New Zealand Formula 5000 great Graham McRae is the latest driver to be celebrated in S5000’s Heritage series.
With motorsport sat in situ amid the global pandemic, S5000 has launched a 10-week livery tribute series that honours F5000 heroes of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
A three-time champion of the Tasman Series, champion in the 1972 SCCA Continental 5000 series and multiple Australian Grand Prix victor, McRae seemingly won every F5000 crown there was available to him.
Most of his success came in a car bearing his own name.
1973 saw McRae contest the Indianapolis 500, finishing 16th and earning rookie of the year.
The same year saw the Wellingtonian competed in his sole Formula 1 Grand Prix with the Frank Williams Racing Cars outfit at the British Grand Prix.
It would be a short-lived Grand Prix debut for McRae, however, as the throttle on Williams IR01-Ford became stuck open on the opening lap, forcing him to retire.
By the time he had graduated from University, McRae had begun building his first car using an Austin engine and a Maserati body which competed in local Hillclimb and club meetings.
Having won the NZ Driver to Europe scholarship, McRae briefly was offered the opportunity to pilot a Brabham BT23C-Cosworth in that year’s Formula 2 championship.
Upon his return to New Zealand McRae dominated the Tasman Series, claiming three successive titles between 1971 to 1973. First driving a McLaren M10B, McRae then switched to a Begg FM2 for the following seasons.
During his time in Europe, McRae acquired British racing car constructor Leda and renamed the company as McRae Cars Ltd. Leda had already begun the construction of the Leda LT27 F5000 machine before McRae relabelled the car the GM1.
14 were built over a two-year period of which the GM1 achieved significant F5000 success; several of which continue to race in historic events today.
A less successful GM2 followed as did a unique GM3 which had Perspex cockpit surrounds which enabled spectators to see the driver at his work. The GM3 subsequently paved the way for McRae to make a brief appearance in Can-Am racing.
Following two unsuccessful Champ Car starts in the 1980s, McRae retired from the sport when he fell ill.
Former McRae GM1 owner and driver, Alister Hey, registered McRae Cars Limited again in 2010.
Livery: SS Media
Image Credit: an1 Images