• McRae GM3/GM9

    Formula 5000 had been good to Graham McRae, hed surfed the wave of popularity the category enjoyed on a world-wide scale from the late 1960s through mid-1970s. Forty years on, McRae is still best remembered for his efforts man-handling these mechanical monsters, and beating some of the worlds very best drivers.

    Having moved into Formula 5000 in 1969 with a customer McLaren M10A, he won the 1970 New Zealand Gold Star, and finished fifth in the Tasman Series. In 1970, now with one of the latest McLaren M10Bs at his disposal, he contested selected rounds in the Guards European F5000 Championship, taking second place finishes at Zandvoort, Brands Hatch, and Silverstone, before collecting his breakthrough win in the final round at Brands Hatch. He also won the 1971 Tasman Series.

    Back in Europe, he scored wins at Mallory Park, Thruxton, and Snetterton, in the 1971 European F5000 Championship, and in partnership with designer Len Terry, and with funding from Malcolm Bridgeland, penned and built the first F5000 car to eventually carry his own name. Initially known as the Leda LT27, in deference to Terry, the car was renamed the GM1 in mid-1972, when McRae teamed up with London insurance broker John Heynes to buy the rights off Bridgeland. McRae then took the GM1 with him down-under to win the 1972 Tasman Series.

    1972 was to be a busy year for McRae, and a highly successful one. He ran the full season in the lucrative L&M Sports Car Club of America US F5000 Championship, collecting wins at Laguna Seca, Watkins Glen, and Road America, on his way to winning the title. Meanwhile, he continued in the European F5000 Championship, winning at Brands Hatch, Nivelles-Baulers, Silverstone, Brands Hatch (again), and Oulton Park, and only narrowly missed out on the championship. He then rounded off his successful season by winning the Tasman Series for the third time in succession.

    The McRae GM1 had been possibly the best F5000 car in the world in 1972, and particularly so with McRae at the helm, but it was met with a raft of opposition in 1973, including the new Lola T330, the Chevron B24, March 73A, and Trojan T101 among others. Despite contesting both the US and European championships, a single win at Mallory Park was the only highlight for the year.

    The latest McRae, the new wedge-shaped GM2, was rolled out for the final European F5000 Championship round at Brands Hatch, where it failed to finish. McRae took the GM2 with him to contest the 1974 Tasman Series, gaining pole position at Levin, Pukekohe, and Wigram, but frustratingly, a race win eluded him for the first time since F5000 had been adopted in Australasia.

    With money getting tight, McRae decided to concentrate on running only the US Championship in 1974, but results were hard to come by now. His best score was a fourth place finish at Watkins Glen, Round 3, which he achieved driving a Lola T332, after wrecking his McRae at Mosport. He was back in a GM2 by Round 5 in Ontario. Back down-under, and impressively, he gained pole position in all four New Zealand rounds of the 1975 Tasman Series, but only gained the single race win at Wigram.

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