Evolution in the Seventies 1970-1976
The introduction of Formula 5000 in the USA and UK in the late 1960s heralded a new generation of open-wheel racing. Powered by production-based V8 5-litre engines, the new formula attracted manufacturers such as McLaren, Lola, Chevron, Surtees and Eagle to supply chassis to meet a steady demand.
For 1970 the Tasman Series included a mixture of cars from both the old and new formulas. From 1971 the focus was on the thundering high-horsepower machines, favoured by a stream of overseas visitors (including regular competitors Frank Gardner and Chris Amon) and an increasing group of locals. Adding to the diverse fields were locally produced chassis from Matich and Elfin in Australia, and Begg in NZ.
The noise and spectacular sideways action provided by these mechanical monsters ensured popular support amongst crowds who witnessed local drivers competing on level terms with the best from overseas. Local drivers fared well with Kiwis Graham Lawrence (1970) and Graham McRae (1971-3) claiming the Championship before UK champ Peter Gethin took the Cup back overseas in 1974.
Sydney’s Warwick Brown fulfilled years of promise by securing the Tasman Cup in 1975, becoming the only Australian to be honoured on the prestigious trophy. Brown would later progress to international stardom driving for the Belgian-based VDS Racing Team.
1975 marked the final year in which the Tasman Series was contested. The series had not only highlighted the driving careers of established local stars such as Matich, Bartlett, Stewart, Allen and Lawrence but also nurtured the emerging talents of those such as Brown, McCormack, Walker, Goss, Leffler and Oxton.
Although New Zealand organised a separate series in 1976 and changed formula in 1977, F5000 continued in Australia between 1976 and 1979 with focus on the Rothmans International Series. Racing on the traditional circuits used for the Australian legs of the former Tasman Cup, the abbreviated series featured overseas-based Aussies Vern Schuppan (victor in 1976), Alan Jones, Warwick Brown (who won again in 1977-8) and the returning Larry Perkins (champion in 1979).