My Formula 5000
1973
Douglas Shierson Racing
The Marathon Oil-Chevron B-24 that triumphed in Europe and faired
well in the first two L & M Championship races on the West Coast, has
returned to home base — Michigan. This is the same Formula 5000
racing machine that Britisher, Peter Gethin drove to victory in England’s
Race of Champions where, for the first time in racing history, a Formula
5000 racer beat Grand Prix Formula Ones in open competition. The car
and driver are making their Midwest debut at Michigan International
Speedway’s L & M Championship race on May 20.
“We’re looking forward particularly to this race,” Doug Shierson said.
Doug, who has driven road races himself for several years, is
entrant/owner of the sleek Marathon blue racer. Headquarters for
Douglas Shierson Racing is Adrian, Michigan, where Shierson got his
start working from his father’s Beacon Oil Company office.
“Naturally, we’re going all out to win the season championship, but we
especially want to do well at MIS,” Doug said. “Our car is quick, we have
a top driver and crew, and though there’s some mighty tough
competition, I think we have a good chance of winning,” he added.
Driver Gethin is remembered for his Italian Grand Prix win in 1971 and
was a regular Formula One driver for BRM last year. He is best known in
this country for his rides in the McLaren Can-Am car in 1970, winning at
Road America and placing second in two other races to finish third
overall. His Formula 5000 victories in Europe earned him the sobriquet
“Mr. F 5000" as he was the man to beat two years running—1969 and
1970.
Shierson has assembled a top-notch crew to prepare the Marathon-
Chevron. Austrian Franz Pucher was Gethin’s crew chief at BRM, and
George Thornton of South Africa was a part of John Wyer’s organization
when it won the World’s Manufacturers Championship. Paul Owens, chief
mechanic for the firm which built the Chevron, also will be in the garage
serving as team manager and providing liaison between the Chevron
works and the Shierson team.
Factory-backed Chevron B-24 was designed and built by Derek Bennett
Engineering Ltd. Of Bolton, England. Its five litre engine is a Chevrolet V-
8 built by Alan Smith of Derby, England. The sleek dark blue racer was
assembled and tested in England prior to its trip to the United States.
In its first outing on the 2.65 mile course at Brands Hatch, England,
Gethin took the first Formula 5000 race of the year on March 17. Starting
from the pole position, he led all the way and set a new world record for
the fastest lap with a time of 1:24.9, which average position, he led all the
way and set a new record for the fastest lap with a time of 1:24.9, which
averages out to 112.37 miles per hour. Gethin followed that up the next
day with a victory in the Race of Champions. This race pits quick,
sophisticated Grand Prix Formula One machines against the heavier and
more powerful Formula 5000 cars. His victory, over the likes of Emerson
Fittipaldi and Dennis Hulme, was the first ever for a Formula 5000 car in
this race.
The Marathon-Chevron, one of nine F5000 cars in the 21-car field,
started eighth on the grid. The lead changed hands five times, with
several Formula Ones dropping out due to mechanical problems.
On the last lap, Gethin noticed Shierson and his pit crew frantically
waving him on. He whizzed by Hulme who had been leading, but was
having clutch problems. Gethin took the checkered flag less than four
seconds ahead of former McLaren teammate Hulme and James Hunt,
who had been closing fast in another Formula One car. Peter’s fastest
lap was another 1:24.9 which is only 1.9 seconds off the Formula One
record.
“It’s the kind of weekend script you’d write yourself,” Shierson said of the
double victory. “We ran in the races primarily as a testing ground for the
Formula 5000 L&M Championship Series here in the United States. To
have done this well is practically beyond belief.”
Gethin, son of a famous English jockey, made a brief tour of the Midwest
following his wins in England. He talked with the press about the Brands
Hatch races and, following a TV interview, visited the Indianapolis Motor
Speedway where tire testing was under way. He spoke with racing
colleagues like Peter Revson and had this to say about the Indianapolis
500:
“A bit scary isn't it, driving at these speeds and with all these walls
around you. I’d feel a little more comfortable if there were some open
spaces to go if you got into a shunt.  Denny (Hulme) bunched the wall
here but was fortunate he wasn't severely damaged. There’s a awfully
large pot.”
The 33 year old London bachelor returned to England to run the
Marathon-Chevron in another race on April 1. Peter started second
behind eventual winner Graham who, incidentally, won the L&M
Championship last year. After leading early in the race at England’s
Mallory Park, he finished fourth.
“We didn't have the right tires,” Shierson said. “We needed intermediate
tires, but had only rain tires. It was raining at the start of the race and
Peter had a 24-second lead at the halfway point. But then it stopped
raining and he had to make a 16-second pit stop for a tire check. Losing
that much time, plus having to run a dry track on rain tires was enough
disadvantage to enable other cars to catch up and Peter couldn't hold
them off.”
The car was flown to the United States following a final check at Bennett
Engineering. The DSR garage in Adrian will be base of operations for the
team.
Midwestern racing fans will have their first opportunity to see the car that
made racing history, when the F 5000 race opens the season at MIS on
May 20.
“This is one race I’d really like to win. We’re doing all we can to win the L
& M Championship, but we especially want to do well in our own
backyard. This is like home territory for our sponsor, Marathon, too. The
company’s refinery at Detroit is the state’s largest and corporate
headquarters are down in Findlay, Ohio,” Shierson said.
Marathon Oil Company has sponsored Shierson’s various racing
ventures for several years. He has raced an Elva-BMW Mark 6, Lola
TI60, a Chevron B-16, a Titan Mark 6 Formula Ford, and, more recently
a pair of Chevron B-19 Spyders.  Shierson has always run under
Marathon’s colors. In fact, he selected the “Marathon blue” which is seen
on a half-dozen machines in various classes of road racing.
Marathon has been involved in motor racing for the past four years,
though increasingly so in the past two. The Ohio-based oil company
sponsors 16 race tracks as official fuel supplier and 20 racing teams
throughout its Midwest marketing area. The teams cover all forms of
racing: amateur, professional, oval, drag, road, stock, motorcycle and
boat racing. The race track(MIS) has become a proving ground for
Marathon products and its racing successes support the company’s
advertising and sales promotion programs. In 1972, Marathon-sponsored
cars finished in the top three positions in 48% of all races entered.
On April 29, the Marathon-Chevron started its first race of the nine-race
L&M Championship series — it finished fifth. Tires, as in its race at
Mallory Park, were to blame for the poor showing. “It was disappointing,
to say the least,” Gethin admitted.
Despite “disappointing” beginnings here in the United States, the
combination of Peter Gethin, Marathon-Chevron B-24, and the pit crew
which Shierson has so carefully assembled, should prove a definite
threat to the other 23 entries on the starting grid. This combination has
already demonstrated its ability to win. They should put a large dent in
this year’s half million dollar L&M purse — the “cake” as Gethin calls it.

                                        
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