Wednesday, Jun 7 05:57pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

The FT5000 versus Super5000 rivalry can only end badly

Australian motor racing is about to dive head first into a political storm and no one is going to win.

Last week Virgin Australia Supercars Championship CEO James Warburton lifted the covers on perhaps one of the country’s worst kept secrets—Super5000. The concept, simple; an up-to-spec retro-formula category based on the Formula 5000 Tasman Series of the 1970s.

Take the engines out of their Supercars and slot them in the back of a Supashock Racing Engineering-built carbon fibre single seater chassis made to look like an old Lola T300.


Great idea, right? It sounds good in principle, if it weren’t for the fact somebody else had gone through with an almost identical idea first and mustered the public’s support.


It’s not too dissimilar to that of Chris Lambden’s Formula Thunder 5000 concept. His is a little different. Take the Swift FN09 tub of an old Japanese Formula Nippon, chuck a Coyote V8 engine in the back, tack a big wing, air intake and nose cone onto the tub and Bob’s your uncle.


The project received great fanfare when it was first announced, despite the occasional grumbles from some who loathed the idea of another series in an already saturated market.


It was something fresh and gave those who didn’t want to have their legs lost – or worse – the ability to drive something like a Formula 5000.


Since Supercars’ announcement, social media has been littered with fans condemning the move to create, in effect, a rival series to Lambden’s FT5000.


With the financial weight behind them, one might argue Supercars are in a better position to succeed, but ultimately the public will have their say.


New Zealanders and Americans will know all too well of the rivalries which have tarnished the reputation of their respective racing disciplines.


The V8 SuperTourer versus NZV8 litigation was a long drawn out process with interference stifling any progress towards a positive outcome.


The first year of the SuperTourers was prosperous, whilst NZV8s struggled to pull a grid. It quickly went downhill with grudge matches in the background hurting entries and spectators.


It was the demise of New Zealand tin-top racing as we knew it. Only in the last year or two has touring car racing in New Zealand really made steps forwards, but spectator numbers still dwindle—you’ll find them at speedway, rally and drifting.


Across the Atlantic, The CART versus Indy Racing League stoush harmed television viewership in the United States. Millions were able to watch the 2004 Long Beach Grand Prix, yet just 65,000 tuned in—95,000 were at the event.


It was a time which saw a shift from single seater racing being the main attraction for motor racing fans in the States, towards NASCAR being the favoured form for entertainment.


The V8 SuperTourers and NZV8s merged to form the NZ Touring Cars, whilst CART and IRL consolidated to form IndyCar, ultimately for the benefit of the sport. Both have rebounded to an extent, IndyCar thrives now, whilst NZ Touring Cars is beginning to move forward.


Late last year Lambden addressed mumurs surrounding Supercars interest in their own version of a modern-day Formula 5000. 


"In some ways its flattering," he said.


"I think it was a thought bubble idea from what I gather, when they looked at doing some of the logistics from stratch I think the team owners quickly said no that's not really our scene." 


"Having two of anthing never really works, so I'm glad that was resolved." 


And so it went, Supercars went about building one anyway. 


Lambden has previously been quite vocal in his disdain for the Supercars ‘imitation’ via social media even in the lead up to the anncouncement, but since then he’s been rather quiet.


Across the Tasman a storm is brewing. Whether Lambden will throw a spanner in the works remains to be seen.


Now it’s the public who are having their say.


The vocal ones have cast their vote, with over 70 per cent in a recent Speedcafe.com poll signalling their support for Lambden, while Supercars mustered a mere 15 percent of the vote. Those remainder didn’t care.


In New Zealand and America, nobody won. The sport suffered and the paying spectators made their mark by not turning up.


But when it all turns to custard, don’t say I didn’t tell you so.

A comparison


Formula Thunder 5000 (FT5000)

Engine: 5.0 litre quad-cam Ford Coyote V8

Gearbox: Hollinger Six-speed sequential 

Power: 570bhp

Weight: 689kg

Chassis: US-built Swift FN.09

Tyres: Giti 

Cost: $240,000





Engine: 5.0 litre Supercars V8

Gearbox: Albins transaxle paddle-shift

Power: 620+hp

Weight: TBC

Chassis: PACE Innovations

Tyres: TBC 

Cost: TBC


Photos: Sourced, Supercars, FT5000