MIKE WILDS 1974 FRONTRUNNER
I was desperate to try and go to Formula 1 and we did the 1974 Formula 5000 season. We started with the support race to the Race of Champions at Brands. If you finished well on the Saturday you were invited on to the back of the grid for the non-championship F1 race on Sunday.
It was a massive eye-opener for me because I’d been racing 1600cc Formula 3 with 120bhp and suddenly I was sitting in a converted F1 March that had a five-litre Chevrolet in the back with in excess of 500bhp.
It was a stunning engine. Putting your foot down in an F5000 and driving it in anger was sensational. They were a man’s motor car. The cars were heavy with the iron block engine and there was quite a lot of weight management.
I seemed to click with handling the power and it taught me a lot. Peter Gethin was in the lead and I managed to get up to third behind Brian Redman’s Lola. I learnt a lot from battling with Brian and I finished second. At that time, that was the highlight of my career.
After a couple of rounds I was leading the European Championship. I was chuffed to bits to get a pole at Brands and I don’t think I’ve ever had so much adrenaline pumping through my veins as when I was sitting on the grid with another 20 cars behind me.
Then I had an accident at Thruxton that was the end of my F5000 season as I broke my wrist. I was coming up to lap Tony Dean and was flat up to the chicane at about 180mph. As I went past he moved to the right and clipped my wheel.
The previous week Hans Stuck had broken his thumb at Monaco in the works F1 March and I’d had a call from Max Mosley at March asking if I’d do the Swedish GP the weekend after Thruxton. I was very upset about that.