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This weekend, the feature race of the F5000s at Sydney Classic Speedfest will be named in honour of one of its era’s most recognisable drivers – a man who will also feature in the race itself.
The large field will be racing for line honours over the weekend, and for the top spot in the feature race named after Alfredo ‘Alfie’ Costanzo, a famous F5000 driver who won four CAMS Gold Stars as Australia’s National racing champion.
Costanzo will be racing for his original mentor and Melbourne car owner Alan Hamilton in a McLaren M10B, who remembers his early days of Alfie’s driving:
“At the Australian Grand Prix held at Sandown on September the 10th 1978, I crashed rather heavily in my F5000 Lola T430 whilst running second with only two and a bit laps to go,” says Hamilton.
“My injuries left me an insulin-dependent diabetic which, at that time, meant that my circuit racing days were over. Earlier, I had purchased the two Lola T430’s from Team VDS so whilst my crash had totally destroyed the Lola I was driving, there was another in the shed.
“I instructed my team to rebuild the second car to exactly the same condition and settings that the car I was in, prior to the crash. I then began to seek the services of someone to drive my car.
“My thoughts rapidly focused on Alfredo Costanzo who’s talent had always impressed me whilst disappointing results were largely attributable to a lack of budget to compete at the level he was seeking. Alfie accepted my offer graciously and we continued apace with the reconstruction of the second Lola.
“Our entry for the Sandown meeting in February 1978 for the !st Gold star event of that year was accepted and we arrived at the first practice session with a high level of trepidation….new car and a new driver. Alfie proceeded cautiously, trying each corner individually but not putting a full lap together. As he came in at the end of practice, the mechanics rushed up to hear what might need adjusting.
“Alfie sat quietly in the Lola and then said ‘donna touch the car!’
Following the next practice session, Alfie had pole position and went on to win the race the following day.
“His first gold star followed at the end of the year and this performance was repeated the following year with our new F500 based on an M26 Formula 1 McLaren… But dark clouds were massing,” says Hamilton.
“There had been considerable agitation, originally from NSW but quickly adopted by others, for a change in the Formula. I was against the change. We had a new car that threatened rewrite the record books wherever it ran; at Sandown it set a lap record that has never been surpassed. However, Bob Jane stepped in and purchased my McLaren allowing me to buy a pair of Tiga Formula Atlantic, Pacific, Mondial cars with which to compete against the most successful Ralt RT4’s
“Although most thought that Alfie might not be able to transition from winning in 500 horsepower cars, he and our head engineer won the next two gold stars championships. He also was leading the Australian Grand Prix against many of the top F1 stars from Europe until gearbox failure sidelined him.
“Undoubtedly, Alfie was of international standard when he drove for me and this was recognised by the Italian Government who effectively Knighted him for his achievements.”
The F5000s are scheduled to hit the track this weekend for practice, qualifying at 9:50am Saturday, and races on Saturday at 1340 and Sunday at 0955 and the feature finale at 1415. The Sunday’s racing will be co-commentated by John Goss, and he along with F5000 Patron Fred Gibson will be presenting the winners trophies o the podium in the main paddock. Three more F5000 vehicles will also be on display in the main paddock, and their owners will be on hand to chat about their cars’ history for any spectators wanting to know more about this fantastic era of aero motorsport.