One International formula which seems to thrive on both sides of the Atlantic (as well as in Australia and New Zealand) is the Formula 5000 single-seater category, a class of racing which took quite a long time to get off the ground but now commands a loyal following. In Europe the F5000 Championship is backed by Rothmans and, over the past month or so, Bob Evans and Peter Gethin have entrenched themselves firmly at the head of the points table.
Evens, 27, comes from Newent in Gloucestershire and drives a Lola T332 with backing from STP under the McKechnie Wines/ Henry Forklift banner, this being his second season in the category. Gethin, who won the F5000 titles in 1969 and 70, drives a works Chevron B28 entered by the Belgian Team VDS. However, at the Brands Hatch Bank Holiday round of the championship, yet another motor race to be ruined by a downpour of rain after the cars had started on slicks, neither of these drivers found their way to the winner’s circle.
Evans established fastest practice time for the 60 lap race to annex pole position, flanked by Vern Schuppan, the Australian having given up his Formula 1 aspirations to concentrate on F5000 at the wheel of a similar Lola to Evans’, this one entered by Sid Taylor and Teddy Yip. Evans immediately went into the lead at the start, pulling comfortably away from all his rivals until the 20th lap. By this time a light shower of rain had doused the Brands Hatch club circuit and, as the leading Lola came out onto the top straight at virtually walking pace, it spun into the barrier. The impact was only sufficient to dislodge the nose section of the Lola and Evans took the chequered flag standing up in his car taking off his gloves at the same time!
After the re-start, held in pouring rain by this time, it was none other than Tony Dean who dominated the race to the end. By the finish, the Yorkshireman’s Chevron was comfortably ahead of Ulster’s Damien Magee in another B24 while Evens, whose tyres had started to wear very badly, dropped to third in this second ‘heat”. When the aggregate results were calculated, Dean was a comfortable winner from Magee, Evans and Ian Ashley’s Lola. Unlucky Gethin failed to start the second part, the radiator of his Chevron having been damaged beyond immediate repair when he spun into the pit wall during the rain shower.
The next round of the Rothmans Championship, by which time the tobacco concern had confirmed its intention to withdraw from motor racing sponsorship in 1975, took place at OuIton Park two weeks later. This meeting carried the title of the Gold Cup, the status of this northern gathering having dropped somewhat since its days as a non-Championship Formula 1 event. Again Evans was on pole position, flanked by Gethin, and again his red Lola dominated the race from the start. Four laps from the finish Evans slowed dramatically with a deflating rear tyre, handing victory to Ashley’s 1973 Lola T330 from Teddy Pilette’s Team VDS Chevron and Keith Holland in the Embassy Lola T332. Evans was eventually classified sixth, while Peter Gethin’s works Chevron broke its gearbox while holding second place in the race’s opening stages.
On the North American scene, Brian Redman is currently leading their F5000 contest with another Lola T332 owned and entered by North American Lola importer Carl Haas. Redman, who left the UOP Shadow Formula 1 team after the Monaco Grand Prix, recently won the F5000 California Grand Prix at Ontario Motor Speedway, leading home no fewer than five other Lolas headed by Mario Andretti in the Viceroy entered car.
The remaining finishers in the top half dozen were David Hobbs, Mike Mosley, John Gunn and Jerry Grant while other European runners included James Hunt and Sig. Lella Lombardi, both of whom drove Lolas owned by a Californian Ferrari importer and neither of whom finished. Australia’s Warwick Brown was very impressive in his first race outside his native country while a degree of variety was injected into the race by the presence of USAC driver Lloyd Ruby at the wheel of an Offenhauser powered Eagle.
Can-Am’s shaky future
After mentioning in last month’s Sports Round-up that the UOP Shadows of Jack Oliver and George Follmer were dominating the 1974 Can-Am series, it now seems as though this category is likely to fold up altogether. Promoters seem to be showing little interest and, after the Elkhart Lake race when both the Shadows failed, leaving victory to Scooter Patrick’s Old McLaren M20, it became clear that the future was bleak.
Even though Oliver clinched the title, the races at Laguna Seca and Riverside were struck from the fixture list. The main stumbling block to any future plans is the SCCA’s failure to find a major sponsor for the series and the consequent requirement for individual organisers to come up with large prize funds for the races. Further, it is planned that the 1976 Can-Am Championship should be run for sports cars with 3-litre pure racing engines or 5-litre production based units; and no team is likely to spend large sums of money into re-equipping their team unless they can be assured of a guaranteed programme of races.
This problem concerning the future of the big-engined sports car championship is exaggerated by the recent SCCA announcement which confirms that some ten circuits have expressed a desire to organise rounds of the Formula 5000 series. And there is growing speculation that the Can-Am name may well be moved to cover this category.
A win at Hockenheim for Alain Serpaggi’s Alpine-Renault means that the French team has now clinched the European 2-litre sports car Championship. Although the fast German circuit admirably suited the powerful Alpines, their margin of victory was a mere eight-tenths of a second ahead of the Brian Hart-engined Chevron driven by John Lepp.
Gerard Larrousse won the first heat comfortably only to have the engine in his Alpine fail during the second heat, leaving team mates Serpaggi and Jean-Pierre Jabouille to dispute the lead. Unfortunately, the two other Frenchmen got just a little too carried away for their own comfort and contrived to tangle with each other as they swung through one of the infield turns. Jabouille restarted first to win the heat, while Serpaggi gobbled up Lepp’s second place advantage over the final five laps to win the race on aggregate by eight-tenths of a second.
Third place on aggregate went to former Lotus Grand Prix driver David Walker driving one of the original GRD 2-litre sports cars, now renamed a Toj by Swiss entrant Jorg Obermoser. With another three rounds left to run, although the constructors’ title has been decided, the destiny of the drivers’ championship is by no means at an end, Serpaggi currently leading with 65 points followed by Lepp with 41 and Larrousse with 40.
A similarly close points situation exists in the European Formula Two Championship, the lead of which is being contested fiercely by the two March works drivers Patrick Depailler and Hans-Joachim Stuck. The most recent race was at the Sicilian circuit of Enna-Pergusa where Stuck scored a lucky first place after taking time off for three spins during the course of the race.
Stuck led the first thirty lap heat from start to finish in an assured style which recalled his dominant early season races, Jacques Coulon’s March-BMW and David Purley’s Chevron B27 following him across the line. But the German failed to repeat this performance in the second heat, spinning on three occasions in the chicanes and finally finishing second to Jacques Laffite’s BF sponsored March-BMW, Laffite’s efforts in the second heat had little effect on his overall placing as he’d ignominiously run out of petrol on the first heat and been forced to call in for extra petrol. But the organisers refused to let him rejoin the race and left him to watch Stuck come across the line first.
David Purley drove an energetic race into second place providing consolation for Team Harper after Tom Pryce had crashed their other Chevron heavily, fortunately without injury.
Schenken to Lotus
Team Lotus will be running three cars in the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen on October 6th, their third driver being none other than 30-year-old Australian Tim Schenken. Schenken had been handling the Trojan T103 in certain European events this season, but the Ron Tauranac organised team did not always get an entry as they were not members of the Formula 1 Constructors’ Association.
Schenken, who drove a works Brabham in 1971 and a works Surtees in 1972, will handle one of the Lotus 76s at Watkins Glen, rather a disappointment perhaps for Jim Crawford and his French colleague Rene Arnoux (another Lotus “trainee”), but nonetheless an understandable choice. An experienced driver is, clearly more important to Lotus for this “big money” finale to the World Championship.—A.H.