Veteran Ken Smith (Lola T332) made a winning return to the SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tamsna Cup Revival Series on the first day of competition at the second annual Taupo Historic Grand Prix meeting at the lakeside city’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park this afternoon.
Just two months after his spectacular crash and barrier ride in a borrowed car at the ITM SuperSprint meeting at Pukekohe in November last year the 75-year-old now contesting his 60th consecutive season of national level motor racing here in New Zealand was back to his pace-setting best.
After claiming pole position with a time within tenths of a second (1.25.825) of Chris Hyde’s long standing circuit F5000 category lap record (1.25.717) in qualifying in the morning Smith shadowed fellow front row starter Andrew Higgins (Lola T332) for the first two laps of the 8 lap race before a clean pass down the inside into Turn 1 saw him take a lead he would never lose.
‘It’s actually good to have someone racing with you,’ Smith said of Higgins, a young driver who he has mentored for many years now. “Because pole – for some reason – is on the outside for races with rolling starts Andrew had the line going into Turn 1. I could have tried to stay with him round the outside but he had a clean run and he is driving good. We were equal in horsepower but I think I was just getting a better run onto the straight then he was.”
There was early drama behind the pair as the 18-strong field streamed into the first corner with UK-based series regular Greg Thornton (March 75/Ford 3.4) squeezed wide and into the path of third quickest qualifier Michael Collins (McRae GM1).
Despite a wild ride over the back wheel of Thornton’s unique Ford Cosworth-engined March 75 Collins was able to continue, and after slotting back into the order near the back, the 21-year-old worked his way back to fifth.
“You just put your head down and get on with it, don’t you?” Collins said afterwards. ‘I got a bit of a thump when the car landed but it felt alright so I just went for it.”
Thornton – who qualified fifth – pitted to access any damage, leaving Grant Martin (Talon MR1/A) to assume third place, initially from defending series champion Brett Willis (Lola T330) then – as Willis was slowed then forced out by a broken half shaft – Aaron Burson (McRae GM1).
David Banks (Lola T332) initially ran as high as sixth in front of Glenn Richards (Lola T400), David Arrowsmith – having an outstanding run in his Class A Lotus 70 – and Tim Rush in the McLaren M 22. But brake issues saw Banks slip back into the clutches of Rush. And also lose a place the resurgent Michael Collins.
A mid-race spin ended any chance Glenn Richards (Lola T400) had of maintaining a spot in the top six. Category newcomer Mike Creswell form Tauranga also had a minor trip off road later on in the race but kept going to the finish.
Confusion with the chequered flag marred the final lap but Peter Burson (McRae GM1), Tony Roberts (McLaren M10A), Kerry McIntosh (Begg FM2) and Karl Zohs (Chevron B32) also finished the race.
The other series newcomer, former Speedway ace and recent Central Muscle Cars series regular Tony Galbraith (Lola T332), and Shayne Windelburn (Lola T400) both qualified well but Galbraith had a prior engagement (a wedding) so had to miss today’s race, while Windelburn was forced to sit it out with a broken half shaft.
There are two more SAS Autoparts MSC F5000 Tamsan Cup Revival Series races at Taupo tomorrow then the series heads north to share top billing with the TRS Championship at the NZ Motor Cup meeting at Hampton Downs next weekend.
The 2017/18 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.
You can follow the 2017/18 series on Facebook at F5000 New Zealand or on the NZ F5000 Association’s website www.F5000.co.nz