It was touch and go whether it would be ready in time. But ready it was and not only did New Zealand motor racing great Ken Smith get to debut his freshly rebuilt Lola T332 on the first day of competition at the first of two NZ Festival of Motor Racing - celebrating Denny Hulme meetings at Hampton Downs today, he also won the weekend's first MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series race.

The win was not the first one for the car since the 71-year-old three-time New Zealand Grand Prix and four-time Lady Wigram Trophy race winner bought it in partnership with crew members Barry Miller and Phil Richardson. That was on the first day of competition at the second round of the 2011/12 series. But the next day a diff malfunction saw the car all but written off against the Manfeild circuit's pit wall and Miller and Richardson have spent the past 14 months rebuilding it for a second time.

It wasn't quite the perfect 'second-time-around' debut for the ex Danny Ongais car, Smith was pipped for pole position in qualifying earlier in the day by the March 73A-1 of fellow Aucklander Clark Proctor. But it was close.

Proctor just edged an aggressive Smith out on the run through the first turn after the rolling start but Smith found a way past on the third lap and started edging away from Proctor and defending MSC series champion Steve Ross as Proctor struggled with a gear selection issue.

That allowed Ross to close on Proctor and when Proctor lost the use of third gear, Ross set the fastest race as he tried to close the gap on Smith. When the flag came out though Smith was still almost a second in front with Proctor third, Brett Willis (Lola T330) fourth and the first of the visiting contingent of overseas drivers, Greg Thornton (McRae GM1) fifth.

After the race Smith dedicated the win to his long-time crew chief Barry Miller saying; "All credit to Barry, he built that car from scratch and it's nice to be able to reward his dedication with a win. I'm so lucky I've got guys like him and Phil and Doug working on the car, it was magic today, just magic. When we first got it here the car was quite nervous in the tail but once we did some adjustments to the suspension it was better and now it's brilliant. I've driven a fair few of these old 5000s now and man does this one get some traction."

For Clark Proctor it was a case of what might have been, the former Speedway hardman having experienced similar problems at the Lady Wigram Trophy meeting late last year.

"As you probably noticed," he said, "I had trouble getting away at the start and I was having trouble changing gear before I lost third. What happened at Ruapuna (the second round of the 2012/13 MSC series) was that the bush that holds the spigot bearing moved back on the crankshaft and was jamming the front clutch plate so I'm pretty sure that's what's happened again."

That said Proctor was impressed with Smith's pace and said he was happy to let him take the lead of the race early on.

"I had the measure of him under brakes and through all the windy stuff but he was better through the last two turns so I didn't really mind him taking the lead. But when I lost third gear he got away and I had my hands full with Steve, who I managed to hold out for another couple of laps before I thought, nah, let him go and concentrate on bringing her home."

Early on in the eight lap race the interest behind Smith, Proctor and Ross was in the battle between fast-starting Australian visitor Paul Zazryn in his T332 Lola and Rotorua man Brett Willis in his earlier model Lola T330. Zazryn made the early running but Willis wore him down and went on to cross the line in fourth place.

Also impressing was regular British visitor Greg Thornton, driving the former MSC series-winning McRae GM1 he has recently acquired from Kiwi series stalwart Stu Lush. After issues in qualifying which saw him start the race from P16 on the grid Thornton stormed through the field to cross the line in fifth place between Willis and Zazryn.

Monaco-based compatriot Peter Dunn was the best of the Northern Hemisphere visitors in qualifying, setting the fourth quickest time in his March 73A/05, but it was actually Class A (for older cars) pace-setter Michael Whatley (Surtees TS8) who got the best start and spent the early laps in sixth place ahead of Dunn and Mark Dwyer (Lola T400). Dunn eventually got past, as later on did Thornton, but Dwyer ended up slipping back down the field after losing second gear and eventually pulling in with two laps to go.

Having a second car, meanwhile, paid off for last year's MSC series runner-up Aaron Burson of Auckland. After setting the tenth quickest lap time in qualifying Burson returned to the pits with water pouring from his McRae GM1's engine, the problem, a cracked cylinder head. Fortunately Burson's original series car, a Talon MR1/A, was sitting in t his workshop back in Auckland, prepared and ready to go.

Because he elected to swap cars Burson had to start the race from the back row of the grid but by the flag he had made up nine places, crossing the finish line 14th, one place ahead of his father Peter who drives his own McRae GM1.

A little further up the field another worthy performance was put in by former saloon car star Peter Sundberg was qualified his Lola T332 12th and finished tenth.

Today's was the first of three MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series races at the NZ Festival meeting this weekend with a second eight-lapper tomorrow (Sunday) morning and a 15-lap feature final in the afternoon.

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 and Exide.

1. Clark Proctor (March 73A-1) 1:00.331
2. Ken Smith (Lola T332) 1:00.366
3. Steve Ross (McRae GM1) 1:00.807
4. Peter Dunn (March 73A/05 1:02.117
5. Michael Whatley (Surtees TS8) 1:02.488
6. Brett Willis (Lola T300) 1:02.637
7. Paul Zazryn (Lola T332) 1:02.945
8. David Abbott (Lola T430) 1:03.219
9. Mark Dwyer (Lola T400) 1:03.401
10. Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) 1:03.424
11. Alan Dunley (Lola T140) 1:03.751
12. Peter Sundberg (Lola T332) 1:03.923
13. Bryan Sala (Matich A50/51) 1.1:03.988
14. David Banks (Talon MR1) 1:04.273
15. Shayne Windelburn (Lola T400) 1:04.490
16. Greg Thornton (McRae GM1) 1:04.920
17. Peter Burson (McRae GM1) 1:05.192
18. Bill Hemming (Elfin MR8 AC) 1:06.182
19. Stan Redmond (Lola T332) 1:06.388
20. Philip Mauger (McLaren M23 F1) 1:06.846
21. Lindsay O'Donnell (Begg FM2) 1.07.830
22. Rod Carroll (Lola T140) 1:09.045
23. Warwick Mortimer (Surtees TS5) 1:09.459
24. Poul Christie (McLaren M10B) 1:09.617
25. Aaron Lewis (Matich A50) 1:13.341

Race 1
1. Ken Smith 8:15.270
2. Steve Ross +0.768
3. Clark Proctor +7.520
4. Brett Willis +16430
5. Greg Thornton +16.560
6. Paul Zazryn +18.462
7. Peter Dunn +18.605
8. Michael Whatley +20.198
9. David Abbott +30.045
10. Peter Sundberg +32.540
11. David Banks +36.081
12. Shayne Windelburn +36.080
13. Bill Hemming +45.893
14. Aaron Burson +56.852
15. Peter Burson +58.439
16. Ian Clements +58.936
17. Philip Mauger +1:03.797
18. Rod Carroll + 1 lap
19. Stan Redmond +1 lap
20 Warwick Mortimer +1 lap
21. Poul Christie +1 lap
22. Alan Dunkley +2 laps
DNF Mark Dwyer, Bryan Sala. DNS Aaron Lewis, Eric Haga.


Kiwi racing great Ken Smith (Lola T332) was the toast of the large crowd at the first NZ Festival of Motor Racing - celebrating Denny Hulme meeting at Hampton Downs today, the 71-year-old in his 55th year of competition at a national level completing a winning MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Revival Series trifecta with a lights-to-flag win in the final 15-lap feature.

Defending MSC series champion Steve Ross (McRae GM1) ran the wily veteran close - the margin at the chequered flag just 0.139 of a second - and fastest qualifier Clark Proctor (March 73A-1) made up time on both over the last three laps but as was the case in the other two MSC series races over the weekend Smith was in front when it counted.

"Clark actually said to me before the race that if I got alongside him he would let me go because he reckoned he'd sooner hunt me down for 15 laps rather than have me hunt him down and I was fine with that." chuckled Smith.

And Steve Ross?

"He did get alongside me at one stage with both of us sliding around a bit but I knew I could get four or five car lengths on him coming out of that final corner but wether I could have held him out for another one lap or 10 I don't know."

Smith and Proctor got the better of Ross off the rolling start but Ross had muscled his way past Proctor by the second lap and was ahead of the first of the UK visitors, Greg Thornton (McRae GM1), fast-starting Australian Paul Zazryn (Lola T332) and fellow visitors Peter Dunn (March 73A/05), Michael Whatley (Surtees TS8) and Mark Dwyer (Lola T400) when the yellow flag came out while safety workers retrieved Bill Hemming's stranded Elfin MR8.

After two laps under the yellow flag Smith got the best of the re-start with Ross and Proctor tucking in behind and easing away from Thornton, Zazryn, Whatley, Dwyer, Dunn and Brett Willis (Lola T330).

As the race progressed Thornton retained a lonely fourth place, Zazryn, Wrigley and Dwyer remained close and category young gun Alan Dunkley (Lola T142) started making his presence felt. Brett Willis was also moving forward, catching and passing Dwyer and closing on Whatley. On the last lap Dunn managed to find a way past Paul Zazryn as did Alan Dunkley on Mark Dwyer.

Zazryn was again the first of the Australian drivers home and expressed himself very happy with his progress. "To come over here, learn the track, make a few changes to the car and do what we've done, it's been fantastic," he said. "I like to have a go and that's exactly what I've been able to do this weekend."

Dunkley expressed similar sentiments after his successful last lap ambush on Mark Dwyer.

"I wasn't dead set on passing him," said the 24-year-old who drives the oldest car in the field, "but when I saw an opportunity I pulled out one of my old karting moves, parked myself where he wanted to be mid-corner then kicked the clutch so I could get the jump on him down the straight."

Veteran Michael Whatley had a similar tale to tell, despite losing fourth gear - and with it a couple of hard-won places - over the last two laps.

"I've always been good on cold tyres at the beginning of a race," he explained. "My car slides all over the place anyway so I guess I'm used to it."

Happy, meanwhile, just to be back on the grid at the meeting was former New Zealand saloon car ace, Peter Sundberg who joined the MSC F5000 series three years ago but did not run last season.

"I've had some health issues, which are now resolved fortunately, so yesterday was my first time back in the car in two years," he said. "It's great to be back too, and the car is fantastic, though to be fair I have spent most of the time this weekend running round on my own. It would have been nice to have been able to follow someone around and learn something but when I was out there there was no way I was going to let anyone catch me up!"

Race 2 (Sun 8 laps)
Earlier in the day Smith won the second MSC race of the weekend after getting the better of early race leader Clark Proctor as the pair began lapping the tail-enders on the penultimate lap. At that stage of the day the track was damp with the lightest of rain showers drifting across the circuit as the race progressed.

Off the rolling start the order was Proctor, Smith, Ross and Thornton but the later spun exiting Turn 7 elevating Class 2 pace-setter Michael Whatley to tuck in behind Ross and in front of Brett Willis, and Peter Dunn and category young gun Alan Dunkley to catch up.

A lap later Dunkley had got by Dunn and Willis and he and Whatley quickly closed on Steve Ross. Willis stayed in front of Dunn for one more lap before spinning exited the first turn and losing two places.. While Proctor and Smith battled for the lead, Whatley and Dunkley continued to dispute fourth and fifth with Dunkley finally getting past on the fifth lap.

Whatley was back in front a lap later but the pair remained close and afterwards said that the changing track conditions actually played into their hands.

"My car has got little or no grip on a good day anyway so it really wasn't that much different for me," joked Whatley.

"Yeah, we had an awesome race," agreed Dunkley. "I love it when the conditions are tricky 'coz I can really take advantage of them in the old car. Michael had more speed through Turn 1 and down the straight but I was hustling him like you wouldn't believe through the infield, and when I got past him it was after getting a better drive on the inside out of Turn 8 then getting a better run out of Turn 9."

After Willis spun Peter Dunn inherited sixth place with Paul Zazryn seventh, Willis recovering to claim eighth, Ian Clements driving Lindsay O'Donnell's Begg FM5 ninth and Shayne Windelburn 10th. Windelburn was on a charge though, working his way from 14th place on the grid to ninth at the flag.

David Abbott had started from P9 on the grid but was a casualty of the slippery track conditions, grazing the armco exiting the downhill Turn 9 hairpin on the second lap.

"I was behind Peter Sundberg," he explained. "Peter lost it in front of me and veered off to to the right very close to the armco on the outside of the circuit. I got round him but as I accelerated it was very similar to Ken's crash (at Manfeild 14 months ago). One wheel got grip, the other didn't and I was just a passenger. When I hit the wet grass on the inside the car seemed to accelerate and luckily I only grazed the armco, to the point where I was surprised when I stopped to see that the front left wheel was still attached to the car."

Race 2 (8 laps)
1. Ken Smith 08:51.596
2. Clark Proctor +00.056
3. Steve Ross +12.539
4. Michael Whatley +18.130
5. Alan Dunkley +23.136
6. Peter Dunn +24.944
7. Brett Willis +26.636
8. Paul Zazryn +26.859
9. Shayne Windelburn +39.894
10. Peter Sundberg +52.227
11. Ian Clements +52.828
12. Gregory Thornton +01:01.848
13. Aaron Burson +01:02.274
14. Stan Redmond +01:06.152
15. David Banks +1 Lap
16. Rod Carroll +1 lap
17. Peter Burson +1 lap
18. Bill Hemming +1 lap
19. Poul Christie +1 lap
20. Philip Mauger +1 lap
21. Warwick Mortimer +1 lap
DNF Aaron Lewis, Bryan Sala, David Abbott. DNS: Mark Dwyer, Eric Haga

Fastest lap: Ken Smith 1:02.301

Race 3 (15 laps)
1. Ken Smith 17:15.361
2. Steve Ross +00.139
3. Clark Proctor +02.663
4. Gregory Thornton +06.626
5. Peter Dunn +22.083
6. Paul Zazryn +22.695
7. Michael Whatley +26.198
8. Brett Willis +26.329
9. Alan Dunkley +34.215
10. Mark Dwyer +35.171
11. Bryan Sala +40.787
12. Peter Sundberg +42.541
13. David Abbott +:47.774
14. Aaron Burson +54.909
15. David Banks +56.120
16. Peter Burson +1 lap
17. Ian Clements +1 lap
18. Rod Carroll +1 lap
19. Poul Christie +1 lap
20. Warwick Mortimer +1 lap
DNF. Philip Mauger, Shayne Windelburn, Stan Redmond, Aaron Lewis, Bill Hemming
DNS. Eric Haga

Fastest lap: Ken Smith (Lola T332) 1:00.949

Rnd 1: Aug 31-Sept 02 2012 Muscle Car Masters meeting Sydney Motorsport Park (Eastern Creek) Sydney (full circuit)
Rnd 2: Oct 26-28 2012 Wigram Revival meeting Powerbuilt Tools Raceway @ Ruapuna Park Christchurch
Rnd 3: Nov 23-25 2012 Tasman Revival meeting Sydney Motorsport Park (Eastern Creek) Sydney (non-points)
Rnd 4: Jan 18-20 2013 NZ Festival of Motor Racing - Denny Hulme meeting x 1 Hampton Downs Auckland
Rnd 5: Jan 25-27 2013 NZ Festival of Motor Racing - Denny Hulme meeting x 2 Hampton Downs Auckland
Rnd 6: Feb 01-03 2013 Skope Classic meeting Powerbuilt Tools Raceway @ Ruapuna Park Christchurch
Rnd 7: Feb 15-17 2013 Classic Speedfest meeting Teretonga Park Invercargill

All pictures courtesy of Fast Company/GroundSky Photography.

Ken Smith in the rebuilt T332.

Kiwi 'super-veteran' Ken Smith leading Clark Proctor and Steve Ross early in the first MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series race of the weekend at Hampton Downs.

Peter Sundberg (Lola T332).

Kiwi racing great Ken Smith won all three MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival series races at Hampton Downs over the weekend in his freshly rebuilt Lola T332.

The Matich of Bryan Sala leads the T400 of Shayne Windelburn.