The T332s of Brett Willis and Kevin Ingram bring home the spoils for Lola.

In February this year, storm damage to his Piha, Auckland property, forced popular Kiwi F5000 category pace setter Grant Martin (Talon MR1/A) to sit out the much-anticipated penultimate round of the 2022/23 SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series at the now-shuttered Pukekohe Park Raceway.

Fast forward to the weekend of March 18-19, however, and if the way he and the Talon performed at the fifth (and final) round of the SAS Autoparts MSC-backed NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series at Hampton Downs is proof of anything it is that you can’t keep a good man down.

“You certainly can’t,” agreed fellow driver and NZ F5000 Association spokesperson Glenn Richards. “Even just getting himself and the car out from Piha would have required some sort of super-human effort… but then to go out and do what he did....wow!

For the record it was long-time Piha, Auckland, resident Grant Martin (Talon MR1/A) who – for the third consecutive season – dominated the final round of the 2022/23 SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series at Hampton Downs, over the March 18-19 weekend.

Not only did Martin set pole position with the only sub 1.03 lap (a 1:02.213) recorded in the F5000 category’s quick-fire qualifying session on Saturday morning, but he also led both weekend scratch races from lights out until the chequered flag was waved and set the fastest lap in all three of the SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series races he contested over the weekend.

Second home – overall - was one of the series’ own ‘second-time-around’ drivers, Kevin Ingram (Lola T332), third, the broadly-similar Lola T332 of Rotorua-based series regular, and recent Taupo round winner, Brett Willis.

And so, the final round of the 2022/23 SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series got off to a promising start with all 16 cars entered making it out onto the track for the 15 min. qualifying session on Saturday morning.

Included in the lineup was current Formula Open class tyro James Watson, finally given the opportunity to try out his event promoter father Chris Watson’s one-off, McLaren M18-based Gardos F5000, plus three generations of the Burson family, patriarch Peter driving one of his rare and exotic V12-engined BRM F1 cars, and son Aaron and his son/Peter’s grandson Connor down to drive the family team’s two McRae GM1 F5000s.

In theory fastest qualifier Grant Martin (Talon MR1/A) could have pitted and parked up after completing just three flying laps of the SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series’ 15-minute qualifying session at Hampton Downs, over the weekend.

However, the talented Talon ace decided to stay out…and got his reward on the very last lap of the session, his 1.02.213 lap time very much a new benchmark for anyone serious about the SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series.

Other drivers to impress with their pace in the qualifying session included David Banks (Talon MR1/P3)and Shayne Windelburn (Lola T400/P4), as well as series OG Tony Roberts (McLaren M10A ‘high-wing’/P10).

Drivers, meanwhile, with work to do before the first SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series race later in the day included former series winner and title-holder Brett Willis from Rotorua (Lola T332/P6),who was having ‘issues’ with his car’s throttle sticking open, fellow Lola owner Tony Galbraith (Lola T332/P11) who had to find and fix the source of an oil leak, and James Watson (Gardos M18 F5000/P11).

The first SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series’ race of the weekend was a rolling scratch (fastest-to-the front) start 8-lap affair held mid-Saturday afternoon and won – from pole position - by Talon MR1/A man Grant Martin from the Lola T332s of Kevin Ingram and Brett Willis, the fast-closing Lola T400 of Glenn Richards, Talon MR1 of David Banks, and the virtually inseparable Lolas of Tony Galbraith (T332) and Shayne Windelburn (T400).

The second - and this time handicap start - SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series race of the weekend, run on Sunday morning, was won -literally – on the finish line by a very determined Brett Willis (Lola T332). Second home, just 0.038 of a second adrift at the flag, was Bruce Kett (Lola T332), third, the much-improved Gardos F5000 of James Watson, fourth ex-pat Brit Alastair Chalmers (Chevron B32), with a fast-closing Kevin Ingram (Lola T332) just 0.342 of a second back in 5th.

Willis was certainly not holding anything back, when, as he was reeling in then race leader Bruce Kett (Lola T332) on the last lap of the second SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series’ race of the weekend on Sunday morning he became only the second member of the current crop of F5000 drivers capable of lapping the 2.77km ‘National’ circuit at Hampton Downs in less than 63 seconds.

Unfortunately, it was also on the last lap of the second SAS Autoparts MSC race of the weekend when it all went wrong for the otherwise impressive, young, third-generation racer Connor Burson (McRae GM1).

The 21-year-old was in sight of the chequered flag, when; ‘Bang! Something broke in the back end of the car, and I was pretty much a passenger from that point on!’

Though the car he was driving received some fairly serious damage to the front end, fortunately, its young charge, Connor Burson, emerged 100% unscathed, something his father Aaron attributes to the way the late, great Kiwi, Graham McRae built his cars back in the day.

To the third and final SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series race of the day/weekend/round, and in a virtual repeat of the first SAS Autoparts, MSC Series’ race of the day before, Sunday’s 10-lap feature final won by ‘Talon man’ Grant Martin from the Lola T332s of race and round runner-up Kevin Ingram and Race 2 winner Brett Willis, Lola T400 of Glenn Richards, Talon MR1 of David Banks, then the Lola T332 of Tony Galbraith.

This time though, only a further 8 or so seconds back was an exhilarated, but at the same time near exhausted James Watson in the giant killing Gardos M18 F5000.

Having again started the race from the rear-of-the field (P14) Watson made up five positions on the first lap alone, then just needed another two laps apiece to work his way past Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) and Bruce Kett (Lola T332) to be up to P7 with half the race still to run.

With that in mind he set his sights on the distinctive yellow Lola T332 of Tony Galbraith up the road in sixth place. What he found out, however, was that while catching the wiley Galbraith was one thing, getting past cleanly was clearer going to be another, and after a couple of abortive ‘looks’ Watson decided to focus on maintaining 7th spot from a fast-closing Bruce Kett (just 0.723 of a second behind at the finish line) and Aaron Burson (only another full second back in ninth.)

Ex-pat Brit Alastair Chalmers (Chevron B32) got the better of Class A (for earlier series cars) standard-bearer Tony Roberts (McLaren M10A ‘high wing’) for 10th place, with Tim Rush from Feilding aboard the Rush Family’s unique McLaren M22 a further six seconds back in P12 and Hawera, Taranaki, honey man Toby Annabell lapped but happy to finally be able to coax a decent lap time or two out of the at times recalcitrant McLaren M10B.

In official qualifying on the Saturday morning for instance, the best lap time Annabell could coax out of the older McLaren F5000 machine was a 71.465, good enough for P15 on the grid, but still significantly slower (by 4 seconds) than the 67.405 lap that earned Class A pace-setter Tony Roberts the P10 spot.

A rare mechanical issue which prompted Roberts to pitch his valuable McLaren M10A into a lurid straight-line spin through the braking area at the end of the start/finish straight and score a rare dnf thanks to ‘brake failure’ gave Annabell the advantage after the first race on Saturday, but it swung back in Robert’s favour when Annabell was himself forced to dnf the second race of the weekend on Sunday morning.

Come the third race later in the day, however, and Annabell could finally see some progress, particularly in terms of his lap times, which finally left the 71sec. bracket to settle in the low 68s, or, less than half a second slower, than the redoubtable Tony Roberts, meaning that the battle for Class A honours/bragging rights should be even closer and more intense next season.

Before we even start to think about the 2023/24 SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series, however, five members of New Zealand’s Formula 5000 Association have signed up to travel to the US in August this year to help their fellow category cognoscenti from the US and Australia celebrate the 55th anniversary of the founding of the unique stock block, 5-litre, wings and slicks motor racing category, arguably more popular today than it was back in the 1970s when it operated as a kind of internationally-acceptable option second only to Formula 1.

The five-driver Kiwi group set to travel to the WeatherTech-Laguna Seca Raceway in the foothills behind Monterey in Northern California is Grant Martin (Talon MR1/A), Glenn Richards (Lola T400) Tony Galbraith (Lola T332), Tony Roberts (McLaren M10A ‘high wing’), and Alastair Chalmers (Chevron B32).

While in the US they will join 25 of their colleagues on the grid for F5000 races at two of the biggest and most prestigious classic and historic motor racing meetings on the global calendar, the three-day Rolex Monterey Reunion between August 17 and 19, and the two-day Pre-Reunion the weekend before (Aug 12/13).

The 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.

Grant Martin (Talon MR1/A) 1:02.213
Kevin Ingram (Lola T332) 1:03.388
David Banks (Talon MR1)1:04.840
Shayne Windelburn (Lola T400) 1:05.226
Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) 1:05.472
Brett Willis (Lola T332) 1:05.755
Glenn Richards (Lola T400)1:06.572
Connor Burson (McRae GM1) 1:06.798
Bruce Kett (LolaT332) 1:07.377
Tony Roberts (McLaren M10A) 1;07.405
Tony Galbraith (Lola T332) 1:08. 598
James Watson (Gardos ) 1:08.644
Alastair Chalmers (Chevron B32) 1:08.98
Tim Rush (McLaren M22) 1:10.030
Toby Annabell (McLaren M10B) 1:11.465
Peter Burson (BRM P207 F1) 1:20.364

RACE 1 (Sat pm 8 laps)
1. Grant Martin 8 laps
2. Kevin Ingram +2.067
3. Brett Willis +8.352
4. Glenn Richards +9.277
5. David Banks +15.544
6. Tony Galbraith +16.218
7. Shayne Windelburn +16.436
8. Aaron Burson +19.978
9. Bruce Kett +24.545
10. Connor Burson +25.997
11. Alastair Chalmers +39.622
12. Tim Rush +53.141
13. Toby Annabell + 1lap
DNF Tony Roberts, Peter Burson, James Watson.

RACE 2 (Sun am 8 laps)
1. Brett Willis 10.58.80
2. Bruce Kett+0.038
3. James Watson +1.330
4. Alastair Chalmers +3.575
5. Kevin Ingram +3.917
6. Aaron Burson +7.070
7. Glenn Richards +7.293
8. Tony Roberts +7.634
9. Tony Galbraith +8.887
10. Connor Burson +9.432
11. Tim Rush +11.888
12. Gran Martin +15.31
DNF Toby Annabell, Peter Burson, Shane Windelburn, David Banks.

RACE 3 (10 laps Sun pm)
1. Grant Martin10:32.398
2. Kevin Ingram +2.562
3. Brett Willis +15.644
4. Glenn Richards +16.248
5. David Banks +17.317
6. Tony Galbraith +27.344
7. James Watson +35.335
8. Bruce Kett +36.058
9. Aaron Burson +37.061
10. Alastair Chalmers +49.828
11. Tony Roberts +1:02.455
12. Tim Rush +1:08.597
13. Toby Annabell +1 lap