When the Group 5 regulations were drastically changed ahead of the 1972 season, effectively banning the existing big banger sports racers, the Group 6 class became even more important. This prompted Lola to develop a brand new car for the ground up that could be used as two-litre (T290) but also in three-litre (T280) form. In charge of the design was Bob Marston, assisted by Patrick Head and John Barnard, who would go on to become leading racing car designers in their own right.
Like the T210, Lola’s second generation Group 6 car was built around an aluminium monocoque chassis with independent suspension and outboard disc brakes on all four corners. The front suspension was by double wishbones while the rear used a reversed lower wishbones, top links and twin trailing arms. The car was clothed in a straightforward fibreglass body, which compared to rivals Chevron and Abarth was relatively curvaceous. Downforce was provided at the rear by a small wing that was mounted at the trailing edge and almost flush with the engine cover.
Lola offered the T290 without an engine, leaving customers to pick their power-plant of choice. Cosworth was the preferred engine supplier and for the 1972 they offered two options; the venerable FVC or the newly developed Chevrolet Vega based ‘four’. The former was tried and tested but displaced only 1,790 cc while the latter was not quite as reliable. Some teams did develop larger versions of the FVC while Cosworth themselves were hard at work to create the two-litre BDG. Regardless of the engine choice, a Hewland five-speed gearbox was used.
The successes of the T212 during the 1971 season, had certainly increased the demand for Lolas and no fewer than 34 T290s were built in 1972. Many were sold through European representative Jo Bonnier, who also fielded some of the cars with works support. Especially the Vega engined cars were quick straight out of the box but the engine’s poor reliability proved a real handicap. As a result, the Abarth-Osella team and driver Arturo Merzario won the European Championship. The T290s were nevertheless very successful, winning races and championships all around the world.
For the 1972 season Antonio Zadra, member of Scuderia Brescia Corse, bought Lola T 290 HU8. However at Vallelunga he had a crash in training. Therefore for the next event, which was Targa Florio, he took delivery of HU12 from Jo Bonnier. It was entered for the Brescia team and ended 4th overall and secured a class win. HU12 continued to race throughout the 1972 and 1973 seasons until it was sold to Johann Abt who continued to race the car. In the mid 1990’s HU12 was imported to Sweden and sold to Jussi Nyman who, having little experience of race cars, only drove it once. It was then purchased by the current vendor in 1197 who has set about a comprehensive restoration. Over the last year Zetterman engineering has prepared the car for the track including new tanks. Fitted with a Cosworth BDG 2-litre engine, producing 260bhp, which was tuned by Jorgen Svenssom in Halmstad. This wonderful Lola is now ready for a discerning new custodian and could be eligible for the Masters Series, CER and Orwell Supersports as well as the Le Mans Classic.