Veteran Ken Smith (Lola T332) made a winning return to the SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman 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 today. 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.
Ken Smith (Lola T332) 1.25.825
Andrew Higgins (Lola T332 1.26.956
Michael Collins (McRae GM1) 1.27.365
Grant Martin (Talon MR1/A) 1.27.534
Greg Thornton (March 75A) 1.27.702
Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) 1.28.464
Brett Willis (Lola T330) 1.29.324
Glenn Richards (Lola T400) 1.29.387
David Banks (Lola T332) 1.30.812
Tony Galbraith (Lola T332) 1.31..649
Tim Rush (McLaren M22) 1.31.996
Shayne Windleburn (Lola T332) 1.32.411
Dave Arrowsmith (Lotus 70) 1.32.712
Peter Burson (McRae GM1) 1.34.259
Tony Roberts (McLaren M10A) 1.35.385
Mike Creswell (March 73A/1) 1.36.359
Kerry McIntosh (Begg FM2) 1.37.950
Karl Zohs (Chevron B32) 1.42.52
1. Ken Smith 8 laps
2. Andy Higgins + 1.709
3. Grant Martin + 7.628
4. Aaron Burson + 10.987
5. Michael Collins + 21.610
6. David Arrowsmith + 34.181
7. David Banks +42.744
8. Tim Rush + 43.095
9. Glenn Richards + 56.241
10. Mike Creswell + 1:18.819
11. Peter Burson 7 laps
12. Tony Roberts 7 laps
13. Kerry McIntosh 7 laps
14. Karl Zohs 6 laps
DNF. Brett Willis Greg Thornton
DNS. Tony Galbraith, Shayne Windelburn