A day at Silverstone with Sid Taylor, Peter Gethin and Castrol

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We arrived at Silverstone early on a misty spring morning – practice for the Daily Express-GKN Trophy race. Half a dozen cars had already arrived, but, apart from the activities of a few vigilant scrutineers, the most urgent matter in the paddock seemed to be hot coffee.

Things began to hum at about 9 o’clock with the first roar of a racing engine. A March. It seemed be a signal to, for before long the paddock was alive with activity.

At about 11 o’clock Peter Gethin and Sid Taylor arrived. We wanted to talk to them about themselves, Formula 5000.

The Formula started off in 1969. For the first part of the season Taylor entered a works Lola, but had to withdraw later due to a clash with his Group 4 racing commitments.

This year he’s entered a McLaren M10B, and his driver is Peter Gethin.

We asked Peter Gethin to tell us a bit about his racing career.

‘Like so many other drivers, I started racing in a Lotus 7. After that I moved up to a Lotus 25, then on to Formula 3 – first with Charles Lucas, then with Sports Motors, Manchester.’

‘In 1968 I broke into Formula 2 with Frank Lithgoe, and then went on to Formula 5000 in 1969, driving a Church Farm McLaren. This year I’m driving Sid’s McLaren.’

In fact, despite a poor finish to last season, Gethin won the Formula 5000 championship. He’s not doing badly this year, either. Four starts and three firsts. It might have been four, if it hadn’t started raining.

We asked them what they thought about the new Formula.

‘It’s early days yet,’ said Sid Taylor, ‘But we think it’s got a great future. In spite of restrictions, like no injection or aluminium heads, we’re getting the cars to go better and faster all the time. I think we’ll soon be faster than Formula 1.’

At the moment, however, Formula 1 cars have 2 to 3 secs. a lap advantage over 5000.

This meeting, and the Oulton Park Gold Cup, are the only two of the season where Formula 1 meets Formula 5000. As such, it’s extremely important to drivers like Peter Gethin. It’s one of the rare occasions when he can race amongst the Formula 1 graded drivers.

Before he went off for the first practice session, we asked Gethin who he thought was his main competition this year.

‘At the moment, if I had to name anyone, I’d name Gardner, Hailwood, Walker and McRae. But it’s hard to say. The competition’s getting closer all the time, and I can think of at least ten cars that could be competitive. It’s going to be a tough season.’

Gethin’s speed in practice was fast enough to earn for him a place on the front row of the grid. Among the Formula 1 ‘s. In fact, the only drivers faster than him that morning were Chris Amon and Jackie Stewart, both in Formula 1 cars.

Neither Sid Taylor nor Peter Gethin would say anything about plans to enter Formula 1. Peter Gethin drove Formula 1 in the Race of Champions this year, but that’s the only time so far. We’d like to bet that it won’t be the last.

We asked them if they had any lubrication problems. Sid Taylor answered:

‘We always go to Castrol if there are any, because they’re the experts. But we don’t often have problems. For example after four really tough races this season, we stripped down the engine, and found it clean as a whistle!

He’s been using Castrol for four years now.

The practice day was over. The covers were on the cars. Peter Gethin waved goodbye as he turned his lime green Porsche out of the paddock.

We wish him and Sid Taylor the best of luck for the season.