It all came right for the SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series at the annual ITM SuperSprint meeting at Pukekohe on Sunday as category newcomer Michael Collins (McRae GM1) took the battle for the lead of the feature 14 -lap final to long-time series fast-man Clark Proctor (March 73A1).
A typically boisterous Pukekohe crowd was on its feet as the pair catapulted away from the rolling start and proceeded to swap fastest race laps as they battled for the lead.
Proctor was in front when the chequered flag came out after a hectic 14 laps but young gun Collins, the 21-year-old from Christchurch in only his second race in the Alistair Hey-owned, ex-Evan Noyes McRae GM1, had twice managed to find a way past the vastly more experienced Proctor, and at the line was only three-hundredths of a second behind.
“And hats off to him,” said Proctor as well-wishers surrounded the pair immediately after the race. “It was a pleasure to race against a young man like Michael who can come into the class and do such a great job first up. He was a pleasure to race with and I think we both enjoyed putting on a show for all the fans here.”
Collins only got the call up to drive the Alistair Hey McRae GM1 a couple of weeks before the meeting but showed the class that has won him three South Island Formula Ford titles by qualifying second quickest on Friday then finishing a close second in his first race in the class on Sunday morning then pushing Clark Proctor even harder in the feature race in the afternoon.
“Yeah it was good to get to couple of good dry races in after the rain yesterday,” he said. “I was definitely more confident, particularly in the brakes, in that second race Because it’s my first time here I was also getting more confident in the circuit and it was definitely pretty special getting to run with the likes of Clark in an F5000 car.”
Running in bright sunshine on a dry track the feature race helped make up for a difficult start to the weekend for the popular SAS Autoparts MSC retro F5000 class series.
On Friday class stalwart Ken Smith ran a bearing in his own Lola T332, just as one of the young drivers he is mentoring at the moment, Tom Alexander, put the car Smith has organised for him, the Ian Riley Lola T332, on pole.
The plan then was for Alexander to run the car in the first race of the weekend on Saturday before handing it over to Smith on Sunday. However race officials cancelled the Saturday race because of standing water on the rain-soaked track.
Then, when the class finally got to take to the track on Sunday morning that race had to be shortened after the rear wing support broke on the Smith car, sending Smith into and over Codie Banks’ Talon MR1 and into the barriers at one of the fastest parts of the circuit.
Fortunately neither driver was injured in the accident but it left everyone involved in the series on edge…until the feature race when ‘normal reception’ in terms of close, exciting racing in a line-up of beautifully restored and closely matched stock lock V8-powered single-seater racing cars, resumed, albeit not without a final twist!
Third for the first two laps was former series champion Andy Higgins (Lola T332) but when a half shaft broke on the third lap fellow Aucklander Grant Martin assumed the position and held it to the flag. Glenn Richards (Lola T400) held fourth place early on but he started slipping back through the order as his engine progressively lost power.
Big mover, meanwhile, was defending SAS Autoparts MSC series title holder Brett Willis who started from P7 but got quicker and quicker as the race went on and closed to within eight-tenths of a second of Grant Martin at the flag,
That left Aaron Burson driving the other Talon MR1A in the field fifth with Christchurch driver David Arrowsmith coming back from a dnf in the morning race to win the Class A (for older cars) category from the high-wing McLaren M10A of Tony Roberts, and the McLaren M10B of Frank Karl.
David Banks had started the race from P 12 in his new ex Johnny Walker Magnum Wheels-liveried Lola T332 but pulled off the track on the back straight after the car’s throttle stuck open, leaving Peter Burson (McRae GM1) and Kerry McIntosh in the New Zealand-built Begg FM2 to round out the field..
Clark Proctor also won what was the first race of the weekend on Sunday morning after the Saturday race was cancelled.
Unfortunately the race was marred by the accident which claimed the cars of series’ veteran Ken Smith and series’ newcomer Codie Banks.
Smith was working his way through the field after starting from the rear of the grid (having not driven the car in qualifying) when the rear wing collapsed as he was passing Banks down the front straight.
With a sudden loss of rear downforce Smith was a passenger, the car veering left and into then right over Banks’ Talon before making heavy contact with the Armco barrier which lines the track at that point.
“I just felt a thud,” said Smith. “I didn’t know what happened until I was advised afterwards that the rear wing fell off, that’s why it slid out.”
When the race resumed the original pole sitter and first lap leader, Michal Collins got the jump on Clark Proctor with Andy Higgins slotting back into third place and that’s the way they stayed until Proctor found a way past young gun Collins through the high speed Turn 1 to lead the final lap and take the chequered flag.
Collins, who made a big impression with a quick, clean and very mature dive, crossed the line in second place with Higgins a lonely third then Grant Martin leading home a nose-to-tail battle pack consisting of Glen Richards, Aaron Burson and Brett Willis.
Tony Roberts was first of the Class A (for older series cars) in eighth (after David Arrowsmith stopped with a holed radiator) ahead of Peter Burson, Frank Karl and Kerry McIntosh.
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.
The Manfeild circuit near Palmerston North hosts the second round of the 2017/18 series next weekend with the third and fourth rounds in January, the fifth in February and sixth and final in Match.
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