Sin­gle-seaters that made the ground shake. By Paul Lawrence and Kevin Turner

Motor Sport News - - Monsters: Formula 5000 -

life, but it was in­cred­i­bly spec­tac­u­lar and made a big im­pres­sion on the driv­ers and fans of the era.

Ini­tially styled on the suc­cess of the Can-am sports car cat­e­gory, For­mula A was in­tro­duced in the US in 1968 to of­fer pow­er­ful but af­ford­able sin­gle-seater rac­ing with cars us­ing pro­duc­tion-based V8 en­gines.

In less than a year, Brands Hatch pro­moter John Webb con­cluded a deal to bring the cat­e­gory to Europe where it was badged as For­mula 5000. The early cars were pretty agri­cul­tural but Lola, in par­tic­u­lar, led chas­sis de­vel­op­ment and into the early 1970s the cars be­came very ef­fec­tive.

At the same time, fall­ing en­tries were af­fect­ing the early sea­son non­cham­pi­onship For­mula 1 races like the Sil­ver­stone In­ter­na­tional Tro­phy and the Brands Hatch Race of Cham­pi­ons. Adding F5000s to the field was the ob­vi­ous so­lu­tion, but the thun­der­ing V8s were never in­tended to beat the grand prix cars and driv­ers.

At Sil­ver­stone in April 1973, David Hobbs (Lola T330) traded lap times with Jackie Ste­wart and Emerson Fit­ti­paldi but it was Peter Gethin’s over­all win in the Race of Cham­pi­ons three weeks ear­lier that re­ally grabbed the head­lines. Gethin’s works five-litre Chevron B24 beat Denny Hulme and James Hunt to the cha­grin of the grand prix es­tab­lish­ment.

The F5000 cat­e­gory en­joyed a Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship for seven sea­sons from 1969 and ti­tles fell to Gethin (twice), Frank Gard­ner, Gijs van Len­nep, Teddy Pilette (twice) and Bob Evans. Across the con­ti­nents, driv­ers like Brian Red­man, Gra­ham Mcrae, Jody Scheck­ter, Alan Jones, Frank Matich, John Mccor­mack, David Ox­ton and Graeme Lawrence were at the sharp end of For­mula 5000. Mclaren, Lola, Sur­tees and Chevron all took Euro­pean ti­tles and it was Lola, with the T330 and its T332 and T400 evo­lu­tions that topped the man­u­fac­turer stakes.

The cat­e­gory sur­vived longer in the US and also en­joyed pop­u­lar­ity in Aus­tralia, New Zealand and South Africa. But it did not last and US sup­port dwin­dled in the mid-70s as cars were con­verted to sports car body­work for the re-born Can-am class. In Europe, the 1973 oil cri­sis made US en­gines more ex­pen­sive and a move to al­low the 3.4-litre Cos­worth GA en­gine did not re­ally in­ject the new life needed. The class mor­phed into the ‘run what you brung’ Group 8 cat­e­gory and then the ill-starred Bri­tish F1 Cham­pi­onship as the F5000s qui­etly dropped from view.

How­ever, there is no ques­tion that in its pomp, For­mula 5000 was loud, brash, and spec­tac­u­lar and con­tested by some qual­ity driv­ers. A grid full of the 5-litre mon­sters re­ally did make the ground shake. The fact that they were able to race at cir­cuits like Mal­lory Park and Cas­tle Combe gave fans of the era some un­for­get­table mem­o­ries.

For­tu­nately, For­mula 5000 lives on to­day in his­toric rac­ing and the cars are still raced hard in the UK, Aus­tralia, New Zealand and the US as the rolling thun­der of 40 years ago con­tin­ues to thrill race fans.

F5000 cars were ca­pa­ble of tak­ing on F1 ma­chines

Teddy Pilette: a dou­ble champ

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