Frank has been collecting F5000 cars for over 15 years and currently has about 12, four of which are taking part in the high-speed demos at MM.
It’s all very much a family affair too, with Frank’s wife Judith steering the 1974 Gurney Eagle-Chevrolet FA74, son Michael behind the wheel of the 1975 Lola-Chevrolet T400 and Frank himself driving the 1972 McRae-Chevrolet GM1.
The fourth car, the 1974 Lola-Chevrolet T330/2, is being driven by a man who raced it in period, the former British F1 driver Tony Trimmer. “According to the late Eric Broadley, this Lola has more races than any other Lola,” Frank tells GRR.
When he tried to buy the car 15 years ago the then-owner said he would only sell it if Frank could show that he could “keep it at the sharp end”, despite the car not having run for a dozen years. “I assured him I could, and in my first season with it I won nine out of 10 races with it,” says Frank.
Since then he has been sold on F5000, the formula that grew up the US in the late 1960s as Chevy V8-powered machines that were just as fast as F1 cars of the time but a lot simpler and cheaper.
“The reason I like F5000 cars is that 15 years ago there were a lot of unloved ones. The price differential to an F1 car at that time was not big, and people thought why buy an F5000 car when for £20,000 more you could get an F1 car? I quickly discovered the reason: a rebuild on an F1 DFV engine cost £10,000 when you could buy a whole new Chev V8 for £6000.
“Today an F5000 Lola might cost £140,000 but an entry-level F1 car would cost twice that. The gap has changed completely – but F5000 parts are still just as cheap,” says Frank, who also has F1 cars (and Group C machines) in his collection.
With a good V8 putting out 600bhp the cars are as fast as F1 cars of the period and can be geared for 200mph, says Frank. “As the Americans would say, you get a lot more bangs for your buck with F5000.”
Downsides? “The V8 is a derivative of a road engine and it vibrates a lot so you have to keep going around the cars with a spanner to make sure nothing falls off.”
And how were his cars for the rather snowy demo laps? “They are easy cars to drive, quite forgiving and very torquey. Today on slick tyres in the snow the McRae was fine as long as I left it in third gear for second gear corners. F5000 cars behave themselves as long as you don’t surprise them.”
The world’s greatest F5000 fan? Could be. As Frank himself says, “it’s a disease I have caught.”
Photography by Pete Summers, Jayson Fong and James Lynch