Black Speed: 1973 Lola T330 Carling Black Label F5000 Car
By 1973, the F5000 formula had become one of the most intense open wheeled series the planet has ever witnessed, with championships in Europe, Australia, and North America that saw some of the worlds top drivers pilot cars manufactured by the best in the open wheeled business. Manufacturers such as Chevron, McRae, Surtees, and Lola all competed in the stock-block American V-8 engine formula across the globe. However, it was Lola who brought to market the most formidable weapon that year, as although 1973 would be viewed as the most competitive season in the North American Championship’s history, it would be the season that set the stage for the coming of Lola’s complete domination of F5000 in North America for the following three years.
The car was the Lola T330, and Roy Woods Racing had contracted New York native Tony “a2z” Adamowicz to pilot their new jet black T330 with Carlings Black Label beer sponsorship for the 1973 North American L&M F5000 Series. Adamowicz was no stranger to the open wheeled formula, as he won the North American Championship in 1969 piloting a Gurney Eagle Mk V, the only American driver in an American built car to ever do so.
Riverside Raceway in southern California was the site of the 1973 L&M sponsored North American season opener on April 29th. The Roy Woods Racing squad was there, and Tony and the team were able to qualify the jet black Lola T330 in sixth place behind pole sitter Jody Scheckter, who qualified his Trojan T101 in the top spot with a 1:15.522 lap around Southern California’s most incredible racing facility. Second was snatched by American Brett Lunger, with third going to F5000 legend Brian Redman, both men piloting Lola T330s that weekend. Other notable entries that April weekend were David Hobbs and Peter Gethin, the latter being the European F5000 Champion in 1969 and 1970, as well as Jerry Grant, Horst Kroll, and Skip Barber.
The season opener was off to a great start for the Carlings Black Label car, as the race would see Adamowicz bring the Lola home in third place after 40 laps, just behind Scheckter’s Trojan and winner Brian Redman’s T330. From there the F5000 Series moved up the coast to Laguna Seca which was held on the 6th of May, 1973. That race would not end well for the Roy Woods squad as the black Lola would fail to finish, ultimately placing 20th overall after a crash. Adamowicz comments, “The Laguna race ended in a crash shortly after setting a new track race record. A slower Formula B car touched my rear wheel while lapping him, sending me into the guard rail past the start finish line.”
Tony left Laguna Seca that weekend with a broken navicular bone in his left wrist and his ride for the remainder of the 1973 season in serious question. “I was relegated to wearing a cast for the rest of the season”, says Adamowicz. Tony continues, “I could only hold the steering wheel with my left hand thumb, while I shifted with my right hand.”
The third round of the L&M F5000 Series was held on May 20th, and Adamowicz was ready, cast and all, to take the controls at Michigan International Speedway that weekend. After qualifying 17th, Tony was able to drive the Chevy V-8 powered car from Huntingdon to a fine 6th place finish.
From Michigan, the F5000 gang moved south to Mid Ohio for the weekend of June 3, 1973. Mark Donohue showed up that weekend with a Lola T330, only his was powered by an AMC V-8 engine instead of the more typical Chevy 5.0 liter unit many teams turned to for power. As usual, Donohue was very fast in the race, but had only posted a qualifying time good enough for 18th spot. Tony had qualified chassis HU10 5th place behind Lunger, Muir, Redman (all in T330s), and Scheckter in P1 piloting his Trojan T101. The race would see little change of the top qualifying slots, as Muir and Lunger would retire and ultimately be classified in 24th and 20th place respectively. Adamowicz would finish 4th behind the T330s of Donohue in 3rd and Redman in 2nd place. Scheckter would again come home to top spot on the podium.
While the Watkins Glen round of the L&M F5000 Series would again see a Scheckter-Redman 1-2 finish, the race didn’t quite turn out to favor Tony and the black Lola T330, now a new tub with chassis number HU7. Tony relates, “A rear axle broke at Watkins Glen going up the hill, turning me hard right into the guardrail not far from where Francois Cevert lost his life in a F1 Tyrrell. I was given a ride back by Australian Frank Matich while hanging onto his roll bar and straddling the engine bay. That must have been a sight, sure wish we had some photos of that.” The shunt occurred during practice for the race, and HU7 was readied and given to Adamowicz for the race. Tony would retire in 17th with the car that weekend in upstate New York.
Watkins Glen was a turning point for series front runner Jody Scheckter as well. Jody had crashed his Trojan and his team placed him in a Lola T330, chassis number HU20. Adamowicz comments on the change, “He [Scheckter] was awesome after his crew changed engines and set the suspension in a back marker Lola. Jody broke the existing Formula 1 lap record by 1.5 seconds.”
Elkhart Lake would also end in retirement a few weeks later after just 5 laps for the black T330. The seventh round of the L&M F5000 Series was held at Road Atlanta on August 19, 1973 and Tony, along with the Roy Woods Racing Team, was unable to start due to a crash earlier in the weekend with HU7. Redman and Donohue would take the top two spots on the podium with T330s in Georgia; Gethin would come home third piloting a Chevron B24 with Chevy power.
A trip up the U.S. east coast to the Pocono Mountains in early September proved to be profitable for the Carling Black Label F5000 team. The race was held on September 3rd at Pocono International Raceway, in the scenic north east corner of Pennsylvania. Adamowicz took 6th position in qualifying, just ahead of F5000 veteran Gus Hutchison driving a March 73A and behind Peter Gethin piloting his Chevron B24. Gethin would finish 9th that weekend in Pennsylvania, and Hutchison would come home further back in 16th place, while Tony would drive home to a 4th place finish in his T330. Redman, Lunger, and Scheckter were the top finishers in that order.
For the final race of the L&M Series of 1973, Adamowicz managed to grid the Roy Woods Racing Lola in 8th place at Seattle, Washington. Despite the qualifying effort, the black Lola would fail to make the start of the final race in the series due to engine failure. The L&M F5000 Series Champion for 1973 was none other than Jody Scheckter, who piloted both a Trojan T101, and later a Lola T330 to series domination and cemented himself amongst his peers as a driver that would someday become World Champion.
Chassis HU10 was written off by Roy Woods Racing during the Watkins Glen round of the 1973 series after suffering the drive axle failure that sent Adamowicz into the wall during practice. Chassis HU7 would go onto race in 1974 by Jim Hawes after being sold to Hawes in the Seattle pit lane.
For Tony, it would be his last professional drive until Daytona in 1977 when he would emerge to co-drive a Ferrari 365GTB4 with another F5000 veteran and champion, John Cannon. The first oil crisis of 1973 sent racing into a downward spiral, and it took a few years for most major series to regain some sort of foothold due to the damage that the 1973 oil crisis caused in the minds of many people, not just in America, but across the globe.
By Will Silk