The Sound MG Classic Meeting
Sat-Sun Nov 9-10 2013


Series supervet Ken Smith (Lola T332) got his campaign to claim a fourth MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival title off to the best possible start with pole and a runaway first race win at the opening round of the 2013/14 series at Manfeild today.

Fresh from claiming a record fifth Lady Wigram Trophy at Christchurch's Powerbuilt Tools Raceway last weekend, Smith, now 72 and in his 56th consecutive season of national level single seater motor racing in this country, was a cut above the rest of the 13-strong MSC F500 Tasman Cup Revival Series field on the first day of competition at the annual The Sound MG Classic motor racing meeting, qualifying almost two-and-a half seconds quicker than fellow front row starter Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) and leading the first 8 lap race of the weekend from start to finish.

Aucklander Higgins, one of the many young drivers Smith has assisted over the years, maintained second place to the flag but it was clearly mentor's day, the margin at the flag 9.7 seconds.

Behind him it was closer with former Lady Wigram Trophy winner Roger Williams (Lola T332) snatching third place from former MSC series champion Ian Clements (Lola T332) on the first lap but chased hard to the flag by Clements and Brett Willis (Lola T330).

After one of his best qualifying efforts since joining the MSC series, Russell Greer (driving the ex Graeme Lawrence Lola T332) was part of this chase pack early on, only to be forced out by a gear selection issue on the fourth lap.

That left Clements and Willis to fight amongst themselves (Willis setting the third fastest race lap as he closed on Clements) and allowed Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) some clear track on his way to sixth place.

Seventh was Alan Dunkley in the Class A high-wing Lola T140, eighth Sefton Gibb (Lola T332). Dunkley arrived at the track on Friday with his car fully rebuilt but spent most of Friday afternoon and evening repairing cracks and bracing its bellhousing.

Gibb, meanwhile, was looking for a top six lap in qualifying, only to break a half shaft before he could get into his stride, and had to work his way through the field in the race after starting from the back row of the grid.

With local man Tim Rush pulling out on the first lap with ignition issues, David Banks (Talon MR1) and Peter Burson (McRae GM1) rounded out the field in ninth and tenth places respectively.

Today's race was the first for the MSC series drivers since the death, due to injuries suffered in an accident at Invercargill's Teretonga Park, of class stalwart Stan Redmond and a minute's silence was observed by those at the track today before the warm up lap.

MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series actoin continues at the Manfeild circuit tomorrow with two more race, another 8 lapper in the morning and a 12 lap feature in the afternoon. There is then a break of a month and a half before the second and third rounds, run over consecutive weekends in late January at the New Zeaalnd Festival of Motor Racing meetings at Hampton Downs.

1. Ken Smith (Lola T332) 1.01.54
2. Andrw Higgins (Lola T400) 1.04.37
3. Ian Clements (Lola T332) 1.05.08
4. Roger Williams (Lola T332) 1.05.89
5. Russell Greer (Lola T332) 1.05.99
6. Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) 1.06.07
7. Brett Willis (Lola T330) 1.07.06
8. Alan Dunkley (Lola T140)1.08.05
9. Dave Banks (Talon MR1) 1.08.86
10. Tim Rush (McLaren M22) 1.09.11
11. Peter Burson (McRae GM1) 1.10.38
12. Sefton Gibb (Lola T332) 1.10.62

Race 1 (8 laps)
1. Ken Smith 8.36.03
2. Andrew Higgins + 9.7
3. Roger Williams + 19.67
4. Ian Clements +20.10
5. Brett Willis +20.64
6. Aaron Burson +24.42
7. Alan Dunkley +24.71
8. Sefton Gibb +35.24
9. David Banks +43.19
10. Peter Burson +52.09
DNF. Russell Greer Tim Rush
With pole, three race wins from three starts and a new category track lap record you'd think Kiwi supervet Ken Smith (Lola T332) would be satisfied with his performance at the opening round of the 2013/14 MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series at Manfeild this weekend.

But now that he has finally beaten the time life-long friend and first-time-around rival Graeme Lawrence set back in 1976, the 72-year-old in his 56th consecutive season of national-level single-seater motor racing reckons if and when the conditions are right again be can go even quicker.

According to Smith, Lawrence's original F5000 category benchmark - a 1.01.900 - was set in his then new Lola T332 at the third Manfeild International meeting (a round of the Peter Stuyvesant Series Smith went on to win) in 1976 and was the benchmark for all classes at the 3.033km Feilding circuit until Simon Wills bettered it (1.01.457) in a Reynard Formula Holden in 2000.

Though both Smith and Jonny Reid have gone considerably quicker during demo runs (Smith has done a 57 second lap in the Leyton House March Formula 1 car he owned for some time and Reid went under the minute in a demo behind the wheel of A1 Team New Zealand's A1GP car) neither time has been recognised meaning Wills' ultimate record is safe for now.

By recording a 1.01.770 in the second MSC Series race of the weekend on Sunday morning, however, Smith finally bettered Lawrence's long-standing category benchmark and was bullish about his prospects of going even quicker.

"I said last night (at the Manfeild 40th year anniversary dinner) that I could beat the record and now that I have," Smith said on Sunday afternoon, "I think there is a minute flat in that car. It was just magic today and the track was nice and grippy this morning. If it has stayed that way we might have been able to do it in the afternoon, but it didn't so that's a job for another day."

Smith and the ex Danny Ongais Lola T332, rebuilt and run by a crew headed by Smith's long-time crew chief Barry Miller, was the class of the 13-strong MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series field this weekend with Andrew Higgins qualifying second quickest and following his mentor home in each race in his ex Vel's Parnelli Jones team-owned Lola T400.

Each race followed a broadly similar pattern with Smith getting the jump on Higgins before establishing then maintaining a sizable gap. Higgins, who at early rounds of the Australian series this year has matched and at times been able to better Smith's race pace, in turn had the edge over third quickest qualifier Ian Clements and his fellow Lola T332 drivers Roger Williams and Russell Greer.

In the first two races Williams got the jump on Clements with the order at the flag Smith, Higgins, Williams, Clements and Brett Willis (Lola T330).

Russell Greer, driving the Lola T332 that Graeme Lawrence set the original class lap record in back in 1976, was running with Williams and Clememts early in the first race before stopping with gear selection issues while Sefton Gibb (Lola T332) had to work his way from the back row of the grid in the first race after breaking a half shaft in qualifying.

Gibb then worked his way from the back row of the grid to eighth place in the first race, finished seventh in the second then parlayed a strong start in the 12-lap feature final to cross the line in a weekend best fourth place behind Smith, Higgins and Roger Williams.

The feature race was arguably the best from a spectator's point of view with Williams, Gibb, Ian Clements and Russell Greer battling for third through seventh places until the final lap when, as Clements tried to find a way past Gibb for fourth, Greer ran into the back of Clements' car at the hairpin as he made a bid for fifth.

That put Clements' car off the track where it stayed, but Greer was able to continue and take the flag half a lap later, albeit back in seventh place behind Gibb, Brett Willis and Aaron Burson.

After problems with his McLaren M22 on Saturday, local driver Tim Rush did not make the grid for Sunday's races, while after welding up and strengthening the bellhousing on his Class A high-wing Lola T140 on Friday and finishing seventh in Saturday's race Alan Dunkley suffered a weekend-ending engine blow early in the second race of the weekend on Sunday morning.

Also in the wars was Talon MR1 driver David Banks who was forced to stop when the visor on his new helmet misted up in the race in Sunday morning and was forced out of the feature race in the afternoon when he ran out of brakes.

After a break of a month and a half MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series action returns at the two New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing meetings at Hampton Downs over consecutive weekends in late January.

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.

Race 2 (8 laps Sun)
1. Ken Smith 8.21.35
2. Andrew Higgins +16.51
3. Roger Williams +28.16
4. Ian Clements +28.79
5. Brett Willis +29.73
6. Russell Greer +31.09
7. Sefton Gibb +37.27
8. Aaron Burson +38.40
9. DNF Peter Burson, David Banks

Race 3 12 laps (Sun)
1. Ken Smith 12.44.48
2. Andrew Higgins +18.07
3. Roger Wiliams +29.33
4. Sefton Gibb +30.05
5. Brett Willis +32.06
6. Aaron Burson +33.53
7. Russell Greer +34.74
DNF Ian Clements, David Banks

All pictures courtesy of Photos Fast Company/Lyall Chinnery.

Fastest qualifier and race 1 winner Ken Smith (Lola T332).

The MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Ciup Revival Series field on the Race 1 warm-up lap.

Brett Willis (Lola T330 #16) leads Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) and Sefton Gibb (Lola T332).

Ken Smith (Lola T332 #11) leading Andrew Higgins (Lola T400 #10).

Smith accepting the trophy and champagne after winning the feature race.