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Formula 5000s will thunder on Melbourne streets


Historic racers will be among support classes for Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Formula 1 cars will rub shoulders with cars from a category that was devised almost 40 years ago as a rival to the Grand Prix cars of the time when Formula 5000s take to the streets at this month’s Melbourne Grand Prix.

New Zealand Formula 5000 drivers will join their Australian, British and American counterparts on the support programme for the opening round of the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship.

That makes the meeting by far the most important one in the New Zealand Formula 5000 Association's five-year history.

F5000s raced for the domestic Australian Grand Prix in the 1970s and at least two of the New Zealand-based cars, David Abbott's Lola T430 and Stan Redmond's Lola T332, are past Australian Grand Prix winners.

Warwick Brown won it in 1977 driving the car Abbott now owns, and Johnny Walker drove the Redmond Lola to victory in 1979.

There’ll be a capacity 32-car grid for the two races at the meeting with 18 cars from New Zealand 10 from within Australia, four Britain and one from the United States.

Cars include 18 Lolas, three Australian-designed and built Australian-built Elfins and two Matich cars built by Australian great, Frank Matich.

There’ll be two Beggs built in Southland by George Begg, two McLaren and Marches, and one each for McRae, Talon, Eagle and Chevron.

The cars race on Saturday and Sunday, 2008/2009 with Kiwi Ken Smith heading Australian open wheeler greats, Warwick Brown, Kevin Bartlett, Alf Costanzo, Alan Hamilton, John Goss, John Bowe and Bruce Allison.

Costanzo, who raced F5000 and Formula Atlantic cars, says he thinks spectators will love the big V8-engined open wheelers.

"They look and sound spectacular with all the noise and big wheels and big wings, but they’re quite different to what they have today. They don't sit very low to the ground. (They were) very spectacular especially the high speed on the straights.

"At the time Formula 5000s were the cars to go and watch and I think even today the people watching are going to be impressed."

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