Elkhart Lake, WI — It was 1969 all over again.
On a warm long-ago July weekend, Apollo 11 landed on the moon in a historic declaration of the Eagle Has Landed.” As Neil Armstrong uttered his famous words about one giant leap for mankind, Tony A2Z Adamowicz took the checker at Road America in his Eagle, winning the first of two races leading to his 1969 SCCA Formula A (5000) Championship. His toughest competition that weekend came from a two-car Surtees TS-5 team, with drivers David Hobbs and bespectacled F1 star Andrea de Adamich. Though Hobbs had more victories in 1969, Adamowicz nipped him on points 47 to 46 with an incredibly consistent season of podiums and several absences by Hobbs to drive F1 in Europe.
The race ran in three heats in 90-plus weather, against notable competition including Peter Gethin in a McLaren works car, John Cannon and Sam Posey in Eagles. Blaze ahead to 2013, some 44 years later…
Tony Adamowicz, still driving that championship-winning Eagle, now owned and entered by Doug Magnon of the Riverside International Automotive Museum, spent “the HAWK featuring Brian Redman” race weekend here nose-to-tail with the Surtees TS-5, now driven by Detroit advertising executive Mark Harmer. In what was easily the best show of the weekend, the high-winged, cigar shaped F5000s swapped the lead back and forth with Harmer taking the overall victory on Sunday, despite A2Zs qualifying race photo-finish win on Saturday.
I would consider this like a fantasy auto racing camp, Harmer commented. Racing against Tony Adamowicz, the 1969 F5000 Champion in his ’69 Eagle, nose to tail for both the Saturday and Sunday races. This is on par with being onstage with Keith Richards if you’re a guitar player…. Harmer, who had mothballed the Surtees four years ago, was a welcome sight in the HAWK paddock for fans, friends and competitors. It was great to have Mark back, said Adamowicz. Having two cars that were such fierce competitors back in the day racing so close was fantastic. The race this weekend brought back some serious memories.
The Sunday feature race, which literally finished as the first raindrops began to fall on the 4-mile, 14-turn circuit, was identical to just about all the weekends F5K sessions. A2Z and Harmer ran side by side on the straights, swapping positions into the corners. On the last lap, Adamowicz had a fuel pick-up issue as he braked hard for the iconic 90 Turn 5 and had to bump-start the car as its made its way up the hill. This was the only time throughout the weekend that the two 44-year-old cars were separated by more than three seconds.
The F5000 group is celebrating its 45th anniversary of the legendary series this year — with a host of cars from the era including Lola, McKee, Surtees, Eagle, March, Shadow, LeGrand and and much like in the day, it was exciting, nail-biting, fast racing. The group will reunite again at Circuit of the Americas in late October. For more information, go to: http://www.f5000registry.com
Report by Tom Stahler
Photo: Tony Adamowicz (7) just nips Mark Harmer’s Surtees at the line in the Saturday qualifying race (photo: Tom Stahler)