Runaway series points leader Ken Smith (Lola T332) has made a winning start at the final round of the 2018/19 SAS Autoparts/MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series at Hampton Downs today, qualifying on pole in the morning and leading the first eight-lap race of the weekend from start to finish this afternoon.
The 77-year-old, contesting his 61st consecutive season of national level motor racing in this country, was particularly proud of his pole time – at 1:00.487 only a second off the class (and outright track) lap record he set earlier this year, but lamented the fact that arch-rival Michael Collins (McRae GM1) could not make it to the meeting.
“I have enjoyed today, it’s been good,” he said, “but it’s always better when you have someone to push you along.”
Behind Smith, and also enjoying a quick and trouble-free run, was David Banks (Lola T332) who set a personal best lap time of 1:01.911 in qualifying and crossed the finish line just 2.260 seconds behind Smith in the race.
“That’s the quickest I’ve ever been round here,’ the man behind series co-sponsor SAS Autoparts said as he held the qualifying sheet. “I’ve done plenty of 1:02s but never a 1:01 and I did two in a row, so yeah I’m stoked.”
Banks maintained that momentum in the race, leading a mid-field battle-pack consisting of Glenn Richards (Lola T400), Brett Willis (Lola T330), a fast-finishing Kevin Ingram (Lola T332) and Aaron Burson (McRae GM1), from start to finish.
That included a late-race, last lap burst after the Safety Car had been deployed when Peter Burson’s BRM P207 F1 car – running as a guest entry with the SAS Autoparts MSC F5000 cars – slowed and stopped out on the track.
Burson Snr (who usually races a McRae GM1 similar to the one his son Aaron drives in the SAS Autoparts MSC series) was looking forward to his first full race-length run in the unique ex-Larry Perkins car after an extensive rebuild, and though he was able to get back to his pit under its own steam it was a frustrating end to a promising debut run in the car.
“It just stopped,” he said,” just stopped. And I couldn’t get it started again under its own steam.”
In theory the Safety Car should have negated any advantage Smith had. But the canny veteran read the track going green again like the pro that he is, getting the jump again over the close running David Banks, Glenn Richards and Brett Willis, who in turn edged ahead of Aaron Burson and Kevin Ingram with Ingram getting a better run off the final turn and beating Burson to the flag by a margin of just 0.024 of a second!
Behind them Hampton Downs track co-founder Tony Roberts led home an entertaining three McLaren battle pack consisting of his recently acquired M10B, Frank Karl’s similar car, and Tim Rush in the his M22.
Three seconds separated the three McLarens in qualifying but in the race all three lapped in the 1:07 bracket.
There are two more eight-lap SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series races at the season-ending Legends of Speed meeting at Hampton Downs tomorrow, one in the morning, and the season-finale – for the Alain Prost Trophy – in the afternoon.
2018/19 SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series
Rnd Five, Hampton Downs, Qualifying:
Ken Smith (Lola T332) 1:00.487
David Banks (Lola T332) 1:01.911
Glenn Richards (Lola T400) 1:02.926
Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) 1:04.059
Brett Willis (Lola T330) 1:04.215
Kevin Ingram (Lola T332) 1:05.892
Tony Roberts (McLaren M10B) 1:06.220
Frank Karl (McLaren M10B) 1:08.588
Tim Rush (McLaren M22) 1:09.435
Peter Burson (BRM P207 F1) 1:11.688
Race 1 (8 laps):
Ken Smith (Lola T332) 8 laps
David Banks (Lola T332) +2.260
Glenn Richards (Lola T400) +2.775
Brett Willis (Lola T330) +3.351
Kevin Ingram (Lola T332) +4.756
Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) +4.780
Tony Roberts (McLaren M10B) +7.032
Frank Karl (McLaren M10B) +8.101
Tim Rush (McLaren M22) +10.171
Dnf. Peter Burson (BRM P207 F1) 5 laps.
Points after Rnd 4 of 5:
Ken Smith (Akld) Lola T332 752 points
Michael Collins (ChCh) McRae GM1 627
Brett Willis (Rot) Lola T330 519
Greg Thornton (UK) Chevron B24 518
David Banks (Akld) Lola T332 501
Kevin Ingram (Fldg) Lola T332 473
Pictures: Fast Company/Geoff Ridder