There was a fairytale finish to the final MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival series race at the inaugural Festival of New Zealand Motor Racing at the new Hampton Downs motor racing circuit south of Auckland on Sunday, evergreen New Zealand veteran Ken Smith (Lola T430) making it four wins from four starts.
Though 2007/08 MSC F5000 series winner Chris Hyde (McRae GM1) pipped him for pole position in qualifying defending series champion Smith proved to be the man to beat in all four races, winning the first from 2009/10 series points leader Steve Ross (McRae GM1) and former series champion Ian Clements (Lola T332), the second from Mark Dwyer (Lola T332) and Chris Hyde, the third from Dwyer and Monaco-based British compatriot Peter Dunn (March 73A) and the final from Dunn and Aaron Burson (McRae GM1).
With a capacity field of beautifully restored and race prepared V8-engined 70s-era cars contesting the third round of their MSC-backed 2009/10 series the Formula 5000s provided one of the highlights of the Hampton Downs meeting with a 10,000-strong crowd enjoying wheel-to-wheel action in all four races.
As well as winning each race 68-year-old super-vet Smith also set the quickest race lap in three of the four races, even bettering 2009/10 title rival Chris Hyde (McRae) pole time (1.02.945) in the third race with a new category track record 1.02.279.
Mark Dwyer got the jump on both Smith and Hyde at the start of the weekend’s third MSC race on Sunday morning but Smith outbraked the Englishman into the second turn before edging away until the red flag came out and the race was stopped so that a prone car could be moved from the track.
Smith made sure Dwyer didn’t get a second fast-starting chance when the race was re-started, claiming his second quickest race lap of the weekend on his way to his third win in as many starts.
Dwyer did try to return the favour on Smith into the second turn but the wily local veteran remained in front before easing away to eventually cross the finish line just over four seconds in front of Dwyer with compatriot Peter Dunn a further second back in third and Steve Ross fifth.
Hyde and Roger Williams disputed third place before the red flag came out, but both struck problems – Hyde spinning in his car’s own water when a hose blew, Williams holding third place behind Smith and Dwyer until the last lap when he was slowed and eventually stopped by a driveline problem.
That left the way open for Peter Dunn to take the fight for second place to Dwyer, the difference at the flag just over a second with Steve Ross fourth, Ian Clements fifth and Aaron Burson sixth.
Visiting British drivers Mike Whatley and Daryl Taylor were ninth and tenth, Whatley again the quickest of the Class A competitors, with Bill Hemming (Elfin MR8 A/C) the best of the MSC series’ four-strong Australian contingent in 12th
It was Chris Hyde who got the jump on the field in the second MSC race (over 6 laps) of the weekend on Saturday afternoon, but Smith stalked him and made a successful bid for a lead he would again never lose on the third lap. Dwyer followed Smith’s example a lap later leaving Hyde third then a gap to a battle for fourth between Steve Ross and Roger Williams.
Second of the visiting overseas drivers home was Peter Dunn in sixth with Sefton Gibb seventh, Aaron Burson eighth and Ian Clements ninth.
With Mike Whatley a dnf in this race Class A honours reverted to local driver Kerry McIntosh in his New Zealand-built Begg FM2, the Aucklander crossing the line in 19th position.
The day’s second race also saw the first race appearance this season of Calven Bonney in his recently acquired Begg 018, the former Truck and SuperGT class racer from Auckland finishing 21st in his first competitive outing in the car.
Fittingly Smith got his weekend off to a good start with victory in the first race, over 6 laps, on Saturday morning, assuming a lead he would never lose after an action-packed first lap which saw Mark Dwyer spin off the damp track at the infield hairpin after grabbing an early lead, then pole man Chris Hyde fall back and eventually retire with brake problems.
Relishing the clear track in front of him Smith put his head down and eased away from the field crossing the finish line after six laps with a 16 second lead over Steve Ross with Ian Clement a further seven seconds back.
Clements was one of the big movers in the race, working his way from 10th on the grid to fourth with one lap to go and third at the flag after passing Sefton Gibb on the last lap.
Also making up plenty of places were Bruce Leeson (from 21st to eighth) and Frank Lyons (McLaren M26).
Driving one of the two McLaren F1 cars which have joined the F5000s for the weekend, Lyons passed an average of three-and-a-half cars a lap to get from the back row of the grid to ninth by the time the chequered flag came out.
Best of the 11-strong group of visiting drivers was Mike Whatley who crossed the line fifth (a placing which also earned him first Class A car home honours) with Peter Dunn sixth and Bruce Leeson eighth.
Dunn got a good start from P9 on the grid but lost several places when he was forced off the track to avoid the spinning Mark Dwyer.
Dwyer made it back onto the track unscathed but was one of seven starters who did not make the finish line, in his case because after coming off in his hand, his car’s gear lever ended up jammed between the throttle and brake pedals.
Other retirees were Judy Lyons and Alastair Russell (engine problems), Chris Hyde (brakes), John MacKinlay and Daryl Taylor (contact) and Greg Thornton.
2009/10 MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series Round Three NZ Festival of Motor Racing meeting – Bruce McLaren at Hampton Downs, Fri-Sun Jan 22-24 2010
This weekend’s New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing – Bruce McLaren meeting was the first of two (the second is at Pukekohe’s Pukekohe Park Raceway over the January 30-31 weekend) with both attracting bumper entries across all categories including the MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series.
The MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series is organised and run with the support of sponsors MSC, NZ Express Transport, Bonney’s Specialized Bulk Transport, Pacifica, Toll Holdings, Smith & Davies, Avon Tyres and Exide.
1. Chris Hyde (ChCh, McRae GM1) 1.02.945
2. Ken Smith (Auckland, Lola T430) 1.03.142
3. Mark Dwyer (UK, Lola T332) 1.03.855
4. Steve Ross (Dunedin, McRae GM1) 1.04.215
5. Sefton Gibb (Napier, Lola T332) 1.05.108
6. Roger Williams (Auckland, Lola T332) 1.05.124
7. Tony Richards (ChCh, Lola T332) 1.05.155
8. David Abbott (ChCh, Lola T430) 1.05.159
9. Peter Dunn (Monaco, March 73A) 1.05.220
10. Ian Clements (ChCh, Lola T332) 1.05.642
Race 1 (Sat 6 laps)
1. Ken Smith 6:53.742
2. Steve Ross 7:09.701
3. Ian Clements 7:16.709
4. Sefton Gibb 7:19.268
5. Michael Whatley 7:19.603
6. Peter Dunn 7:19.974
7. Russell Greer 7:26.274
8. Bruce Leeson 7:30.735
9. Frank Lyons 7:35.293
10. Hamish Paterson 7:46.659
Fastest lap Ken Smith 1:03.046
Race 2 (7 laps)
1. Ken Smith 7:33.558
2. Mark Dwyer 2.368
3. Chris Hyde +2.492
4. Steve Ross +3.713
5. Roger Williams +4.860
6. Peter Dunn +10.386
7. Sefton Gibb +12.156
8. Aaron Burson +12.810
9. Ian Clements +13.890
10. Greg Thornton +17.690
Fastest lap: Chris Hyde 1.03.153
1. Ken Smith 8 9:55.174
2. Mark Dwyer +4.201
3. Peter Dunn +5.261
4. Steve Ross +8.365
5. Ian Clements +10.024
6. Aaron Burson +11.819
7. Brett Willis +12.727
8. Mike Whatley +13.454
9. Daryl Taylor +14.224
10. Greg Thornton +30.016
Fastest lap: Ken Smith 1:02.279
Race 4 (15 laps)
1. Ken Smith 6:14.292
2. Peter Dunn +13.971
3. Aaron Burson +27.887
4. Daryl Taylor +29.491
5. Brett Willis +35.915 1
6. Greg Thornton +35.952
7. Ian Clements +1:00.064
8. Bruce Leeson +1 Lap
9. Tim Rush +1 lap
10. Calven Bonney +1 lap
11. Shayne Windelburn + 1 lap
12. Hamish Paterson +1 lap
13. Peter Burson +1 lap
14. Kerry McIntosh +1 lap
15. Poul Christie +1 lap
16. Kerry Anderson +1 lap
17. Paul Trevethan +2 Laps
18. Judy Lyons +3 Laps
DNF David Abbott, Grant Clearwater, Bill Hemming, Tony Richards, Mike Whatley, Marcus Pye, Steve Ross, Alastair Russell
DNS Sefton Gibb, Chris Hyde, Mark Dwyer, Calven Bonney
Fastest lap Ken Smith 1.03.377
New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series Calendar
Rnd 1: November 14-15 2009 MG Classic meeting Manfeild Feilding
Rnd 2: January 08-10 2010 Lady Wigram Trophy meeting Powerbuilt Tools Raceway @ Ruapuna Park Christchurch
Rnd 3: January 22-24 2010 NZ Festival of Motor Racing – celebrating Bruce McLaren Hampton Downs north Waikato
Rnd 4: January 29-31 2010 NZ Festival of Motor Racing – celebrating Bruce McLaren Pukekohe Park Raceway Pukekohe
Rnd 5: March 19-21 2010 VHRR Phillip Island Classic meeting Phillip Island Australia
Rnd 6: Mar 25-28 2010 FORMULA 1 Australian Grand Prix Albert Park Melbourne Aust
[Source: NZ F5000 Assoc.; Fast Company/Alex Mitchell]