Team Haas F1 came to life in late 1984, after Carl Haas had secured sponsorship from Beatrice Foods in the American CART series. Haas convinced Beatrice to also fund their entry into Formula 1 for 1985. Having secured Beatrice’s support, Haas went to find an engine supplier for the project. Plagued manufacturer Ford was in the process of developing a new turbocharged engine (known as the TEC) in conjunction with Cosworth to replace the ageing 3.0L naturally aspirated DFV V8. Haas negotiated an exclusive deal with Ford for their new engine.
1980 World Champion Alan Jones was taken on as a driver for the one car team, making his comeback at 39 years of age.
With all the pieces of the puzzle now in the box, Haas began assembling his design team. Formerm Mclaren-owner Teddy Mayer became co-owner of the team and helped set up their base. The company Formula One Race Car Engineering (FORCE) was established by the team, operating out of an old disused factory in Colnbrook, England. Leading the design team was ex-Williams designer Neil Oatley, with a young Ross Brawn under his wing.
Carl Haas chose to use the more recognizable and popular Lola name over Haas or FORCE. He was the official importer of Lola Cars in America, which permitted him to use the brand on his new car.
At the start of the 1985 Formula 1 season, the TLH1 was still under development.
It would not make its debut until the 12th round at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix. The car’s slow development was compounded by the fact that Ford-Cosworth did not have their engine ready at all.
Keith Duckworth of Cosworth had first built a 4-cylinder engine, which had exploded constantly in dyno testing. Duckworth then had to start all over again, this time choosing a V6-layout. Cosworth’s bumbling antics forced Carl Haas to look for an engine elsewhere. He ended up at Brain Hart Limited, buying a batch of 415T 1.5L 4-cylinder turbocharged engines rated at 750 horsepower. The unit was integrated into the TLH1 chassis and backed by a Hewland/FORCE 6-speed manual transmission.
Finally, after the turbulent development fase, the car was on the track at Monza. Alan Jones could not get the car past 25th on the grid, qualifying almost 10 seconds slower than pole sitter Ayrton Senna in the superior Lotus 97T. After just 6 laps the new car’s debut was over, with an overheating engine ending the fun prematurely for the grumpy Australian. The team was disqualified for the next race at Spa Francorchamps, as their late entry meant they were not on the original entry list before the race date had been changed.
The European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch saw the car in 22nd on the grid, 6 seconds behind Ayrton Senna, again on pole position. Jones dropped out with a broken radiator on lap 13. Formula 1’s flying circus moved to Kyalami next for the politically sensitive South African Grand Prix. At the height of Apartheid, the French Ligier and Renault teams boycotted the event. The Haas-Lola would also be withdrawn, but for a very different reason. Alan Jones had come down with a bad case of the flu and wasn’t fit enough to start.
The final Grand Prix of the 1985 season took place on the streets of Adelaide, Australia. It was the first iteration of the World Championship Australian Grand Prix. Alan Jones felt motivated to score in front of a home crowd, but failed to impress during qualifying. He put the car in 19th position on the grid, 4.5 seconds behind qualifying god Ayrton Senna. Jones stalled the car on the grid at the start rendering him dead last. After getting a push start he made a miraculous charge through the field after being a quarter lap behind. He was running as high as 6th when the TLH1’s electrical system robbed him of a good result.
Team Haas again suffered from slow development implementing the Ford V6 in the new TLH2 chassis for 1986. The older car was drafted into service again, gaining a twin sister for ex-Ferrari and Renault driver Patick Tambay (FRA). The first race at Jacarepaguá, Brazil, saw Tambay qualify 13th and Jones 19th. Both cars would drop out. Jones’ injection system would pck up after 5 laps, while Tambay 24 laps before his battery died on him.
The next round was at Jérez for the Spanish Grand Prix. Alan Jones out-qualified Patrick Tambay by 0.04 seconds, slotting into 17th to Tambay’s 18th. Jones never made it round the track, as he was involved in a start line collision. Patrick Tambay would record the car’s first and best finish, coming in in 8th. He was six laps down on race winner Ayrton Senna.
The TLH1’s final race would be at Imola, San Marino. It’s replacement had finally been completed, with Alan Jones receiving the Ford-Cosworth V6 powered THL2. Patrick Tambay would put the older car in an impressive 11th place on the grid, with Alan Jones in the newer TLH2 way down in 21st. Staying true to form, the TLH1 would drop out in its last ever outing. Tambay went out with his engine committing suicide on the 5th lap. Carrying on the tradition, the new TLH2 lasted until lap 28 before the new 900 horsepower V6 overheated.
The Lola TLH1 chassis had managed to finish just once in 7 races, making the program a total disaster for Carl Haas. The team would continue developing the Ford V6-powered TLH2 in the 1986 season.
Alan Jones later commented on the pathetic performance of the Hart 415T engine in a 2012 interview. He said using the engine was ‘like sending a boy to do a man’s job.‘ He added: ‘it was an old Formula 2 engine that someone had thrown a turbo on and said: “lets go and do Formula One” ‘.