Formula 5000

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At the recent Racing Car Show there were three new single-seater racing cars, a Cooper, a Lola and a McLaren, each powered by a 5-litre, or 5,000 c.c., Chevrolet, V8 engine, their destiny being the new Formula 5000 racing to be organised by the B.R.S.C.C. This category of racing is strictly a National affair, having no status at the moment on the International scene, although other countries besides Britain are organising races to this Formula as domestic events. Briefly the Formula is for single-seater racing cars powered by mass-produced V8 engines of not more than 5,000 c.c., the accepted engine makes ranging from Chrysler to Rover, the degree of tune is limited, and F.I.A. Graded drivers are not allowed to take part. For 1969 there is a second permissible category for cars with engines between 1,500 c.c. and 2,000 c.c., and these can be out-and-out racing engines, but the idea of this is purely to help make up full starting grids until there are sufficient 5-litre cars about, so that the smaller-engined group will probably be dropped in 1970. This new form of racing will have some events organised by B.R.S.C.C. and B.A.R.C. under a National Open permit, which means that they are National events for British resident racing drivers principally but participation is allowed to foreign drivers who are not in the F.I.A. Graded list, which includes all the top Grand Prix and long-distance drivers.

The first event to be run will be at Oulton Park on Good Friday, followed by an event at Brands Hatch on Easter Monday, and at the moment there are nine events throughout the season, with the strong possibility of a lot more. Much of the inspiration for this new Formula arose from Formule Libre club-racing and hill-climbs, where special builders have been squeezing V8 engines into obsolete Grand Prix cars for some while. Some of these have been well engineered and successful machines, others have been rather tatty amateur affairs, but compared with a Grand Prix car have provided relatively cheap performance. It would seem that Formula 5000 will be mainly for the semi-professional driver and team and for works teams, and will not be for the club-driver. The three cars exhibited at Olympia were not cheap, the Lola costing £5,500, the Cooper £6,800 and the McLaren £7,055, in each case the car being powered by a Chevrolet V8 and being all ready to race, though half as much money again would probably have to be spent before a driver or team could consider themselves properly prepared for winning races. Anyone starting Formula 5000 from scratch with the minimum of the best equipment would probably have to lay out £10,000, but on the other hand there will no doubt be some people taking part with home-built second-hand vehicles for an outlay of £2,000. The McLaren factory intend to run a works car with Gethin driving and Lotus will run a works car later in the season driven by John Miles; Team Surtees will be involved with two works cars, for Hobbs and De Adamich.

Whatever happens in this form of racing we are going to be assured of some pretty noisy machinery and some impressive-looking cars, but what lies ahead for these big single-seaters is open to question at the moment. In America this form of racing is going ahead strongly at club level and could well spread into one of the professional fields of activity, and some people can foresee it taking over from Group 7 racing in the Canadian-American Series. When people like Shelby and Penske started putting big V8 engines into early Cooper sports-car chassis, starting the vogue that became Group 7 and Can-Am, a lot of us wondered why they wasted all the effort on making a two-seater, feeling that it would have been more interesting and exciting to have built single-seaters. Can-Am design has escalated to the point where the cars are virtually offset single-seaters with all-enveloping bodywork, and I have always felt they would have more appeal as open-wheel pure single-seaters. It could be that Formula 5000 will encourage Can-Am thinking in this more logical direction and this would be accompanied by the up-grading to International status for Formula 5000. On the other hand the whole idea could fizzle out like a damp squib as did the “Inter-Continental Formula” in 1961. Formula 5000 would appear to have a much more logical reasoning behind it than “Inter-Continental” and certainly touch more future.—D. S. J.