Big power and big noise at the Phillip Island Classic

By: Unique Cars magazine

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Formula 5000s celebrate 50 years at Phillip island Formula 5000s celebrate 50 years at Phillip island

Formula 5000s celebrate 50 years at Phillip Island

The tranquillity of Philip Island will be shattered March 9-11 when over 30 Formula 5000s from the 70s thunder around the seaside circuit, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the international open wheel class.

The International Challenge that the ground-shaking Formula 5000s will compete in headines the 2018 Phillip Island Classic, billed as Australia’s most popular historic race meeting and one of the biggest in the world.

The International Challenge aims to revive the spirit of the Tasman Series of the 1960s and 70s where grids full of F5000s and star drivers from around the globe battled our local heroes for eight consecutive weekends across New Zealand and Australia. 

Australians were at the forefront of F5000 with Frank Matich (Matich A50, 51, 52, 53), Elfin owner Garrie Cooper and Kiwi Graham McRae (McRae GM1, 2 and 3) all designing, building and racing their own cars and enjoying success around the world.

Honouring the milestone occasion of this international category are five Formula 5000 legends: Alfie Costanzo, Kevin Bartlett, Alan Hamilton, John McCormack and Ken Smith.

Costanzo, a winner of four Australian Drivers Championships, is the only one to lap the old Sandown Park circuit in under a minute.

Driving an ex James Hunt McLaren M26, converted to F5000 spec, he stopped the clock at 59.6sec.

Kevin Bartlett, or ‘Big Rev Kev', is a two-time Australian Drivers Champion and Bathurst 1000 winner with John Goss in 1974. Bartlett was named in Australia’s 50 greatest race drivers in Wheels magazine's 2004 Year Book.

Twice Australian Sports Car Champion, Alan Hamilton, the Porsche Importer for four decades, was a successful team owner.

As a driver, he placed third in the 1971 Australian Grand Prix for F5000s and second at Bathurst in 1977 with Colin Bond in the famous Ford 1-2 finish.

Tasmanian, John McCormack became one of the leading Formula 5000 racers in the 1970s winning the Australian Drivers’ Championship no less than three times.

McCormack also won the New Zealand Grand Prix in 1973 and 1974.

Kiwi Ken Smith MBE is a multiple New Zealand Grand Prix winner, competing for over 59 consecutive seasons.

He is five-time Gold Star winner, a three time Formula 5000 Revival victor as well as winning the Penang Grand Prix three times, the Selangor twice and Malaysian Grand Prix once. In 1995 he was inducted into the New Zealand motorsport Hall of Fame.

VHRR Formula 5000 Group Representative Bob Harborow said, "We will witness some spectacular racing and no doubt some great Trans-Tasman rivalry in the International Challenge at Phillip Island in March as the Formula 5000 cars are currently faster than the V8 Supercars racing.

To showcase this and celebrate the Formula 5000s, some of the races will be longer and patrons will witness cars such as the A50 Matich car which won the Australian Grand Prix, and the MR8 Elfin 5000 of Garrrie Cooper and Vern Schuppan which raced at both Laguna Seca, and Watkins Glen, in the USA."

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