Pole and first MSC F5000 series race win of the season to Smith
Defending champion Ken Smith (Lola T430) got his 2010/11 MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series season off to the best possible start with pole position in qualifying and a runaway race win on the first day of competition at the Christchurch Casino Wigram Revival meeting at Christchurch’s Powerbuilt Tools Raceway at Ruapuna Park today.
In cool, dry conditions the Auckland veteran edged out 2009/10 season standout, Dunedin Steve Ross (McRae GM1), and top local Tony Richards (Lola T332) in the 10 lap qualifying session in the morning before getting the best of the start-delayed first eight lap race of the meeting and season to head home Ross by just under a second and Richards by just over 13 seconds.
That was after the first start was abandoned when former series champ Ian Clements (Lola T332) slide off the track on the second warm-up lap, and the 12-strong field was held on the start/finish straight while Clement’s damaged car was recovered.
Fellow Christchurch driver David Abbot’s Lola T430 was another casualty of the first warm-up laps, losing drive through the circuit’s infield, as was Napier driver Sefton Gibb’s Lola T332 when a part in his car’s fuel pump broke.
With another two warm-up laps before the race proper started eventual winner Smith was concerned that he might not have enough fuel in his car’s tank to complete the eight laps, but complete them he did, pulling out a buffer early on then easing off just enough to make sure he got to the finish line.
“I think if I had kept revving the engine out it might have been a bit touch and go, so I did the extra warm up laps real slow then dropped five or six hundred off the revs half way through and that was enough to get us home,” he said.
Despite that the evergreen now 69-year-old still set the fastest race lap – a 1.19.325 – with Ross – at 1.19.537 – the only other driver under the 1 minute 20 mark.
Together the pair pulled away from second row starter Tony Richards and Auckland driver Aaron Burson (McRae GM1), the latter pair quick over the first couple of laps but not quite able to match the pace being set by Smith and Ross up front.
Best of the series newcomers early on was former saloon car ace Peter Sundberg (Lola T332), the Aucklander qualifying ninth behind his car’s former New Zealand owner Stan Redmond (Lola T332) but quickly working his way up to fifth in his MSC series debut after hunting down and passing Rotorua driver Brett Willis (Lola T330) mid-race.
Just as he started to edge away from Willis, however, Sundberg pulled off the circuit with engine issues, leaving another Auckland driver, Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) to claim fifth and best series newcomer kudos.
Higgins, a protégé of race winner Smith’s, was forced to start the race from the back row of the grid after a problem with his car’s fuel injection pump meant he missed the qualifying session but he made up five places on the first lap and tucked in behind Sundberg as the former made his own way up through the field.
By the time Sundberg pulled off the track Higgins had also passed Brett Willis meaning that when the chequered flag came out he was in fifth place, a bonus, he reckoned considering the frantic work that went on earlier in the day.
“To be honest, ” he said, “I was just happy to get to do eight laps in the car and be still going at the end. We thought we had fixed the problem the first time it happened but then it did it again which meant we missed qualifying but once we got out on the track it seemed to be going alright so I just pushed on and we ended up fifth which was good.”
Today’s race was the first of three for the MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series ones on the programme this weekend, with a second eight-lapper on Sunday morning and the meeting’s feature race, for the prestigious Lady Wigram Trophy, over 15 laps, late 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, Pacifica, Smith & Davies, Avon Tyres and Exide.
2010/11 MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series Rnd 1 Lady Wigram Trophy meetings Sat-Sun Oct 30-31 2010
1. Ken Smith (Lola T430) 1.18.922
2. Steve Ross (McRae GM1) 1.19.343
3. Tony Richards (Lola T332) 1.20.263
4. Ian Clements (Lola T332) 1.20.703
5. Sefton Gibb (Lola T332) 1.20.795
6. Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) 1.23.092
7. Brett Willis (Lola T300) 1.24.073
8. Stan Redmond (Lola T332) 1.24.349
9. Peter Sundberg (Lola T332) 1.25.209
10. David Abbott (Lola T430) 1.25.827
11. Lindsay O’Donnell (Begg FM5) 1.26.432
12. Tony Roberts (March 73A/1) 1.28.819
13. Peter Burson (McRae GM1) 1.29.819
Russell Greer (Lola T332) 1.25.269
Reg Cook (Lola T400) 1.25.295
Race 1 (8 laps)
1. Ken Smith 10.46.213
2. Steve Ross +0.997
3. Tony Richards +13.271
4. Aaron Burson +22.144
5. Andrew Higgins +42.411
6. Brett Willis +43.494
7. Reg Cook +54.330
8. Russell Greer +56.265
9. Lindsay O’Donnell +1.07.898
10. Tony Roberts +1.21.759
11. Peter Burson +1.27.067
dnf peter Sundberg, Ian Clements, Sefton Gibb, David Abbott
Images: Fast Company/Alex Mitchell