The ‘Island was part of Len Lukey’s farm after all, circa 1970. I’ll refrain from lewd, puerile observations about the sexual proclivities of country boys and Kiwis, tempting as they may be…

These are exciting times for Australian single-seater racing with the advent of ‘S5000’, the first Australian National Formula 1 worthy of the name since the demise of Formula Holden/Brabham/4000 way back in 2006…

Perhaps soon the Gold Star will be resurrected and placed back on the pinnacle it represented to so many of us for fifty years or so.

I spotted these images of Stan Jones and Rubens Barrichello rocketing around Phillip Island past and present on the same day a couple of weeks ago. Ruben’s test laps in the Ligier F3-S5000 Ford were in preparation for the first S5000 races at Sandown a week later. They reminded me of my first race meeting- the F5000 Australian Grand Prix at Sandown in 1972 won by Graham McRae’s Leda GM1 Chev.

I was blown away that day and hooked for life as a spectator, competitor and in more recent times a scribbler too. Hopefully- without doubt certainly, some young enthusiasts will have been similarly infected with the sound and fury of these fabulous, fast, spectacular, noisy, contemporary racing cars.

Stan da Man- Stan Jones, Maserati 250F, during the December 1958 PI Gold Star round which he won- ditto that years Gold Star (Repco)


Rubens Barrichello, Ligier F3-S5000 Ford, P Island, September 2019. Despite being 47 it was a promotional coup to get such a highly credentialed F1 winner into the car, his technical feedback will have been gold as to baseline setup of the cars (unattributed)

To me touring cars are a pernicious, all pervasive, omnipotent disease- I loathe their dominance here, but it is up to we ‘open-wheeler toss-pots’ as one of my mates thoughtfully describes me and those similarly afflicted, to get behind the class in every way we can.

Yep, it’s a control class which I detest- but the economics of things must rule.

Yep, it’s a big nod to F5000 but that is hardly a bad thing, I loved ‘em, still do, and we seem to like the throb of a big V8 here- so some of the Supercar ‘football, kangaroos and meat pie’ mob will find the cars attractive in a way they would not have found so, a high-revving 2 litre car, for example.

Yep, its not a politically correct poofhouse electric thingy and thank the good lord above for that.

Yep, it’s not affordable to mere mortal enthusiasts running a car themselves with a cuppla mates but that was always pushing shite uphill whether the class was 2.5 Tasman, F5000, F Pacific or F Holden and who gives a shit about F3 as ‘ANF1’ coz it never should have been…

I thought Chris Lambden had the biggest wedding-tackle in Australia when he put his own moola and cock on the block four years ago with his ‘Thunder 5000’ concept car. WTF! you must be bonkers! was my reaction. I was certain the Supercar pricks would shaft him- they did of course, but he is still in the mix, bless him, as S5000 Category Manager. Thank you Chris. I salute you. We all do.

So let’s get behind it trendsetters, in the words of my son’s footy coach ‘talk it up blokes’…

Phillip Island panorama in recent times


Ligier F3-S5000 cars…



A whole swag of Ligier goodies on the factory floor of Garry Rogers Motorsport, Dandenong, in Melbourne’s outer east, Victoria, August 2019.

I want to focus on the technical specifications of the S5000 cars in this piece.

The detailed specs and concept of Chris Lambden’s 2016 Thunder F5000 machine provided the overall envelope the final design followed- that is a modern, carbon fibre chassis single-seater racing car powered by a contemporary 5 litre V8 engine which is ‘cost-effective’ and safe-ish.

At elite level, single-seater racing in Australia had been in the doldrums- read totally irrelevant, for two decades, some would argue a good deal longer than that.

In 2016 former racer and journalist Lambden built a car for a class he named ‘Formula Thunder 5000’ which used as a base a Swift FN09 chassis of the the type raced in the Super Formula (formerly Formula Nippon) during 2009-2013.

Tim Macrow aboard the Thunder 5000, Swift Ford, Phillip Island in. Deletion of the airbox gave the car less of an F5000 ‘silhouette’- a good thing too. The F5000’s should breathe for what they are- the look should be contemporary not yesteryear IMO (D House)


Leanne Tander in the Super 5000 at Sandown in September 2017 (unattributed)

In 2017 an alternative ‘Super5000’ car was proposed- this was a proposal put to but rejected by the Supercars Australia Board of Directors which was then flicked to wealthy enthusiast/sponsor PAYCE Consolidated CEO/entrepreneur/enthusiast Brian Boyd to develop.

This car was designed by Oscar Fiorinotto of Supashock Racing- very retro-F5000 (Eagle or Lola T332/400’ish) in appearance it has a carbon-fibre chassis, V8 Supercar engine and Albins gearbox.

Controversy followed in that the latter machine clearly aped Lambden’s, i’m heavily truncating as I don’t want to get mired in the politics of the past, it is simply not constructive or useful at present. S5000 came about as the result of a truce brokered and agreed between the two parties around eighteen months ago.

A year or so later the cars raced for the first time at Sandown on 20-22 September 2019.

Matt Brabham’s car at Sandown in September 2019 (unattributed)


‘001’ front suspension at Sandown in September 2019. AP calipers, cast iron rotors in keeping with cost-effective approach (Holinger)


Macrow, Sandown pitlane. The halos are like warts- ya sorta, sorta get useter them. Safety aspect cannot be denied but far-canal they are ugly (Holinger)

The Swift chassis was not compliant with the FIA’s latest regulations so a Ligier (lets come back to Onroak Ligier later) Formula 3 chassis was chosen- it is very similar in size to the Swift and importantly it can accommodate drivers of bulk as well as 16 year old svelte ‘jockeys’.

The chassis choice was made with the lessons learned from Lambden’s use of the Swift chassis. Michael Borland observed in Auto Action ‘The (Swift) car as built is pretty complicated, it was built to a high spec because that is what they wanted…I think that we will simplify components and limit some of the adjustments that can be made to make it cheaper and easier to work on. Chris wanted something that made a good noise and went sideways, and was going to be economical to run over a couple of seasons. You do not want a team of mechanics servicing gearboxes and hubs and so on.’

Lambden’s Thunder car has a Ford Coyote, DOHC, 32 valve normally aspirated 5 litre V8 engine, a choice from a range of alternatives considered by InnoV8’s Roger Higgins who was given that task by Chris. The Holinger transaxle ‘in some ways the centrepiece of the car’ literally and figuratively- is again the same transmission well proven given considerable test miles on the Thunder 5000 car primarily driven by ex-FF/F3(thrice Oz F3 champ)/Porsche Cup and Supercar racer Tim Macrow.

The Ligier chassis/engine/suspension integration design and engineering was developed by ARG- the three photographs below are of ‘001’ coming together at Borlands.






Michael Borland’s (Borland Racing Developments/Spectrum Cars) Mordialloc business brought Lambden’s original concept together- they also took delivery of the first Ligier, chassis #’JS F3-S5000-001′ (old-timers will probably remember that the JS moniker in Ligier chassis designations is in honour of Jo Schlesser, French racer and close friend of Guy Ligier who died in a gruesome fiery accident aboard a Honda RA302 early in the 1968 French GP at Rouen) developed the suspension and wing package and built up the complete first car.

Be in no doubt folks of the value Lambden and Borland brought to the S5000 table in terms of an engine/transaxle combination and ancillaries which worked well, given the engine and gearbox and related opportunities/problems they had to solve.

Just one example- the Swift had a cable throttle, Borland wanted fly-by-wire. Whilst MoTeC had the electronics they did not have a steering wheel to fit so one had to be made- it sounds easy mating it all to engine/pedals/wheel/paddles but it all takes time, fly-by-wire was important for a whole lot of reasons not least to extend gearbox life. Similarly, their learnings in relation to the Swift chassis helped in the choice of the relatively simple F3 Ligier.

After the engineering specifications and initial testing of the first Ligier chassis was satisfactorily carried out and completed by Borland Racing Developments, Garry Rogers Motorsport (prominent Supercar team) were contracted to build the balance of the ‘initial batch’ of cars- there are currently fourteen in total.

GRM had/has the production capacity (35-40 employees) and technical expertise to undertake this role, the contract was let by the promoters/category manager Australian Racing Group, in the process GRM also became the official sales agents for the cars. Form a queue folks…

A ‘ceremonial handover’ of the first car from Borlands to GRM took place at Winton after a mid-December 2018 test day attended by representatives of each outfit.

In terms of timelines, the original chassis ‘JS F3-S5000-001’ landed in late August 2018, another four jetted in during March 2019 and nine in early July 2019.

Macrow drove the car again in mid April 2019 after GRM made changes to the cooling system, fitted new uprights and suspension arms declaring the changes to the car ‘…absolutely brilliant…made a big difference to the way the car handles’ he was quoted in a GRM release. The final production specifications for the car were at that point completed for the purposes of the build of the thirteen cars which comprised the initial production run.

The Ligier chassis is almost identical to that provided to various F3 series around the globe. For the S5000 application it is fitted with a CNC machined adaptor plate which is bonded and bolted to the rear of the tub to pick up the engine/gearbox. The carbon composite chassis was made in Ligier’s Italian factory before being sent to the Ligier (Onroak) plant in Denver and together with the nose, front wing and sidepods was completed there and then air-freighter to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport.

However much a variety of suppliers of chassis/engine would be nice the realities of building cars for a tiny market such as ours renders that impossible. What was sought from the package was a strong, safe chassis of reasonable economy, a sealed engine and common transaxle, wings, wheels and tyres.

The front wing is simple, it funnels air into two tunnels beneath the car with much of the downforce generated from the cars underside. Local carbon-fibre work has been shared by GRM and LC Race Composities.

Suspension is double wishbones front and rear with pushrods at both ends, shocks are JRi three way adjustable and roll bars are of course adjustable. Steering is Ligier rack and pinion- the column is collapsible and with Motec electronics systems.

The car is 4900mm long, 1950mm wide and has a wheelbase of 3000mm.

Wishbone and pushrod rear suspension, calipers AP Racing (unattributed)


Pointed in the right direction at Eastern Creek. Note Ligier chassis plate to the left- this is ‘JS F3-S5000-001’. Data by MoTeC (unattributed)


(M Bisset)



The marvellously raucous engine is a Ford 5 litre, quad-cam, 32 valve ‘Coyote’ which is shipped from the US to InnoV8 in Brisbane. They prepare the motors to the same specifications to produce circa 560bhp @ 8000rpm. 460 foot/pounds of torque are produced. At this type of spec the sophisticated motors should be relatively under-stressed, it will be intriguing to know the periods between rebuilds and related cost.

These Coyote engines, built in Ford’s Essex, Windsor, Ontario Canada plant have lots of yummy bits- aluminium cross-bolted block and heads, steel crank, they were first fitted to the Mustang in 2010. Then they gave 412bhp and 390lb/ft of torque, they have been updated since then- we get the 2018 Generation 3 variant. The 5 litre is almost ‘square’ with a bore and stroke of 92.2 x 92.7mm.

The engines name drives from Ford’s first four-valve Indy V8 wins in Coyote chassis steered by AJ Foyt in 1967 and 1977- ignoring the fact that the first Indy win of said motor was in the back of a Lotus 38 driven by Clark J in 1965. I guess the slight skew in history to get the name ya want sorta works better if we ignore that…

Series of photographs of the Ford ‘Coyote’ 5 litre, all aluminium, chain driven DOHC, four valve V8 block, heads and crank (Ford)









The transaxle is manufactured by Holinger Engineering in Kilsyth South in the outer east of Melbourne, this outfit was founded by ex-Repco Brabham Engines engineer/hillclimb champion (the late) Peter Holinger in the mid-sixties is now pretty well known to enthusiasts globally.

The ‘MFT’ unit is widely used in Porsche competition cars- it is a six-speed sequential box fitted with a pneumatic paddle change. To adapt it to its new single-seater application it has a bespoke drop-gear set at the front to lower the engine to mate engine/box and therefore also the centre of gravity overall. Holinger’s bell-housing, produced in conjunction with Mike Borland and Roger Higgins has an integral oil tank with the gearbox/bellhousing picking up suspension and shock absorber mounts.

Wheels and tyres are 15 x 12 inches at the front and 15 x 17 at the rear- manufacturers are Max Wheels in Sydney, the car has plenty of ‘presence’! Hoosier are the mandated tyre providers in 570/290-15 dimensions front and 680/405-15 at the back.

Some enthusiasts have been muttering about the weight of the cars, that in large part is due to the safety elements in comparison to, say, the ‘gold standard F5000’ Lola T332 Chev. The Ligier complies with FIA 2018, front and rear crash structure, side impact, cockpit halo, side and front intrusion panels requirements. In addition the 6-point harness is of 2018 spec as are the wheel tethers and headrest noting that a couple of the cars have already been ‘put to the test’. By comparison the deformable structures of the T332 and cars of its ilk were the drivers limbs…

Sydney Eastern Creek test ‘001’ driver uncertain (unattributed)

Somewhat predictably, the cars were late in build for all the usual reasons- but who cares, the cars made a spectacular appearance in three races over 20-22 September 2019 weekend.

The list of drivers included Matt Brabham, Tim Macrow, Alex Davison, Rubens Barrichello, Barton Mawer, James Golding, Will Brown, Ricky Capo, John Martin, Tim Berryman, Michael Gibson, Taylor Cockerton and Tom Alexander.

Macrow was quickest in the first two practice sessions with John Martin speediest in the third, his time 1:05.1270- Martin set the lap record at 1:04.5533 in heat 2.

Wonderfully deserved was the first win of the weekend, the first for an S5000 car was Tim Macrows victory in the very first chassis JS F3-S5000 ‘001’, Martin was second and Golding third.

James Golding bagged the second heat after Matt Brabham crashed out- Macrow was second and Martin third. The feature on the Sunday was disappointing as it was marred by two safety car interventions, the first initiated by Ricky Capo, the second caused by Matt Brabham tagging the rear of Alex Davison’s car after the back straight kink- the race was then abandoned after 11 laps completed with Golding declared the winner from Barrichello and Martin.

Somewhat bizarre is that Alex Davison finished in the same part of the infield as his grandfather Lex Davison did after a fatal heart attack caused Lex to veer off the track in his Brabham BT4 Climax during practice for the 1965 Sandown Tasman round. Fortunately Alex walked from the Ligier after an accident that should not have happened.

Wonderfully deserved was the first win of the weekend, the first for an S5000 car was Tim Macrows victory in the very first chassis JS F3-S5000 ‘001’!

The market will of course determine the successof the class, hopefully drivers and sponsors will get behind it…

(Auto Action)

Tim Macrow on his way to the very first S5000 race way at ‘Torana’, make that Pirtec Corner, Sandown on 22 September 2019, Ligier JS F3-S5000 Ford chassis ‘001’.

And below getting crossed up into the right/left combo before the corner above- in front of John Martin’s AGI Sport entry.



There is plenty of S5000 material there, have a look for yourself

Engineering Detail…

(M Bisset)


(M Bisset)




(M Bisset)


(M Bisset)


(M Bisset)


(M Bisset)




(M Bisset)


(M Bisset)

Etcetera: Onroak Ligier…

Lets delve into the companies involved in the group who supply our new cars chassis’.

In December 2018 Onroak Automotive changed its name to Ligier Automotive as part of a rebrand and merger of Everspeed- all companies owned by Jaques Nicolet.

The prototype and open-wheeler constructor, OAK Racing, engine manufacturer Sodemo and Tork Engineering all now fall under the same name. Guy Ligier ‘entrusted the Ligier make into our care to carry forward the adventure he started in 1969’ Nicolet said.

The brief history lesson is that Onroak Automotive initially designed, built and sold sports prototypes- it took over the manufacturing arm of Pescarolo Sport in 2009. They became the developer of the Pescarolo 01 Le Mans Prototype after Henri Pescarolo’s company went into receivership, from then selling the cars under the OAK-Pescarolo name.

Onroak was created in 2012 when new regulations required new Le Mans cars. A new Pescarolo was created, the company pursued sales of the cars to other teams and entered into a relationship with Morgan to brand their LMP2 variant the Morgan LMP2 whilst the LMP1 continued to be called an OAK-Pescarolo.

In 2013 Onroak formed a relationship with Ligier to assist in the design and development of an evolutionary version of the Ligier JS53 prototype, later designing a closed-cockpit variant called the JS 55 in 2014.

As of 2018 about 140 of the Ligier sports-prototypes have been sold.

In October 2016, Onroak bought the motorsports arm of American company Crawford Composites and in 2017 acquired Tork Engineering, a French racing car builder- their cv includes the Bioracing Series and Mitjet Series cars (Yamaha engined Mitjet 1300).

The group has three production sites at Le Mans, Magny-Cours and Amily in France and one in Denver, North Carolina, in addition there is a logistics base at Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.

By October 2018 the group had over 200 cars competing throughout the world to which can be added another ten or so which commenced competition at Sandown on September 20-22 2019- specifically ten Ligier JS F3 S5000 Ford’s- bit of a mouthful innit?!


Repco Collection via Nigel Tait, Barry Rogers at Garry Rogers Motorsport, sportscar365, CEO Magazine, Darren House, Auto Action,, Holinger Engineering, FoMoCo, Payce

Tailpiece: Barrichello at Phillip Island, September 2019…




  1. Bill Hollingsworth says:

    The lack of a snorkle makes them look like every other formula car and reduces valuable advertising space. Surely a thicker helmet visor would eliminate the need for the ugly halo as well.

  2. David E.M. Thompson says:

    REAL open wheels, with no bodywork or wings – especially wings – in front of the tires. We haven’t seen that in a long while.

  3. […] The Australian S5000 guys, SS Media have come up with the notion of applying retro liveries to the silhouette of their new 5 litre Ligier F3-S5000 Ford V8 rockets- and doesn’t this late 1971 early 1972 Matich A50 Repco scheme look sensational- remove the halo and its perfect! My S5000 piece is here; […]

  4. […] This was one of several test days at the circuit before the new categories first race at Sandown several weeks hence, click here for a feature on the class; […]

  5. […] premier category of cars at Sandown on September 21/22 2019. See here for details of the cars; and; […]

  6. […] Ignore the GRM chassis plates in the wonderful car’s cockpits I say. See here for my piece on the machine’s development, ‘97.5%’ of which was substantively completed before GRM were selected/won the pitch to assemble the things two years ago; […]

  7. […] See here for a piece on the cars; Progress… | primotipo… […]

  8. […] the starter at Sandown in September 2019. Background to that point is provided in this article; Progress… | primotipo… More here too; Tasman Cup 2021… | primotipo… Not to forget this of course; Ligier JS […]

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