pieces far enough away from a workshop fire which melted the right-front corner of the tub some time in the ’90’s.’

‘Burnett died several years ago and his Executors approached Karlberg to sell the car, I was cruisin’ the internet as I do. I was looking for another F5000 to restore and spotted a small ad in a club magazine which said something like ‘fire damaged F5000 for sale, major project’.

‘Whilst their was a lot of junk in the workshop around the bones of the car I could make out what it was and also see that the factory chassis plate was on it. I agreed to buy it and with a little research from the pictures he sent me, the front brake ducts and oil tank, for example, I was confident it was HU18 even before he called me to advise the plates details !’

‘Even though the car had been in bits forever it had remained in the same place so the tub, ‘box, 4 complete corners, wheels and spares, exhaust, radiators, fuel cells, swirl pots etc, etc were all there. Shipping it out of Portland was a pain in the arse but Kevin Bailey’s ‘Cheetah Imports’ always helps me and it finally arrived, then the real work began’.

Our intrepid racer has owned and restored Elfins, Matich and Lola F5000’s, everything but a Chevron. HU18, as the most lightly raced of the surviving T330’s, most of which were converted to T332 spec, is something special.

Peter is the ‘real deal’ as a racer enthusiast ‘…the main reason I do this is that I love the challenge, meeting and making new friends, it’s not all about the racing. It’s a real journey, going to all parts of the world in pursuit of parts and information’.

We look forward to sharing the journey with you PB.

Next month, the mammoth task of resurrection begins.

Tub as found

First photo of the tub allowed Brennan to identify it as probable T330, RHF tub melted away readily visible.

front suspension

Front suspension in need of a crack-test…

Tub as it arrived

‘HU18’ tub as it arrived in Australia

boxes of bits

‘HU18’ as it arrived out of the container in Port Melbourne, despite 34 years of neglect, and the fire, most of the critical parts had remained in the workshop in Portland close to the car

Box

Hewland DG300, oil tank, wheels and discs

wheels

Original Lola wheels, calipers and rear uprights, nose-cone support, suspension componentry, second hand Mota-lita steering wheel,and much-much more

boxes

lotsa stuff…

brennans workshop

‘Racers Retreat’ just arrived’, Peter Brennans workshop in suburban Melbourne…’HU18′ tub, Arrows A1, a Ralt RT4 or 2, Cosworth BDD head and sundry other bits of interest..always an intriguing place to have a beer

pre strip

‘HU18’ tub pre-strip

stripped

‘HU18’ tub post strip…and ready for Episode # 2

Photo Credits…

Richard Bunyan, Peter Brennan