BEN ANDERSON JOURNALIST-RACER
I’ve been lucky enough to race or test close to 100 different cars during my career at Autosport, and I often get asked which was the best or coolest or most exciting. Formula 5000 tops the lot.
I confess to not knowing much about this category when Simon Hadfield offered me a drive at the 2012 Silverstone Classic. All I knew was they were historic single-seaters, with big slick tyres, monster amounts of power, and very little downforce.
Probably the closest you could get to being in a F1 car of the period, without actually being in F1…
In actual fact I was lucky enough to drive two Formula 5000 cars. I was testing my Formula Vee at Mallory Park when Hadfield rocked up with his ex-bob Evans Trojan T101 and urged me to drive a few laps.
All I remember is that those laps went by in a blur of awesome acceleration. Gerard’s, Esses, Hairpin, Gerard’s, Esses, Hairpin. Bang! Bang! Bang! Barely time to breathe from one to the next. So much grunt; and unbelievable traction from enormous rear tyres. I also learned the Devil’s Elbow can be a real corner in the dry.
Unfortunately, the Trojan suffered engine failure before the Classic, so Simon put his ex-peter Gethin Chevron B37 at my disposal – fitting for the ‘Peter Gethin Trophy’ races I thought.
I remember gradually finding my feet with a brutal car; thundering along the straights, tiptoeing delicately through the corners, desperately trying to avoid a pendulum effect from the huge Chevrolet V8 in the back.
The driving was an unbelievable thrill, but it’s the noise that really stays with you. The crowds flocked whenever the engine fired up and I applied that first blip of throttle.
It never failed to send tremors through the earth, and a shiver down my spine.