A rare Formula 5000 racing car with an on-track history in the UK, North America and more recently in New Zealand and Australia has a new home in Tauranga.

"I've always wanted to race one of these cars," says Tauranga's Mike Creswell, who says owning the classic 1973 March F5000 car was something that happened by pure chance.

"I was at the Supercars meeting at Pukekohe in November giving Kenny Smith a bit of a hand. I was chatting to the lads and [F5000 racer] Tony Roberts asked me if I had bought a car yet," says Creswell.

"When I said no, he said 'you should buy this one over here' and pointed out Clark Proctor's car.


"I started talking to Clark and told him I didn't have the cash but I had some classic cars and it turns out he was happy to trade."

Doing the deal meant Creswell cleared out his garage including a classic Lola Formula Ford, his prized AC Cobra and a Datsun 260Z he'd owned since near-new plus some savings.

But the March is all his and race-ready for a debut at Taupo's Historic Grand Prix over the January 20-21 weekend.

"At the moment I'm doing the Taupo and Hampton Downs rounds of the Formula 5000 Tasman Revival Series and if that goes well I'll enter for the Skope Classic meeting at Ruapuna [Christchurch] in February," says Creswell.

"I don't have any sponsorship but if I can find some to help me run the car I'd love to go to Phillip Island [near Melbourne] in March which is the final round of the series."

The March is chassis number 73A-1, the first 1973 March to be completed at the Bicester, Oxfordshire factory and a near-relative of the 731 in which James Hunt made his Formula 1 debut for the Hesketh team.

The March was raced by John Gunn (USA) and John Cannon (Canada) during 1973 and 1974 before being dismantled and stored for about 20 years.

An eight-year restoration by Greg Wold in Minnesota saw the car back on track in US historic racing events before being purchased by New Zealand's Roger Williams in 2010.

Proctor bought the car soon after and has raced the March more than any other driver with six seasons as one of the leading contenders in the Tasman Revival F5000 Series that runs in Australia and New Zealand.

The March's full racing history and restoration has been documented by its owners in a series of folders and Creswell is excited about his chance to add to a racing history that spans 45 years.

"The way I see it, we are just temporary owners and we're keeping these amazing cars running for future generations to enjoy," says Creswell.

Although he has more than 40 years of racing experience, Creswell says a F5000 car with a 5.0-litre fuel-injected Chevrolet V8 engine developing about 600-horsepower will be a very different challenge to the Mini Cooper, various sports cars and Formula Ford single-seaters he's raced previously.

"I feel really good owning the car but it will be even better to get in it and get a feel for driving it," he says.

"I know it's going to be a really big learning curve. I'll be patient and build up to it."

The F5000 cars competing in the SAS Autoparts/MSC Tasman Cup Revival Series are the prime attraction of the Taupo Historic GP meeting on January 20-21.

The support race programme includes Formula Junior single-seaters, the Historic Muscle Car Series, classes for historic touring cars and sports sedans and there is also some motorcycling content with Sidecars and the Hyosung Cup.