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Gijs van Lennep in the Shellsport Lola T330 at the 1973 Race of Champions. Copyright Richard Bunyan 2007.  Used with permission.

British and European Formula 5000 1969-1977

Formula 5000 evolved out of a tradition in Britain of Formule Libre cars using redundant F1 chassis with large, powerful and reasonable inexpensive American V8 engines. The most famous of the pre-F5000s was actually a custom-built car, the Kincraft, which had dominated British libre racing in 1966, 1967 and 1968 but by the end of that period there were at least ten other such cars running in British libre using Chevrolet, Traco-Oldsmobile or Ford Shelby Cobra engines.

The final trigger for the introduction of the category was the success of the SCCA's Formula A in 1968, which had attracted the attention of UK constructors Lola and McLaren, ensuring a reliable supply of purpose-built cars. John Webb, the highly influential boss of Motor Circuit Developments (MCD), operators of Brands Hatch, Mallory Park, Snetterton and Oulton Park, and Nick Syrett of the British Racing and Sports Car Club (BRSCC) organised a series of races for 1969 and secured sponsorship from the Carreras/Rothmans tobacco group through their Guards brand.

Although one of the most famous and fondly-remembered categories of motor racing, the F5000 championship lasted for just seven year in the UK, from the start of 1969 to the end of 1975. For a futher two seasons, the F5000 cars were part of a Group 8 championship including F1, F2 and Formula Atlantic cars, but the cancellation of the US series at the end of 1976 meant that no new F5000 cars were being built. The UK Group 8 championship morphed further into the Aurora AFX championship for 1978, when F5000 cars were excluded. The remaining F5000s continued to race in hillclimbs, sprints and libre racing until 1984, when they became eligible for historic racing. They have been a popular element of the HSCC's Derek Bell Trophy since 2001.

The seasons

The 1969 season: Oulton Park, Brands Hatch, Brands Hatch, Mallory Park, Silverstone, Mondello Park, Koksijde, Zandvoort, Snetterton, Hockenheim, Oulton Park, Brands Hatch.

The 1970 season: Oulton Park, Brands Hatch, Zolder, Zandvoort, Silverstone, Brands Hatch, Castle Combe, Mallory Park, Mondello Park, Silverstone, Monza, Anderstorp, Salzburgring, Thruxton, Silverstone, Oulton Park, Snetterton, Hockenheim, Oulton Park, Brands Hatch.

The 1971 season: Mallory Park, Snetterton, Brands Hatch, Mondello Park, Silverstone, Castle Combe, Mallory Park, Monza, Mallory Park, Thruxton, Silverstone, Oulton Park, Snetterton, Hockenheim, Oulton Park, Brands Hatch.

The 1972 season: Brands Hatch, Mallory Park, Snetterton, Brands Hatch, Nivelles-Baulers, Silverstone, Mondello Park, Oulton Park, Mallory Park, Brands Hatch, Silverstone, Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Brands Hatch.

The 1973 season: Brands Hatch, Mallory Park, Silverstone, Snetterton, Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Mallory Park, Misano, Zandvoort, Mallory Park, Mondello Park, Silverstone, Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Jyllands-Ringen, Zandvoort, Snetterton, Brands Hatch.

The 1974 season: Brands Hatch, Mallory Park, Silverstone, Oulton Park, Brands Hatch, Zolder, Thruxton, Zandvoort, Mugello, Monza, Mallory Park, Mondello Park, Thruxton, Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Snetterton, Mallory Park, Brands Hatch.

The 1975 season: Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Brands Hatch, Silverstone, Zolder, Zandvoort, Thruxton, Snetterton, Mallory Park, Thruxton, Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Silverstone, Snetterton, Mallory Park, Brands Hatch.

The 1976 season: Mallory Park, Snetterton, Oulton Park, Brands Hatch, Thruxton, Brands Hatch, Mallory Park, Snetterton, Brands Hatch, Thruxton, Oulton Park, Brands Hatch, Brands Hatch.

The 1977 season: Mallory Park, Snetterton, Oulton Park, Brands Hatch, Mallory Park, Thruxton, Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Mallory Park, Donington Park, Brands Hatch, Thruxton, Snetterton, Brands Hatch.

Non-championship races in brackets.

Wins by Constructor 1969-1977

  1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 Total
Lola 3 3 5 2 4 12 12 2   43
McLaren 4 14 5 2         21 27
Chevron       2 5 6 2 6   21
Surtees 5 1 5 3         51 19
March             2 3 43 9
Trojan         5         5
Leda       3           3
McRae       2 1         3
Brabham1               11   1
Lyncar1                 11 1
Penske1                 11 1
Ralt2                 12 1
Williams1               11   1

Some wins in this table were by F1 cars1, F2 cars2 or F5000 cars with F1 engines3

Race starts by Constructor 1969-1977

  1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 Total
Lola 83 88 40 29 86 149 141 32 49 697
McLaren 10 80 90 84 30 24 13 2 4 337
Chevron 2     3 62 71 44 46 31 259
March     4 6 7 11 30 67 49 174
Surtees 17 12 29 25 9 3   16 30 141
Trojan         42 37 9 6 4 98
Brabham 15 5 8 4   4 2 11 3 52
McRae       9 23 1   10 4 47
Crosslé   18 16 8           42
Lotus 17 5 5 9           36
Leda   10 13 6           29
Modus           2 4 20   26
Cooper 7 10 6             23
Dulon   13 7             20
Kitchiner 4 13 3             20
Williams               9 8 17
Ralt               7 9 16
Kitchmac       10 5         15
BRM 10   3             13
Lyncar               9 3 12
Penske               5 6 11
Ward             11     11
Boxer               8 2 10
Sana               6 2 8
Shadow               8   8
Beattie   4 3             7
Begg         6         6
BRP 6                 6
Harrier     5             5
Hesketh                 5 5
Conchord 3                 3
Ensign               3   3
Harris   3               3
Wimhurst                 3 3
Hepworth 2                 2
Kincraft     1 1           2
Connew         1         1
Contender             1     1
Nike   1               1