Taupo Historic Grand Prix meeting
Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park
Sat-Sun Jan 20-21
DAY 1 REPORT
SMITH IN WINNING F5000 RETURN AT TAUPO
Veteran Ken Smith (Lola T332) made a winning return to the SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tamsna 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 this afternoon.
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.
DAY 2 REPORT
HIGGINS MAKES IT TWO OUT OF TWO AT TAUPO
Former series champion Andy Higgins (Lola T332) made it two wins from two starts today (Sunday) to claim overall category victory at the latest round of this season’s SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series at the second annual Taupo Historic Grand Prix meeting at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park this weekend.
Higgins, a former NZ Formula Ford, TRS and Historic Formula Pacific class front-runner from Auckland finished second to category supervet Ken Smith (Lola T332) in the first series race on Saturday but won both Sunday races, the first after leading from start to finish, the second – the GP – after tagging on behind Smith and passing him for lead with two laps to go.
Smith was always a factor – crossing the finish line just 0.265 of a second behind fellow front-row starter Higgins in the first eight lapper in the morning, then leading the GP for the first eight laps, but struggled with gear selection and brake issues as the feature race wore on allowing Higgins to catch, pass and ease away over the final two laps and cross the finish line 4.370 seconds behind.
“No excuses though," Smith said afterwards. “He’s (Higgins) driving real good at the moment. I definitely have some competition on my hands now.”
“Ken was always there, so I knew I couldn’t back off, even just a bit,” said Higgins, who won the series title in a family-run Lola T400 in 2014, and has returned this year in what is emerging as a very successful partnership with Lola T332 owner, and former series front runner himself, Stu Lush.
Third in both races today was Christchurch 21-year-old Michael Collins driving the Alistair Hey-owned McRae GM1. Collins ran just off the back of Higgins and Smith in each race today, but was slowed latter on himself selecting gears.
UK-based series regular Greg Thornton enjoyed a strong start to the GP, initially running ahead of Collins, only to have the unique 3.4 litre Ford Cosworth engine which powers his ex Alan Jones March 75 let go.
“That was it,” he said. “It just went bang and it was all over.”
Defending series champion Brett Willis (Lola T330) and Shayne Windelburn (Lola T400) both kept their best till the last race with strong finishes line astern in fourth and fifth places respectively while Tony Galbraith (Lola T332) was the best of the newcomers in sixth.
“Yes," he said, ”we found a bit of speed after the morning race (where he had an engine issue) and the more I drive the car the more I am getting comfortable and therefore confident in it.”
McLaren M22 driver Tim Rush was also feeling (and looking) more confident, finishing 11th, attributing his form to a family decision to hand over the setup and running of the car to John Crawford’s Motorsport Solutions team.
“It just means I can concentrate on driving the car and it is really paying dividends,” he said.
The other new face in the field, Tauranga classic racer Mike Creswell (March 75A/1) admitted to a steep learning curve but had a clean, fast run through to 11th place in the GP.
The morning race saw Andy Higgins lead from start to finish from Smith, Collins, Aaron Burson and Greg Thornton.
As he did in the first weekend race on Saturday Higgins used the inside line to hold Smith out into and through the first turn and despite again setting the fastest race lap (1.26.616) this time Smith could not find a way past.
Grant Martin (Talon MR1/A) was again quick early on, slotting into third ahead of Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) and Michael Collins, but was an early dnf with an engine issue.
With Martin gone Michael Collins caught and passed Aaron Burson for third place with Greg Thornton up to eight by the fourth lap.
Between Burson and Thornton, David Arrowsmith (Lotus 70) was the standout in a Class A car, spending the early laps trying to find a way a past David Banks (Lola T332) for sixth.
Brett Willis was also working his way forward, as was Glenn Richards (Lola T400). A little further back, Tim Rush was leading a gaggle of cars which included Shayne Windelburn, Peter Burson (McRae GM1), Tony Roberts (McLaren M10A).
At the flag Greg Thornton had made it up to fifth, Brett Willis up to eighth.
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.
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
Race 2 (Sun)
Andy Higgins 8 laps
Ken Smith +0.265
Michael Collins +13.382
Aaron Burson + 17.198
Greg Thornton +18.941
David Banks +34.512
David Arrowsmith +36.003
Brett Willis +36.112
Glenn Richards + 37.179
Shayne Windelburn +48.183
Tim Rush +50.021
Peter Burson +1.04.391
Tony Galbraith +1.34.350
Tony Roberts +1.34.744
Mike Creswell +1 lap
Kerry McIntosh +1 lap
DNF Grant Martin
Race 3 (Sun)
1. Andy Higgins 10 laps
2. Ken Smith +4.370
3. Michael Collins + 8.690
4. Brett Willis + 13.031
5. Shayne Windelburn +01:30.462
6. Tony Galbraith +01:29.677
7. Glenn Richards +01:30.624
8. David Arrowsmith +01:30.889
9. Tim Rush +01:31.995
10. David Banks + 01:30.813
11. Mike Creswell + 01:32.778
12. Tony Roberts + 01:34.977
13. Peter Burson+ 01:34.276
14. Kerry McIntosh -
DNF Greg Thornton, Aaron Burson, Grant Martin
2017/18 SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series
Rnd 4 - Jan 26-28 2018 - HRC/TRS meeting Hampton Downs Nth Waikato, NZ
Rnd 5 - Feb 02-04 2018 – Skope Classic Mike Pero Motorsport Park Ruapuna Christchurch, NZ
Rnd 6 - March 09-11 2018 - VHRR Phillip Island Classic Phillip Island VIC Australia
Special event - Aug 23-26 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion meeting