The Formula 5000 Drivers Association held round three of its 40th Anniversary Historic Races during the weekend of September 6-7, 2008 at Watkins Glen as part of the U.S. Vintage Grand Prix.
Overall winner of the Sunday Race and placing in first place in Class B (post 1971 cars) was Jay Esterer in a 1973 McRae GM1. Winner of Class A (pre 1972 cars) was Steve Davis driving a 1969 Gurney Eagle Mk5.
Second place in Class A went to Mark Harmer driving a 1969 Surtees TS5. Third place went to Bruce Leeson driving a 1969 McLaren M10B.
In Class B, second place went to Hamish Somerville driving a 1974 Lola T400. Hamish had a very spirited chase with Esterer both in the Feature Race on Sunday and the Qualifying Race on Saturday. Hamish had won the previous two rounds at Infineon and Road America. Third place in Class B went to Ted Wenz who returned to Formula 5000 racing after a three-year absence driving a late 1971 McRae GM1.
According to Seb Coppola, president of the Formula 5000 Drivers Association which is organizing the 40th Anniversary reunion races and celebration: “We had another large field with 17 Formula 5000 race cars participating in our final round of the 2008 Anniversary races. The drivers, the race fans and everyone involved with the event enjoyed the scene and atmosphere immensely at such an historic race track as Watkins Glen. I also congratulate Steve Davis for winning the 2008 U.S. Championship. He participated in all three events and displayed his excellent racing skills.”
Attending the weekend activities at the Glen were four Champions from the original F5000 series. Tony Adamowicz, the 1969 champion was reunited with his 1969 Gurney Eagle championship car and raced it during the weekend. Warwick Brown, the 1975 Tasman Series champion visited from Australia and reconnected with his 1975 championship Lola T332 car. Graham McRae, the 1972 US champion and 1971-1973 Tasman champion, visited from New Zealand and enjoyed seeing again a number of the cars he built, including the race winning car. Brian Redman, the 1974 through 1976 US champion, was the race Grand Marshall for the weekend and also reconnected with his 1976 winning Lola T332 car.
Seb Coppola added: “We were delighted to have these and other former drivers participate in this third event of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Formula 5000. We were extremely pleased to be able to honor each of the four champions with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Motorsports sponsored by Vintage Motorsport Magazine. These champions have made an extraordinary contribution to the development of the Formula 5000 Series and our Motorsport heritage.”
The weekend races started with the Qualifying Race on Saturday. The field of 17 cars was narrowed down to 15 due to mechanical problems to the Tony Adamowicz and Chris Pedersen’s cars. On pole for the Qualifying race was Jay Esterer in his 1973 McRae GM1 who had set a best lap of 1 minute 50 seconds in the practice sessions. Not far behind at a lap time of 1’52” was Hamish Somerville in his 1974 Lola T400. Dudley Cunningham in his 1974 Lola T332 rounded the third spot on the starting grid.
At the start of the race, Jay Esterer pulled to a lead and a win in his very fast McRae GM1. Hamish Somerville shadowed Esterer for the entire race skillfully driving his Lola T400 and placing in second place. Dudley Cunningham took third place overall and first in Class X. Ted Wenz had a superb race, after sorting out the car during the weekend, finishing in 3rd place in Class B and 4th overall from starting in 6th place. Eddie Claridge in his Theodore TY02 rounded the top 5 finishers in the Qualifying Race.
With a few mechanical problems resolved, the field for the Sunday F5000 Feature Race increased to 17 cars with Jay Esterer again on pole and Hamish Somerville next to him in the front row. Dudley Cunningham, Ted Wenz, Eddie Claridge and Steve Davis filled the next two rows.
Esterer and Somerville battled for the lead for the first few laps but the much faster McRae GM1 in the fearless hands of Esterer increased its lead and captured 1st place. Somerville preserved his 2nd place finish only a few seconds behind. Third place overall went to Eddie Claridge who climbed from a 5th place start in a well driven race. Dudley Cunningham, Miles Jackson, Ted Wenz, Steve Davis, Mark Harmer, Bruce Leeson and Jim Stengel rounded out the top 10 finishes.
A noteworthy entry was James Denty who came from Norfolk, England to race his former 1970 Lotus 70. Denty was clocking lap times in the 1:56 in one of the older cars in the field. Unfortunately, a front suspension problem took him out of the competition in the Qualifying race. He is very enthused to return to the U.S. in 2009.
In addition to individual race trophies, the Formula 5000 Drivers Association also awarded a Championship Trophy based on points accumulated over the three main events at Infineon, Road America and Watkins Glen.
With a first place finish in both the Qualifying and Feature races, Steve Davis earned the top points for the season and locked the U.S. Championship. Hamish Somerville finished a close second and Bruce Leeson in third place. Below are the complete cumulative point standings after the third and final round:
2009 Plans and Beyond
After the Feature Race and podium presentation, Seb Coppola announced that the U.S. Revival of Formula 5000 will continue into the future. He noted: “The response to our 40th Anniversary reunion has been phenomenal. People are bringing out F5000 cars that had not seen the light of day in decades. This level of interest in Formula 5000 gives us reason to continue with future events into 2009 and thereafter.”
The Formula 5000 revival is not going to be just a one-year phenomenon. We have a few things in the planning phase about next year’s events. Stay tuned for further news in the coming months.”
The Formula 5000 Drivers Association is a membership car club established to promote the registration, restoration and use of historic Formula 5000 race cars. The Association organizes vintage racing events and other activities for its members. In addition, the Association manages a registry of Formula 5000 cars at www.F5000Registry.com.
[Source: F5000 Registry]