Courtesy of Auctions America
Available with powerplants from Nissan, Honda HPD, Lotus and, as with this example, the Judd BMW M3 V8, the Lola B1280 was the LMP2 version of the larger B08/60 chassis. With the large spinal fin, the car featured excellent stability at speed — a must for a car designed to go nearly 200 mph down the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans. Formerly owned by Dempsey Racing and with extensive IMSA history including top 10 finishes at Lime Rock Park, Mid-Ohio, and Road America and appearances at Laguna Seca and Road Atlanta, the B1280 offered here is one of the last racing cars Lola completed before that storied company ceased operations in 2012.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:2012 Lola B1280 IMSA Racer
Years Produced:2010–11
Number Produced:Unknown, probably 20
Original List Price:Unknown
SCM Valuation:$129,250 (this car)
Chassis Number Location:Tag on inside of tub, right side
Club Info:Historic Sportscar Racing
Alternatives:2010 Peugeot HDi, 2011 Audi R 18 TDI, 2011 Oreca 03-Nissan
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot L298, sold for $129,250, including buyer’s premium, at the Auctions America Auburn Spring sale in Auburn, IN, on May 11, 2017.

And now for something completely different.

Regular readers of my race car profiles are accustomed to me holding forth about the collector vs. weapons-grade attributes of 60-year-old cars with venerated names such as Maserati and Jaguar. I often muse on why “matching numbers” seems to matter so much more on a Ferrari than on a Lotus — and how the market balances competing values like great history vs. pristine originality.

Not this time.

Today’s subject car is less than 10 years old, didn’t even come with an engine (wasn’t expected to), and has body and suspension parts that are so disposable that they weren’t expected to last longer than one or two races.

This car could well claim great history, including a 3rd in class and 10th overall at Le Mans in 2011, but it didn’t claim the history and nobody seemed to care anyway.

This car, my friends, is almost in a parallel-but-separate universe from your father’s Ferrari. That said, it is every bit as pure a racer as any Testa Rossa. It is much faster, much safer and easier to drive, but it also requires far more higher maintenance, and it is not even a little bit collectible.

It is very cool. Confused yet? Good, let’s try to figure this out.

Disposable cars and leased engines

As technology progressed through the late 20th century, racing cars became far faster, much safer and easier to drive. They also became fundamentally disposable. The search for lightness and the availability of ever-more-exotic materials meant abandoning the idea of cars that could be used on the street or even expected to last more than a race or two without replacing major bits.

Another big change that came along in this period had to do with engine technology. As the various manufacturers vied with each other to wring extra horsepower or RPM out of their engines, the internal technology became pretty exotic and increasingly secret.

Most serious racing engine suppliers wouldn’t ever sell an engine, but leased them instead. Engines arrived in a crate from the factory — fresh and ready to install — and completely sealed. Changing anything more than spark plugs was forbidden.

When the engines were used up or failed, the mechanics removed them, sent them back to the factory and installed another one. When a car was done racing, it was put away with a steel frame instead of an engine to carry the transmission, suspension and so on. Racing cars no longer “owned” their engines.

Liquidation of Level 5 Motorsports

Let’s spend a bit of time talking about our subject car. In the beginning, there was a very professional and successful racing team called Level 5 Motorsports. The guy who financed the whole deal ran seriously afoul of the law.

The team subsequently folded in a spectacular way, and all the assets ended up being liquidated in a no-reserve auction. Today’s car was one of the lots.

Back in the glory days of 2010, Level 5 decided to make an assault on Le Mans and the FIA endurance championship. They ordered three cars from Lola —two coupes and a spider.

I spoke with Jeff Braun, who was chief engineer for the team and spent a month at Lola while the cars were being built. He was then responsible for them when they ran, so he knows the cars well. Aside from the bodywork, the three were identical chassis, built together in December of 2010 for the 2011 season.

All three ran turbocharged V6 engines leased from Honda.

Things then get a little confusing. The auction catalog offered all three cars, but it shows one coupe and one spyder as 2011, and our subject car as a 2012.

The best explanation for this is that one coupe (presumably this one) did well at Le Mans 2011, placing 3rd in class and 10th overall. It next went to Spa, where a major accident damaged the carbon-fiber chassis, which was in turn replaced with a new one, which apparently carried a 2012 number.

Back in the United States, this car was then leased to (Patrick) Dempsey Racing for IMSA use, and it apparently continued to use Honda power.

When it came off lease, the car was shoved in the back of the shop and ignored until the liquidation. The catalog suggests that the car ran with Judd BMW V8 power, but I can’t find any evidence that it ever did.

What to do and where to go?

The big issues facing the buyer of this car are:

  • What is it going to take to turn this back into an operational racing car?
  • What are you going to do with it once you have a running race car?

The first question is the most daunting. As mentioned, this car is much newer than — and very different from — a traditional vintage racer. Parts as basic as suspension links and transmission internals were not designed or intended to last more than a few races, so having lots of spares is essential. Plus, it doesn’t come with an engine.

The good news on the spares front is that the auction included many lots of spare parts along with the cars, so whoever bought the cars presumably spent another $20k–$30k to buy parts as well.

The engine is more of an issue. The Honda engines went back to the manufacturer years ago and are no longer available. This means that something else will need to be bought and an installation engineered before the car can run. This is a bit intimidating and certainly expensive, but it’s nothing a good racing-car shop can’t handle.

The Lola chassis was designed to accept a wide variety of engines, so it is a matter of choosing how to proceed. Judd is willing to sell suitable engines, and the catalog suggests this was done at the time, so that seems an obvious route. I’d guess buying and fitting an engine plus putting the car together will cost another $75,000.

If you add up the various costs, you are probably looking at $250,000 more or less to have an operable Lola IMSA/LMP2 racer, which really isn’t half bad.

Where to run?

So where are you going to play with it? It stopped being a competitive “real” racer about five years ago, so that’s out.

If you just want to go have fun, there are plenty of options: SVRA and HSR regularly have grids for cars like this, and other venues are willing to make room. It’s going to be expensive, though. You will need a professional shop with dedicated staff and transportation to support you, and that level of time and expertise isn’t cheap.

It would be a ton of fun. This car is incredibly fast and, relatively speaking, much safer than a classic racer.

Adrian Reynard, a top racing-car designer, once explained to me that you could strap a driver into one of his Champ cars and push it out of an airplane with serious expectation that the driver would walk away from the impact.

Car designs have come a long way.

Interestingly, FIA required that weird fin along the top of the car as a safety measure. If the car gets airborne at 150 mph during a wreck, the fin keeps the car from tumbling in the air. Try that with your C-type.

With this car, it all gets back to different.

It isn’t a vintage racer, but there are vintage-style events to enter.

It’s not even slightly collectible, but it’s not a lot of money to buy (though relatively more to run) and represents an incredible amount of performance for the dollar. Your kid, who can’t understand why anyone would like a 250 SWB, will think it’s the coolest thing ever.

Who knows? He may be right. I’d say fairly bought. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Auctions America.)

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