Comment on the Racing and Club Scene
Whither Formula 5000?
One class of racing that has not been mentioned in this column for some time is Formula 5000—the category of racing which uses chassis similar to Formula One cars but has power from 5-litre production based engines instead of 3-litre pure racing units. The Formula started in the United States, where it continues to thrive, while in Britain the class is in its fourth somewhat shaky year. Yet, John Webb of Motor Circuit Developments, and Rothmans have announced that they will be collaborating again in 1973 to run the championship with a 25 per cent increase in prize money.
Is this faith really justified? Take for instance the most recent round of the Rothmans Formula 5000 Championship held in August, at Silverstone. This was the 11th round of 15 in this year’s competition and the entry was fairly representative of other recent rounds.
Championship leader Brian Redman and his entrant Sid Taylor, who runs the works Chevron, are now concentrating on the US series so he was not present. Second man Gijs van Lennep was entered, however, in the latest Surtees TS11 which is run by the Brands Hatch based Speed International Racing team. The Dutchman won the race and elevated himself to the championship lead but who did he beat ? Well, second, only a few feet behind in the soaking conditions, was former American Formula 5000 Champion John Cannon who was giving his March-Oldsmobile a rare airing in Britain. But he has been concentrating mainly on the US series. Third was the young Walsall driver Steve Thompson with a last year’s Surtees TS8, backed by the Servis washing machine manufacturers, while fourth was Ian Ashley in a two-year-old Lola T190. Both the second and third place men in the Championship, Alan Rollinson and Graham McRae, ran into problems in the wet. McRae, who races cars of his own construction, formerly known as Ledas, is currently one of the most ardent supporters of Formula 5000. He has STP backed cars in both the European and American Championship jetting between the two continents to keep up his heavy schedule.
Alan Rollinson currently races the only 1972 type Lola T300 in Britain but crashed at Silverstone. The rest of the competitors, apart from Scottish driver Jock Russell who has just bought a new McRae, were all in old and outdated machinery and there was only a total of 13 entrants. During the season a similar number of drivers have scored points in the championship and only about six or seven new cars have appeared in the series. A far from healthy situation. It will be interesting to see how John Webb injects new life into the series next year. Something fairly drastic is needed if British Formula 5000 is not to become a complete backwater.
It is not surprising that some of the more serious British competitors have left the series to race in the similar competition in the United States which is also sponsored by a tobacco company—in this case L & M. As we go to press McRae leads this US championship having scored in all five rounds, and won three of them. His total prize money to date is a staggering $62,400. Sam Posey is second in the championship at present, with his Surtees, and Canadian Eppie Wietzes is third. In direct contrast to the British competition 25 and more cars are taking part in each race and the great majority of them are new this season. When that starts happening those in the know start taking notice of who is winning.
Perrot wins Championship
Zurich garage owner Xavier Perrot has already clinched the European Hill Climb Championship with his March 722 Formula Two car, and recently added the Fribourg round to his impressive list. This year the championship has been open to single-seaters for the first time, having previously been only for sports cars.
The decision encouraged Perrot, who has been a regular competitor in Formula Two racing for four or five years, to have a crack at the hills as he thought he was perhaps getting a little old for regular circuit racing. Actually he is in his 40s but can still give an excellent account of himself in Formula Two. Whatever, Perrot has completely dominated the HilIclimb Championship and, on the way, has broken most of the records which have stood since Peter Schetty in the special Ferrari hill climb 212E set them in 1968.
Round Britain event planned
The BRSCC is currently working on the possibility of running a Tour de France type of event in Britain next year, probably around early July. Like the French event, the Tour of Britain will visit racing circuits round the Country as well as hill climbs and will thus be something of a cross between a rally and a race. Full details have yet to he released but it is thought the event will be backed by a major tyre company and will start in the West Country. The idea is very much the brainchild of Peter Browning, former manager of British Leyland’s Competition Dept. and now Executive Director of the BRSCC.
• Although the JCB Championship has a round to go, The British Empire Trophy section of the competition, which takes in the Silverstone rounds, has been won by Willie Green who drives the JCB Maserati Tipo 61. Green, who also races modern cars, won by just one point from Peter van Rossem.
• The RAC has just issued 3 list of dates for major meetings in Britain next year. Here are some of the more important ones—March 18th, Race of Champions, Brands Hatch; April 8th International Trophy Meeting, Silverstone; April 15th, BOAC 1000 Kms.; May 13th, Gold Cup, Oulton Park; June 17th, Martini Trophy, Silverstone, July 14th, British Grand Prix, Silverstone. A fuller list is available from the RAC at 31 Belgrave Square, London, SW1. — A. R. M.