New Zealand’s world-leading Formula 5000 Association has big plans to mark the 50th anniversary of the iconic stock-block V8 single-seater category here, across the Tasman and in the United States, in 2018.
Over the January 20-21 weekend at the second annual Historic Grand Prix meeting at Taupo’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, over 20 group drivers, led by four-time SAS Autoparts/MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series champion Ken Smith (Lola T332), and 2016/17 series champion Brett Willis (Lola T330) will be the first in the world to contest an F5000 category race in the category’s Golden Jubilee year.
The 50th anniversary celebrations then continue at subsequent rounds of the 17/18 SAS Autoparts MSC series here in January and February, and in March in Australia, before culminating – for at least 12 of the SAS Autoparts MSC Series regulars – at the 44th annual Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion meeting at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the United States in August.
This year (2017) the circuit, situated near Monterey in Northern California, celebrated its 60th anniversary and next (2018) year both the 50th anniversary of the F5000 category and the 60th anniversary of Formula Junior will be marked at the prestigious Rolex meeting
The link between meetings here, Australia and the United States is particularly appropriate. The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) was the first sanctioning body to accommodate cars powered by production-based 5-litre V8 engines (known as Formula A or Formula 5000) and New Zealand was one of the first countries outside the United States to run a race for the cars.
That race, won by American Ron Grable driving a Spectre HR1 Formula 5000 car, was at Mount Maunganui’s Bay Park circuit on December 28 1968 and its success prompted the Motorsport Association of New Zealand to adopt Formula 5000 as the country’s national formula in 1969.
That group and Australia’s Confederation of Australian MotorSport (CAMS) then adopted it for the annual Tasman Series championship in 1970 and in its heyday – between 1970 and 1977 – Formula 5000 was the premier national single-seater formula in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, as well as one of the main domestic single-seater categories in the UK.
More recently the New Zealand Formula 5000 Association spearheaded what is now a truly global move to locate, restore and re-commission cars built for the various category series around the world in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Though the majority were built in Great Britain and sold to the United States, over 30 are now owned and regularly raced by category enthusiasts in New Zealand. Of that number at least 20 are expected on the grid at subsequent meetings here this season and as many as 15 should be at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports meeting at Laguna Seca between August 23 and 26.
After the first two rounds (at the ITM SuperSprint Supercars meeting at Pukekohe and the MG Classic at Manfeild in early November), young gun Michael Collins (McRae GM1) from Christchurch has established an early lead in the 2017/18 SAS Autoparts MSC NZ Tasman Cup Revival Series point standings with defending title holder Brett Willis (Lola T330) from Rotorua second and 2013/14 series champ Andy Higgins (Lola T332) from Auckland third.
Wills and Higgins are part of what currently is a 13-strong group of SAS Autoparts MSC Series regulars who have had their entries accepted for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion meeting.
Joining Willis, Higgins, Ken Smith and members of host US group the Formula 5000 Drivers Association on the grid at the meeting will be three-time former SAS Autoparts MSC Series champion Steve Ross (McRae GM1) from Dunedin, father and son Peter (McRae GM1) and Aaron (Talon MR1A) Burson, and Grant Martin (Talon MR1A), Glenn Richards (Lola T400) and Frank Karl (McLaren M10B) from Auckland, David Arrowsmith (Lotus 70) from Christchurch, Tony Roberts (McLaren M10A) from Napier, Tim Rush (McLaren M22) from Feilding and UK-based series regular Greg Thornton (Chevron B32).
The 2017/18 SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series is organised and run with the support of sponsors SAS Autoparts, MSC, NZ Express Transport, Bonney’s Specialised Bulk Transport, Mobil Lubricants, Pacifica, Avon Tyres, Webdesign and Exide Batteries.
You can follow the 2017/18 series on Facebook at F5000 New Zealand or on the NZ F5000 Association’s website www.F5000.co.nz