Copersucar-Ford F5A

Copersucar-Ford F5A

We will see these F1 gems at the GP Revival 2024 in Brno

Text and photo: Roman Klemm

When the news broke in late 1975 that 2-time champion Emerson Fittipaldi was leaving the top McLaren team to drive for the Wilson brother's team called Copersucar, some observers did not want to believe it. Those who considered this move to be a colossal stupidity and a waste of the Brazilian's talent were unfortunately right. The all-Brazilian Copersucar-Fittipaldi project consumed many people, money, hopes, time and talent during its less than ten-year existence without leading to adequate success.
If success came, it was in 1978 with the Copersucar-Ford F5A. In many respects, the car accompanied a kind of attempt at a new start for the stable, which first entered under the application "Fittipaldi Automotive". It was drawn by one of the "fathers" of Chapman's miraculous Lotus 78, Ralph Bellamy, and it was the first Copersucar not made in Brazil, but in England. Charismatic manager Jo Ramirez left the brothers for this. But back to the car: Bellamy did use Mk F5 shells, but otherwise it was a completely new single-seater. The F5A had new hinges and wide sidewalls, which surprisingly the Englishman did not equip with wing profiles à la Lotus 78! So the Copersucar F5A was not a wing-car, even though it looked like one with its new bodywork and had an oil cooler in the nose according to the fashion of the time. There was no shortage of money for the organization, the food concern Copersucar subsidized the brothers with an incredible amount of 4.3 million dollars at the time.
The start of the 1978 season turned out to be sensationally good considering the results so far. The rookie finished the first race in the Argentinian heat in 9th place, and what then happened on January 29 at home at the Jacarepágua circuit near Rio was unprecedented in the history of Fittipaldi's team. National hero Emerson qualified sensationally in 7th, and Sunday saw an escalation of "Brazilian bliss". Emerson successfully overtook rival after rival and was only 49 seconds behind Reutemnan's Ferrari in second at the finish line! Tens of thousands of fans celebrated "their" car, which was supposed to finally lead Emerson to where he belonged: to his third title.
Admittedly, the F5A was never able to repeat such a show. It wasn't until the middle of the season that he was able to score regularly again, the best of which was 4th in Germany and Austria. Emerson finished the championship with 17 points in 10th place.
In the 1979 season, the radical new F6 proved to be a hopeless loser, so Emerson often had to continue using the reliable F5A. He finished in the points only once, at the beginning of the year in Argentina. The Copersucar-Ford F5A went to its last Grand Prix last time in mid-July. At Silverstone, he did not reach the finish line due to an engine defect.

Max Hilliard and Miles Griffiths have successfully used this "Brazilian F1 pearl" in historic races in recent years.

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