Kiwi supervet Ken Smith (Lola T332) continued on his winning way on the first day of competition at the final round of the 2016/17 SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series at the annual Skope Classic motor racing meeting in Christchurch this afternoon.
In hot, dry conditions which saw the South Island city’s Mike Pero Motorsport Park at Ruapuna swelter in temperatures approached 30 degrees C the defending – and four-time – series champion set pole position in qualifying a full 2.3 seconds quicker than second quickest Glenn Richards (Lola T400).
The 75-year-old super veteran then led the first series’ race of the weekend from start to finish, eventually crossing the finish line after eight laps of the 3.33km Grand Prix circuit almost 18 seconds in front of fellow former series title-holder Steve Ross (McRae GM1) with David Banks (Talon MR1) third and 201/17 title prospect Brett Willis fourth.
“I really enjoyed that,” said Smith as he was surrounded by well-wishers in the SAS Autoparts MSC pits afterwards. “I got on a bit of a roll, lap by lap, and there was no traffic to pass until the last lap. When you get on a bit of a roll like you just keep rolling.
Heading into the meeting the 2016/17 series’ title fight looked set to be between Brett Willis (Lola T330) and Glenn Richards (Lola T400).
Richards grabbed the initiative by setting a second quickest qualifying time. But he was shuffled back into third off the lines by a fast-starting Steve Ross, then managed only one full before blowing a tyre as he braked at the end of the start/finish straight.
“It just went down very, very quickly, ” said a disappointed Richards. “Luckily there was plenty of room where I went off.”
As Smith pulled away from the rest of the 16-strong field the interest was in the battle for second with Dave Banks taking advantage of an excellent start off P5 (behind Smith and Ross) to close on Ross for second place at the hairpin.
Ross retained the position but Banks settled into a comfortable third and with Smith and Ross was the only other driver to lap under the 1.23.00 mark.
“I had the car to get into second, it was going really strong,” said Banks.
Like Ross, Sefton Gibb (Lola T332) also enjoyed a strong return to the SAS Autoparts MSC F5000 series, finishing fifth after resisting constant pressure from visiting Australian driver Paul Zazryn (Lola T332).
“I got a good start, I went from eight to sixth, and I was determined to stay there, ” he said. ‘I enjoyed it, It was great.”
Behind Paul Zazryn, Ian Clements (Lola T332) led a five-car mid-field battle-pack consisting of Aaron Burson (McRae GM1), David Arrowsmith (Lotus 70), Russell Greer (Lola T332) and Greg Thornton (Chevron B24).
Australian Bill Hemming (Elfin MR8), Englishman Mike Sidgewick (Trojan T101) and Class A (for older series cars) leader Frank Karl (McLaren M10B) completed the finishing order.
Young gun Michael Lyons (Hesketh 308E), meanwhile, was, the fastest qualifier and winner of the first Historic F1 race of the weekend. The 26-year-old set a new qualifying benchmark for the category of 1.18.528 in qualifying then a 1.18.656 in the race.
Aberdeen-based Irishman Tommy Dreelan (March 761) qualified and finished second from Lyons’ Jnr’s father Frank (McLaren M26) and mother Judy (Surtees TS9.
The 2016/17 SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series is organised and run with the support of sponsors SAS Autoparts, MSC, NZ Express Transport, Bonney’s Specialised Bulk Transport, Mobil Lubricants, Pacifica, Avon Tyres, Webdesign and Exide Batteries.