With a new benchmark time in qualifying and a lights-to-flag win in the first eight-lap race of the weekend, Kiwi super-vet Ken Smith (Lola T332) got his return to the MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series off to a storming start at the third round at Hampton Downs this afternoon.
With a best lap of 59.264 the 73-year-old in his 57th year of national level single-seater circulated under the category lap record - 59.483s - then led the first race at the first New Zealand round of this year's trans-Tasman MSC series from start to finish.
The points leader after the first two rounds of this year's series in Australia, Kiwi Clark Proctor (March 73A/1), had an early set-back with a slow puncture in qualifying, but fought back strongly in the race to cross the line second behind Smith.
Though rain fell briefly earlier in the day and threatened just before the start, the eight-lap race was held in warm, dry conditions with Proctor - who qualified third - attacking pole man Smith aggressively on the inside at Turn 1 just after the start.
Smith fought him off and by the end of the first lap had established a handy lead over Proctor, fellow former series champion Steve Ross (McRae GM1) and visiting Australan driver Paul Zazryn (Lola T332).
Smith, Proctor and Ross started pulling away on the second lap only to have their advantage negated on the third when the Safety Car was dispatched after Russell Greer spun his Lola T332 exiting Turn 1.
Greer was able to restart the car and drive it back to the pits but the field remained behind the Safety Car for another full lap.
Proctor was again aggressive off the re-start, this time trying to drive around the outside, but Smith again had his measure edging away this time to win the race from Proctor, Ross and Brett Willis (Lola T330).
Like Smith, Willis was in comeback mode, in his case after a heavy crash at the second NZ Festival meeting last year, and after qualifying seventh capped off a strong return with a final lap move to claim take fourth place off fellow Lola driver Paul Zazryn.
Early on in the race Alastair Russell (McRae GM1) was running as high as seventh but slipped back through the field as the race went on.
UK-based series regular Greg Thornton swapped from his Chevron B24/28 to his Surtees TS8 for the race and ran in the top six, initially between Paul Zazryn and Brett Willis, while defending series champion Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) quickly made his presence felt to break into the top eight after engine issues in qualifying saw him start the race from the last row of the grid.
Aaron Burson (Talon MR1/A) did well to qualify fourth quickest but slowed suddenly early in the race, forcing a closely following David Banks in the other Talon in the race to swerve to avoid him.
What was the problem?
"I accidentally hit the kill switch," Burson admitted.
Banks, showing new speed which he attributed to the extra track time he is getting in an historic Formula Ford he has recently purchased, was able to continue and crossed the line in eighth place, just behind Greg Thornton and Andrew Higgins but in front of Ian Clements (Lola T332), Glenn Richards (Lola T400), visiting Australian driver Peter Brennan (Lola T330), and Alastair Russell.
Enjoying a trouble-free debut in his recently finished high-wing McLaren M10A, meanwhile, was Tony Roberts, one of the men behind the Hampton Downs circuit, who crossed the line in 14th place in front of Peter Burson (McRae GM1), visiting English driver Robs Lamplough in the ex Howden Ganley Formula 1 BRM P180, and a three-car battle pack consisting of Tim Rush (McLaren M22), Warwick Mortimer (Surtees TS5) and Poul Christie (McLaren M10B).
Unfortunate not to make it to the finish meanwhile, was series young gun Allan Dunkley in his giant-killing high-wing Lola T140.
Dunkley qualified the Lola, the oldest car in the field, 13th but was forced out early in the race with a broken universal joint.
Today's race was the first of three at the first Gulf Oil Howden Ganley F5000 Festival meeting at Hampton Downs with a second eight lapper on Sunday morning and a 15-lap feature in the afternoon.
Series super-vet Ken Smith (Lola T332) went on to complete a clean-sweep of the three MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series races on the programme at the first Gulf Oil Howden Ganley F5000 Festival historic motor racing meeting at Hampton Downs on Sunday, winning both category races very much as he liked.
Though track conditions mitigated against him taking a serious tilt at the track lap record, the 73-year-old who lives high in the Bombay Hills less than 20 minutes away from the circuit, maintained the advantage he established on Saturday, winning the first - eight lap - race of the day from Clark Proctor (March 73A/1) and visiting Australian driver Paul Zazryn (Lola T332), then the 15 lap feature in the afternoon from Steve Ross (McRae GM1) and Greg Thornton (Surtees TS8).
Unfortunately the early action in the combined MSC NZF5000/Invited F1 cars races happened behind Smith with both red flagged and re-started, the first not once but twice.
In that race, McRae GM1 driver Peter Burson had a brake issue, his car grinding to a halt on the first lap with the race immediately red-flagged so it could be retrieved.
The starting lights had only just gone out after the first re-start, however, when Glenn Richards (Lola T400) clipped Brett Willis (Lola T330) along the short straight between Turns 1 and 2 as a slowing Willis was pulling over with a broken half-shaft. That sent both cars spinning and collected by the following Surtees TS5 of Warwick Mortimer and McLaren M22 of Tim Rush.
All four cars sustained damage, two of them heavy, leading to a lengthy delay while they were retrieved and the track cleared of debris.
Smith then led away on the second re-start with Proctor and Ross disputing third until Zazryn and defending series champion Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) took advantage of a small mistake by Ross to slot him back to fifth place where he remained to the flag.
Alastair Russell was again quick in his McRae GM1 before he was forced out by a broken universal joint.
After his brush with the armco on Saturday, Blenheim driver Russell Greer was back in business in his repaired Lola T32 though, using a rear wing and mount borrowed from Steve Ross to good effect to finish ninth between British driver Greg Thornton's Surtees TS8 and Australian Peter Brennan's Lola T330.
In the feature race later in the day it was Clark Proctor's turn to bring out the red flag, the high-profile all-rounder with a background in stockcars but better known these days for his efforts in Targa New Zealand and now the MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series, running off the track at the hairpin with a sticking throttle.
Once his cars was out of the gravel trap and back in the pits, the race ran like clockwork however, Smith stroking his La Valise-liveried Lola T332 home at a canter from Steve Ross and Greg Thornton a weekend-best third (despite having to again use his second car, the Surtees, when flywheel issues kept his first, the ex Peter Gethin Chevron B24/28 in the pit garage).
Auckland driver David Banks (Talon MR1) also enjoyed a strong run this time, with his own weekend-best fourth, just in front of quick and consistent Aussie Paul Zazryn in fifth.
Andrew Higgins was quick early on, only to be forced out by an engine issue. Enjoying a second top 12 finish in both Sunday races, however, was young gun Alan Dunkley (Lola T140), his team having repaired the damage to the universal that put the classic high-wing Class A car out in the first race of the weekend on Saturday.
This weekend's meeting was the first of two at the Hampton Downs circuit over consecutive weekends with the MSC series field gathering back at the circuit next Friday for the fourth round of this season's series on Saturday and Sunday.
1. Ken Smith (Lola T332) 59.264
2. Steve Ross (McRae GM1) 1.01.106
3. Clark Proctor (March 73A/1) 1.01.476
4. Aaron Burson (Talon MR1/A) 1.02.256
5. Paul Zazryn (Lola T332) 1.02.263
6. Greg Thornton (Chevron B24/28) 1.02.452
7. Brett Willis (Lola T330) 1.02.586
8. Alastair Russell (McRae GM1) 1.02.864
9. Glenn Richards (Lola T400) 1.02.978
10. David Banks (Talon MR1) 1.03.326
11. Peter Brennan (Lola T330) 1.03.379
12. Ian Clements (Lola T332) 1.03.605
13. Allan Dunkley (Lola T140) 1.04.481
14. Russell Greer (Lola T332) 1.04.802
15. David Abbott (Lola T430) 1.05.981
16. Peter Burson (McRae GM1) 1.06.967
17. Tony Roberts (McLaren M10A) 1.07.779
18. Robs Lamplough (BRM P180 F1) 1.07.805
19. Lindsay O'Donnell (Begg FM5) 1.08.460
20. Warwick Mortimer (Surtees TS5) 1.09.248
21. Poul Christie (McLaren M10A) 1.11.558
22. Grant Clearwater (McLaren M10B) 1.11.608
23. Tim Rush (McLaren M22) 1.12.220
24. Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) 1.11.876
25. Shayne Windelburn (Lola T400) no time.
Race 1 - 8 laps
1. Ken Smith
2. Clark Proctor
3. Steve Ross
4. Brett Willis
5. Paul Zazryn
6. Greg Thornton
7. Andrew Higgins
8. David Banks
9. Ian Clements
10. Glenn Richards
11. Peter Brennan
12. Alastair Russell
13. David Abbott
14. Tony Roberts
15. Peter Burson
16. Robs Lamplough
17. Tim Rush
18. Warwick Mortimer
19. Poul Christie
DNF. Aaron Burson, Russell Greer, Allan Dunkley, Lindsay O'Donnell, Grant Clearwater, Shayne Windelburn
Race 2 - 8 laps
1. Ken Smith 08:50.710
2. Clark Proctor +02.662
3. Paul Zazryn +13.780
4. Andrew Higgins +13.943
5. Steve Ross +17.290
6. Aaron Burson +21.672
7. Ian Clements +35.835
8. Greg Thornton +36.145
9. Russell Greer +37.163
10. Peter Brennan +39.426
11. Alan Dunkley +42.626
12. David Abbott +53.420
13. Tony Roberts +01:01.472
14. Robs Lamplough +01:01.779
15. Grant Clearwater +1 lap
16. Poul Christie +1 lap
DNF; Alastair Russell, Lindsay O'Donnell, Brett Willis, Glenn Richards, David Banks, Tim Rush, Warwick Mortimer, Peter Burson, Shayne Windelburn
Race 3 - 15 laps
1. Ken Smith 16.22.542
2. Steve Ross +5.087
3. Greg Thornton +36.044
4. David Banks +38.971
5. Paul Zazryn +39.445
6. Aaron Burson +39.775
7. Peter Brennan +49.583
8. Russell Greer +50.526
9. Alan Dunkley +51.592
10. Ian Clements +59.581
11. Shayne Windelburn +1 lap
12. Tony Roberts +1 lap
13. Davis Abbott +1 lap
14. Peter Burson +1 lap
15. Lindsay O'Donnell +1 lap
16. Robs Lamplough +1 lap
17. Grant Clearwater + 1 lap
18. Poul Christie +1 lap
DNF. Andrew Higgins, Clark Proctor
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, Mobil Lubricants, Pacifica, Avon Tyres, Webdesign and Exide.
CALENDARRnd 4: Jan 23-25 2015 Gulf Oil Howden Ganley F5000 Festival #2 Hampton Downs Nth Waikato New Zealand
Rnd 5: Feb 6-7 2015 Skope Classic, Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Christchurch, New ZealandRnd 6: Feb 12-15 2015 The NZIGP/Manfeild Trust/MSNZ/TRS Manfeild, Feilding, New Zealand