Originally posted by Mallory Dan
And Ted, sorry to repeat an earlier question, but how was the T450 ATS car you used occasionally in 76, was it the bad lot it appeared to be??
The ATS car really wasn't too bad, Gunter Schmidt of ATS had asked me to come over and drive the car for the May race at Salzburg in Austria. He picked me up in Frankfurt in his brand new 911 Turbo which he proceeded to demonstrate the top speed of on a rain soaked autobahn. He kept the needle well north of 200KPH the entire way. I don't know which was wetter my palms or the road. He just sat there without his seatbelt on chatting about the old days when he raced Nikki Lauda in SuperVees. I don't know about you guys, but I'm a terrible passenger, and that trip didn't end soon enough.
Since Salzburg is in the mountains it rained off and on for the race meeting. Quali was mostly in the dry and I was keen to try out the vaunted BMW M Power. The car handled pretty well, but the preperation was nowhere near what I was used too, so we wasted a lot of time messing about with silly things. I think that Schmidt only had the one engine and he has quite adamant about strictly observing the rev limit. Every time I came into the pits he would poke his head into the cockpit to get a real good look at the tell tale on the rev limiter. Once he gave me a bollicking for exceeding the limit by 50 revs. After that I learned how to reach under the panel and reset the tell tale button on the back straight. I figured it was better for his blood pressure and mine.
I don't remember where we qualified, but it wasn't too shabby. The V6 Renaults were the class of the field and were pretty much untouchable on the long straights, but the Lola handled well and with BMW power was among the best of the rest. There was rain at some point and I remember a kink on the back straight that needed to be taken flat. The problem was that there was a steep mountain upslope on the left and a torrent of water came down the slope and ran in a small river across the track dead in the middle of the kink. All of the fast boys just sucked it up and hammered though there flat with the real end twitching away until coming upon a drier piece of road. To this day I can't believe we did this stuff.
Eventually my M Power lump unpowered and that was that. The car was certainly competitive and with a bit of testing could've been a contender. I next drove for the team again at a Formula Libre race at Brands at the end of the season. We were quickest in one of the wet practice sessions, but I don't remember what happened in the race. Schmidt never really made a proper commitment to the F2 series and I don't think his results fairly reflect on the car.
However, at the end of the season John Reid of Holbay had obtained the rights to a Lampredi designed inline 6 cylinder engine. Lola very much wanted to see this engine campaigned in the 1977 F2 season in one of its cars. I was asked to come up to Snetterton on a typically cold Norfolk October day and test the engine in a T450. The whole package was quite exotic with the very short inline six canted over at what looked like 45 degrees. The sound was absolutely glorious. It has the beautifully crisp throttle response that these injected two liter cars were famous for and felt like it would rev forever. It was a delight to drive. We quickly got down to some really competitive lap times because the car was so beautifully balanced. It also had amazing power. John Reid and Eric Broadley were both there that day and decided on the spot that all we needed was some proper funding and we would campaign the car for the '77 season as a works Lola Holbay. Sadly the funding was never found.