Formula 5000

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1974 Lola T332.

Formula 5000 (or F5000) was an open wheel, single seater auto-racing formula that ran in different series in various regions around the world from 1968 to 1982. It was originally intended as a low-cost series aimed at open-wheel racing cars that no longer fit into any particular formula. The '5000' denomination comes from the maximum 5.0 litre engine capacity allowed in the cars, although many cars ran with smaller engines. Manufacturers included McLaren, Eagle, March, Lola, Lotus, Elfin, Matich and Chevron.

In its declining years in North America Formula 5000 was modified into a closed wheel, but still single-seat sports car racing category.

F5000 around the world[edit]

North America[edit]

Formula 5000 was introduced in 1968 as a class within SCCA Formula A races, a series where single seaters from different origins were allowed to compete, but which rapidly came to be dominated by the cars equipped with production-based American V8s. The engines used were generally 5 litre, fuel injected Chevrolet engines with about 500 horsepower (370 kW) at 8000 rpm, although other makes were also used.[1] The concept was inspired by the success of the Can-Am Series, which featured unlimited formula sports cars fitted with very powerful engines derived from American V8s; the idea was to replicate the concept using open wheel racing cars. F5000 enjoyed popularity in the early 1970s in the U.S. and featured drivers such as Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Bobby Unser, James Hunt, Jody Scheckter, Brian Redman, David Hobbs, Tony Adamowicz, Sam Posey, Ian Ashley, John Cannon and Eppie Wietzes.

Increasing costs and Lola domination meant the formula quickly lost its appeal after 1975. Older cars continued to be used in the SCCA national races, but the most competitive teams reconverted their cars with sports car bodyworks, in the resurrected Can-Am championship, starting in 1977. The formula worked initially, with a number of European drivers crossing the Atlantic to attend the SCCA-run championship, but when IMSA introduced the new GTP prototype regulations for the IMSA GT Championship in 1981, the old F5000 were now clumsy and slow compared to the new cars[citation needed].

Europe[edit]

In the UK, the arrival of the Cosworth DFV engine meant that many teams could now afford to build their own chassis around a good engine/transmission package, so Cooper, Lotus and Brabham stopped the production of customer Formula 1 cars. Unfortunately, smaller privateer teams and drivers that entered Britain's non-championship F1 events were left behind, and the RAC quickly adopted the American F5000 regulations.

A European championship was first run in 1969 as the Guards Formula 5000 Championship.[2] This was renamed to Guards European Formula 5000 Championship in 1971, to Rothmans European Formula 5000 Championship in 1972 and then to ShellSport European Formula 5000 Championship in 1974.[2]

Unlike the American series, the European championship didn't attract many star names from Formula 1 and sports cars, and was dominated by drivers that were usually seen in Formula 2 or at the back of F1's World Championship grids. Peter Gethin managed to launch his F1 career thanks to his F5000 championship titles. While it was based in the United Kingdom, the series managed to spread across Europe, with races held at many international circuits, including Monza (Italy), Hockenheim (Germany) and Zandvoort (Netherlands), and attracted a significant number of continental drivers.

The weak pound (a result of the energy crisis) and the increasing cost of importing Chevrolet V8 engines caused some concern and engine regulations for European F5000 were revised to permit engines other than the 5.0 litre pushrod V8s - the DOHC Cosworth GA V6 (based on a unit used in Group 2 Capris was permitted to race at a capacity of 3500cc. March 75A and Chevron B30 cars were successful with the V6, the March in particular being little more than a 751 Formula One car with minor modifications for the new engine.

However, the same problem that befell US F5000 happened in Europe, and in 1976 the European F5000 Championship evolved into the Shellsport Group 8 Championship. This was a British-based series for Formula 1, Formula 2, Formula 5000 and Formula Atlantic cars,[3] forming the basis of what would become the Aurora F1 Championship in 1978. The F1 Championship was open to Formula 1 and Formula 2 cars only, with Formula 5000 cars no longer eligible.

Older F5000 cars continued to be used in the British Sprint Championship and were common in Formula Libre races well into the 1980s.

Australia and New Zealand[edit]

In Australia and New Zealand, the Tasman Formula, defining cars eligible for the annual Tasman Series, was extended in 1970 to include Formula 5000 cars as well as the existing 2.5 litre cars.[4] The Tasman Series ran during the Formula One off season in the European winter, and in the late 1960s it had attracted the attention of the greatest names in Grand Prix racing, from locals Bruce McLaren and Jack Brabham to foreigners like Graham Hill and Jim Clark.

However, by the 1970s, the Tasman Series had become a competitive Australian/New Zealand local championship, but the more famous names were no longer taking part in the races, leaving the field to be dominated by the cream of "Down Under" drivers, racing against a few Europeans and the new appearance of American drivers. The four Australian Formula 5000 Tasman races continued (separate from the New Zealand races) as the Rothmans International Series from 1976 until 1979.

Formula 5000 was also the main component of Australian Formula 1 from 1971 to 1981 and this formula was the primary category contesting the Australian Drivers' Championship during those years and the Australian Grand Prix until 1980.

South Africa[edit]

In South Africa, F5000 first ran concurrently with used F1 cars.

Revival as historic racing category[edit]

The category was revived in the late 2000s in New Zealand as an amateur historic racing category. In 2009/2010, a five round race series was held, the final round as a support race for the 2010 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, Australia.[5]

The annual Wine Country Classic, a historic automobile racing event held at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, had a tribute to Formula 5000 in 2008.[6] At that time, the Wine Country Classic was a sister event to the popular Monterey Historic Automobile Races held at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California.

List of F5000 Champions[edit]

US Formula A/F5000 (1967–1976)
Single-seat Can-Am (1977–1986)
European F5000 Championship [7] Tasman Series (F5000 years) Australian Drivers' Championship
- CAMS Gold Star
(F5000 years)
New Zealand Gold Star
(F5000 years)
South African Gold Star
(F5000 years)
Year Driver Car Year Driver [7] Car Year Driver Car Year Driver Car Year Driver Car Year Driver Car
1967 United States Gus Hutchison Lotus 41[8]
1968 United States Lou Sell Eagle Mk4 1968 South Africa Jackie Pretorius Lola T140
1969 United States Tony Adamowicz Eagle Mk5 1969 (#1) United Kingdom Peter Gethin McLaren M10A 1969 South Africa John McNicol Lola T142
1970 Canada John Cannon McLaren M10B 1970 United Kingdom Peter Gethin McLaren M10B 1970 New Zealand Graeme Lawrence Ferrari 246T[9] 1970 New Zealand Graham McRae Begg FM2
McLaren M10A
1970 South Africa Bob Olthoff McLaren M10A
1971 United Kingdom David Hobbs McLaren M10B 1971 Australia Frank Gardner Lola T192
Lola T300
1971 New Zealand Graham McRae McLaren M10B 1971 Australia Max Stewart Mildren [10] 1971 New Zealand Graeme Lawrence Ferrari 246T
Brabham BT29
1971 South Africa Paddy Driver McLaren M10B
1972 New Zealand Graham McRae McRae GM1 1972 Netherlands Gijs van Lennep Surtees TS11 1972 New Zealand Graham McRae Leda LT27 1972 Australia Frank Matich Matich A50 1972 New Zealand David Oxton Begg FM4 1972 South Africa Eddie Keizan Surtees TS5
1973 South Africa Jody Scheckter Trojan T101
Lola T330
1973 Belgium Teddy Pilette Chevron B24 1973 New Zealand Graham McRae McRae GM1 1973 Australia John McCormack Elfin MR5 1973 New Zealand David Oxton Begg FM5 1973 South Africa Paddy Driver McLaren M10B
1974 United Kingdom Brian Redman Lola T332 1974 United Kingdom Bob Evans Lola T332 1974 United Kingdom Peter Gethin Chevron B24 1974 Australia Max Stewart Lola T330 1974 New Zealand David Oxton Begg FM5
1975 United Kingdom Brian Redman Lola T332
Lola T400
1975 Belgium Teddy Pilette Lola T400 1975 Australia Warwick Brown Lola T332 1975 Australia John McCormack Elfin MR6 1975 New Zealand Graeme Lawrence Lola T332
1976 United Kingdom Brian Redman Lola T332C 1976 Australia John Leffler Lola T400 1976 New Zealand Ken Smith Lola T332
1977 France Patrick Tambay Lola T333CS 1977 Australia John McCormack McLaren M23
1978 Australia Alan Jones Lola T333CS 1978 New Zealand Graham McRae McRae GM3
1979 Belgium Jacky Ickx Lola T333CS 1979 Australia Johnnie Walker Lola T332
1980 France Patrick Tambay Lola T530 1980 Australia Alfredo Costanzo Lola T430
1981 Australia Geoff Brabham Lola T530
VDS 001
1981 Australia Alfredo Costanzo McLaren M26
1982 United States Al Unser, Jr. Frissbee GR2
Frissbee GR3
1983 Canada Jacques Villeneuve Frissbee GR2
Frissbee GR3
1984 Republic of Ireland Michael Roe VDS 002
VDS 004
1985 United States Rick Miaskiewicz Frissbee GR3
1986 Canada Horst Kroll Frissbee KR3

Note #1: The inaugural “European F5000 Championship” was contested in 1969 as Guards Formula 5000 Championship.[2]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Posey, Sam (May 2010). "Formula 5000: America's Secret Series". Road & Track 61 (9): 90–97. Retrieved June 12, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c Wolfgang Klopfer, Formula 5000 in Europe: Race By Race Retrieved from books.google.com.au on 20 August 2012
  3. ^ The Formula One Archives Retrieved from www.silhouet.com on 20 August 2012
  4. ^ 1970 Tasman Season Retrieved from www.sergent.com.au on 22 July 2009
  5. ^ results from round six of the 2010 Tasman Cup revival
  6. ^ http://www.racesonoma.com/media/news/571567.html
  7. ^ a b European Formula 5000 Championship Retrieved from 8w.forix.com on 20 August 2012
  8. ^ Gus Hutchison's Lotus was a Formula B car powered by a 1.6 litre BRM-Ford engine - Formula A and Formula 5000 champions Retrieved from www.oldracingcars.com on 29 August 2009
  9. ^ Lawrence's car was powered by a 2.4 litre Ferrari engine - Formula A and Formula 5000 champions Retrieved from www.oldracingcars.com on 29 August 2009
  10. ^ Stewart's car was powered by a 2.0 litre Waggott engine - Guide to the Gold Star - Supplement to Racing Car News, August 1972, Page iv

External links[edit]