US Vintage Grand Prix: Pictures & Words ~ by John Stone

Ramblings on the US Vintage Grand Prix
Or was F5000 an American F1?

While Sjskid and hundreds of thousands of other journey to Monza for Giancarlo Fisichella’s inaugural Ferrari drive at the Italian GP this weekend, my wife Kim and I, and our friends Lynn and Jim Lamb trekked to Watkins Glen International Race track, (original home of the US GP) to
the US Vintage Grand Prix.

Eric Haga in his 1969 Lola T190/F1/8 as he leaves the Busstop

While ambling through the paddock one morning looking at all the various cars, we struck up a conversation with Eric Haga, driver of a 1969 Lola T190 in the paddock, we got talking about the how race cars develop and how similar F1 cars and F5000 cars of the period were.

A little history on the Formula 5000 class, it started out as SCCA class called Formula A in 1965, basically formula car with a race 3 liter block bolted in, which was very similar to the new F1 rules that required F1 to run a 3 liter engine. But after 2 years of very little participation in the new Formula A class, the SCCA amended the rules to allow the Chevrolet 302 cubic inch, stock block V-8(which was proving very popular in Trans Am), by the way 5 liters is 302 cubic inches is 5000 cubic centimeters, hence the name Formula 5000!

It THEN became a very popular series with a whole gaggle of teams, manufacturers(Eagle, Chevron, McLaren, Lola, McRae) and big name pro drivers(Tony Adamowicz, Randy Lewis, Graham McRae, Scooter Patrick, Sam Posey, Brian Redman ).

7- Tony “A to Z” Adomowitz in his 1969 Championship winning Gurney Eagle
21- Mead Korwin in a 1972 Lola T192
4- Paul Dudiak in a 1969 McKee Mk12c

Eric’s car is a 1979 Lola T190, it official serial number is T190/F1/8. So a Lola T190/F1 so it can either be a Formula 1 car if you bolt in a Cosworth DFV or bolt in a 302 Chevy and voila a F5000 car. So this begs the questions that if for these several years could the SCCA been trying to usurp F1s racing power and bring it to the US in the form of F5000, big name manufacturers, drivers and teams. According to Eric there were several F1 cars run in the F5000 series, the F1 cars could out brake the heavier F5000 cars. Heavier mainly due to the stock block 5 liter engine, as opposed to the purpose built Cosworth 3 liter racing engine. Besides the weight the F1 cars handled a little nimbler, but only accelerated a little faster then the F5000 car. According to Eric, the F1 cars didn’t have an easy time when racing in a F5000 race.

Well on to other events from the US Vintage Grand Prix weekend, while you ponder about whether F5000 was a run at F1. One of my favs, Group 10, which according to SVRA groupings is: IMSA and FIA/GT sports cars, and sedans as raced betwen 1972 and 1999, such as Porsche RSR, 934, 935, 964, 993, Corvette, Monza, Camaro, Mustang, Nissan, Toyota, Mazda RX-7.

The cars that showed up for this weekend were 2 Porsche 962Cs, several porsche 911s, Olds Cutlass NASCAR, Trams Am Olds Cutlass, and Mustang, and a Lotus X180R Esprit.

David Hay goes thru the Toe of the Boot in a 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass Trans Am car

Despite a rainy qualifying session and qualifying race, Bill Hawe put his Porsche 962C Short Tail on pole for the Group 10 race. Jeff Bernatovich in a Corvette hung on for about a half lap and but Hawe continued to pull out time on the rest of the field till at the end of the race he had almost 6 minutes on the field.

Not Bill Hawe, but Kurt Schultz in his 1986 Porsche 962C

An interesting thing about historic car races, while the event is usually a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, there usually is a test or track day on Thursday…. On this test/track day the too rare or expensive cars appear for an all too brief moment, reliving the joys of their youth, and bringing a tear to the fans reliving their youth, and a smile to the youths lucky enough too attend these all to brief glimpses into the past.

This IS Bill Hawe and his 1986 Porsche 962C

Well back to the Group 10 race, Jeff’s Corvette was followed by a half second by Chris Musante’s very nicely prepared Porsche 911. There were a couple of rather interesting cars in this class. One was BobTyo’s 1983 NASCAR Oldsmobile Cutlass(below).

And for NC’s buddies in the Lotus Club a Lotus X180R Eclipse, this team had 2 of these, not sure why they only raced one!buddies in the Lotus Club a Lotus X180R Eclipse, this team had 2 of these, not sure why they only raced one!

The marque of the weekend was Morgan, and there were a gaggle of Morgans at Watkins Glen. Let me just say that the 3 wheeled Morgan are a riot.
Larry Ayers’ 1930 Morgan Super Aero, (this is aero circa 1930)

The above Morgan’s have a 2 cylinder motorcycle engine at the front of the car, like all the way in the front… Like it’s in front of anything else on the car!!!

David Hogsdon’s 1935 Morgan F2 Trike
A more modern Morgan Craig Seibert’s 1968 +8

The Morgan race entitled “Centennial Jubilee 100 Years of Morgan” was an Australian Pursuit race. I’ll try to explain, the slowest cars start first, and then at appropriate intervals the next fastest car starts until all the cars are on the track. The goal is for all cars to finish on the same lap and at the same time!

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