Formula 5000 cars return to Sandown
The largest number of Formula 5000’s on the grid in Australia in the 1970’s is reported to be 17. At the 2006 VHRR Historic Sandown motor races the number was 19!
This is Sandown meet was dubbed as the “Return of the Thunder”, and it was, not only with the 5000’s but also with the large Group C & A Touring Car grid. The Patron was two-times Bathurst winner John Goss, who was more importantly celebrating 30 years since he won the 1976 Australian Grand Prix in the Matich A53 Repco where he narrowly beat the Elfin of Vern Schuppan. Goss demonstrated the XA Falcon that he and Kevin Bartlett won Bathurst in 1974 & the TWR Group A Jaguar that won him the 1985 Bathurst 1000.
Of the nineteen F5000’s entered (most coming from New Zealand) there were a few Australian’s in the mix. Our best hope was Andrew Robson (Lola T332) who did it for his country in Race 1 on Saturday, although with tough competition from Ian Clements, also in a T332 Lola.
The F5000 rolling start. Photo courtesy of Robin Page
Aaron Lewis entered two cars with his brother Phillip driving the awesome Matich A50 & Aaron competing in the Chevron B24. Bill Hemming competed in the historically significant Elfin MR8-AC & Bob Harborow campaigned his Lola T142. Australian’s who showed early interest in competing were Paul Trevethan (Channel 9, Ansett Elfin MR6), Darcy Russell (Lola T332) and Graham Smith.
The racing was absolutely spectacular, and Springvale is still coming to terms with the uncharacteristic earth tremors at certain times on Friday, Saturday & Sunday – six times in fact!
Weather forecasts for Sunday didn’t deter competitors and race goers, and it held off. The F 5000 racing was even more spectacular than usual with rolling starts. Sunday mornings race though came unstuck for Robson, who was involved in a collision at turn one, which destroyed the rear assembly of the car (wing, exhausts, etc). This was short-lived because within two hours many people pitched in and re-built the car so Andrew could compete in the afternoon race. The Lola has now become known as the Lola (Matich A50 wing) after Aaron Lewis kindly donated the rear wing as the Matich had its continued mechanical problems after re-buting at Oran Park in June.
In an emotional heart-pumping race the feature race for the Australian vs. New Zealand battle, which was then tied at 1-1 took place with the cheers getting louder every lap as Robson made it from rear-of-grid to fourth within six laps of the ten. Then… disaster stuck, and no Robson. The Australian chance at knocking off the New Zealanders gone as the Lola T332 returned to pit lane. Hearts dropped all the efforts by so many almost paid off. A dejected Robson took off the steering wheel, climbed out of the car and walked off, with a great attitude – ready for Phillip Island in March.
The remainder of the race meeting report will follow shortly.
Report by: Charles Rogers