Along with Prodrive, Lola was one of the more surprising omissions from the 2010 Formula 1 entry list published this morning. Martin Birrane, chairman of Lola Cars International, is at Le Mans and spoke exclusively to AUTOSPORT.
Q. Given that circumstances may change over the coming week, you must feel reasonably confident that Lola's entry may yet be accepted.
Martin Birrane: Yes, it's a provisional list. We're not on there, but we're being encouraged to hold on until next Friday. There are five teams with an asterisk as well as our own, and we'll know then whether one, two or none of them will be through. This is what we're being told. Then again, we were being told that today was the last day...
Q. How certain are you, given the prevailing economic conditions, that you can put together the finance to be on the grid next year?
MB: Well, I knew what I was doing three months ago, so there's no question about whether we can or we can't. I'm doing this personally, it's not Lola itself. I didn't want to risk the company because of what happened once before [Birrane acquired Lola after its failed F1 entry in 1997]. Lola F1 Team Limited is a totally separate company, I'm the only shareholder and I'm the only one funding it.
I wouldn't be doing all that if I wasn't satisfied that we could take it forward. In fact, if you went to the factory now you would find that not only has the model been completed for a week, but it's been in the tunnel all this week. We're progressing. We're way ahead with our car.
No question we could have a car ready for December. I don't know where all these other guys… one of three that has been chosen is worthy in my view, and they will have a proper car. The other two - who knows?
Q. Even though your F1 team is a separate company, presumably it is making use of Lola's facilities?
MB: Oh yes, we have all the facilities. We've got everything. We've got buying departments, finance departments, all the structure there. Twelve years ago I decided to put in the facilities capable of doing Formula 1. We've had five different teams come in and use different parts of the facility. I was hoping we may snag someone who wanted to do the full job, and we could have done it for them. Now, the opportunity, because of the cap, makes it a business proposition.
Q. Have you hired new staff or redeployed existing staff?
MB: Oh, absolutely. We have a lot of staff. We've hired a couple of dozen top people in the past six weeks.
Q. Were they recruited from existing F1 teams?
Q. And how is the performance package progressing?
MB: All our engineers are current F1 engineers who have done a fantastic job. We really have the makings of a good car. I don't know how much time the FIA have put to the fact that when those cars arrive on the grid, they shouldn't be mobile chicanes. They should be cars capable of getting onto the back of the grid at least.