1966 Lola T70 Mk. II #6 Pilot: M. Donohue Team: Roger Penske Racing Race: 1st overall (Over 2 liters class) in the USRRC 1967 Spark - S1145 (resin)
In 1966, shortly after he retired from racing, Roger Penske set up his racing team – Roger Penske Racing Team. He bought a brand-new Lola T70 Mk. II and offered Mark Donohue a job as a driver. The team consisted of Donohue as the driver, Penske as team manager, two mechanics and a fabricator. Donohue’s first race for Penske was at St. Jovite, in Quebec, Canada, on May 29th 1966. That was the fourth race of the 1966 United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC), and the car broke mid-race. A few races later, on June 26th at Watkins Glen, Donohue lost control of the Lola and crashed. It caught fire and was totally destroyed, with Mark ending up in the hospital for a few days. However, Sun Oil (Sunoco), Penske’s main sponsor, arranged a new T70 for the team. This second Mk. II was chassis #SL71/47.
Founded in 1958 by Eric Broadley, Lola Cars International Ltd first introduced the T70 in 1965. The T70 Mk. I was their first sports car, created with input from F1 world champion John Surtees. It had a lightweight aluminum monocoque chassis designed to accommodate a big American V8. The body was made of fiberglass (GFRP, actually), and was very aerodynamic for the era. Upgraded in 1966, the T70 Mk. II had revised suspension, wider wheels, better aerodynamics and was 32 kg lighter. On their #SL71/47, Penske opted for an aluminum block Chevy 350 ci V8. Displacing 5735 cm³, fed through side-draft Weber carburetors, the engine delivered over 400 hp. The transmission was a Hewland LG500 4-speed manual gearbox, and brakes were from Girling. Though designed for endurance racing, the T70 shined in short sprint races. Its lightweight body and superior handling made it unbeatable.
The 1967 USRRC started at Las Vegas, on April 23rd. Mark Donohue, piloting the Lola T70 Mk. II #6 (chassis #SL71/47) came in first place, repeating that result at Riverside. On the following one, at Laguna Seca he came in third. Then, at Bridgehampton, Watkins Glen and Pacific Raceways he came in first again, all with #SL71/47. The Penske team did not race at Road America, and for the following race, at Mid-Ohio, Donohue debuted a Lola T70 Mk. III coupe. And once again, he came in first place. With such outstanding results, Mark Donohue won the 1967 USRRC.
In 1967, the combination Donohue + T70 was unstoppable, dominating the USRRC. That never happened before, from the series inception in 1963 until 1968, when Can-Am replaced it. You really don’t see that kind of dominance very often. And to prove it was no fluke, in 1968 he won the championship again! Nonetheless, in 1973 Mark Donohue would do something similar, piloting another Sunoco #6.
According to the “Only Le Mans” rule, a Lola T70 Mk. II should not be here. After all, it never raced at La Sarthe. However, it is a Mark Donohue ride. And to make things even better, it sports Sunoco war paint. The Sunoco livery, IMHO, is up there with Gulf, Martini and Rothmans in terms of coolness. In fact, it is ice cool. Moreover, Spark’s work on the model is superb, and it looks stunning. Honestly, a model that would sit well in any race car collection. Unfortunately though, nowadays it is hard to find. I was lucky to find one for a VERY reasonable price, and bought it right away. If by any chance you come upon one, grab it – it is worth it.