New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival – Albert Park

Defending champion Ken Smith got his second MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival title in two years but it was former series champion Chris Hyde who won both races at the final round of the 2009/10 series at the Formula 1 Qantas Australian Grand Prix meeting in Melbourne over the weekend.

Heading into the meeting Steve Ross (McRae GM1) retained a narrow series points lead. And after pipping both Smith and Hyde for pole position in qualifying his chances of repelling Smith’s late season title charge looked good. However half way through the first 8 lap race of the weekend on Saturday – while he was lying second behind Hyde but in front of Smith – Ross slowed then stopped with what turned out to be a sheered half shaft.

It was at that point that the balance tipped Smith’s way and with second place finishes to Hyde in that race and again on Sunday the title was the evergreen 68-year-old New Zealand driver’s for a second year in a row. “It’s mighty, just mighty, to get it (the MSC title) again, ” said Smith as he was surrounded by well-wishers in the MSC series pit after the race. “I knew if we were reliable and finished we’d be in the running for the title and that’s exactly what happened.”

The wily veteran wasn’t exactly hanging around in his pursuit of 2007/08 series champion Hyde either. The pair were the only two drivers to lap under the 1.55 mark in the second race, with Smith further lowering the category track lap record he claimed on Saturday afternoon.

In that race he stopped the clocks at 1:55.2134. In Sunday’s race that dropped to 1:54.6975. Only Hyde was close, his best time was 1:54.7209.

To his credit Ross didn’t go down without a fight, his charge from the back of the 30-strong grid to eventually cross the finish line in fourth place behind Hyde, Smith and visiting UK driver Mark Dwyer one of the highlights of what was another eventful race.

“That’s life,” said Steve Ross as he reflected on what turned out to be an ill-fated final series round. “If we were to have won we were going to have to finish between fifth and seventh and Ken would have had to have a dnf, but you can’t give up can you? It was a fairly committed drive, but I wasn’t going to do anything stupid just to get up the front. When there were chances I took them and we got as high as we could in the circumstances.”

Steve Ross - McRae GM1
Steve Ross - McRae GM1
Series Champion Ken Smith - Lola T430
Chris Hyde - McRae

Until late in the race Class A honours looked set to again go to hard-driving Englishman Greg Thornton (Surtees TS11), who was running in company with Russell et al in the top 10, however he and Kerry Anderson (Lola T142) clashed as the latter was being lapped and Thornton’s race was run.

In his absence Class A honours went to Bruce Leeson (McLaren M10B), the now US-based Australian driver seeing it as just reward for what can only be called clockwork-like consistency.

“Compared with my last run at the AGP which was a disaster from the outset tenth yesteday and 11th today, I’m very happy. I lived in Melbourne for four years and, you know, it’s great to drive on a track in a park I used to run around once or twice a week,” Bruce Leeson said.

Points-wise the final series podium was Smith, Ross and Christchurch man Ian Clements (Lola T332) the latter lucky to hold out the hard-charging Hyde after having to sit out both final round races with a broken engine.

Hyde won the opening round of the 2009/10 MSC series at Manfeild in November last year but struggled with reliability issues at the Lady Wigram Trophy meeting and the two NZ Festival of Motor Racing – Bruce McLaren meetings in New Zealand in January, meaning that even with his two wins at the final round he couldn’t quite leapfrog Clements for a place on the series podium.

Despite that he was on a high after his Melbourne weekend, reckoning Sunday’s race one of – if not – his best ever.

“Heading into it, you know,” he said, “I was just hoping that after all the bad luck I’ve had this season I’d get a break – and I did. I had my Dad (New Zealand racing legend Avon Hyde) on the radio saying just breath, don’t make any mistakes, be the best you can and honestly that’s the best I’ve driven all my life and I don’t think it could have gone any better. Stuie (car owner Stu Lush) and I have put a lot into this campaign this year, and right now no matter how much it’s cost both of it’s been worthwhile. I’ll have forgotten about the money in a couple or three years but this feeling, of knowing what we have achieved here this weekend, will last us forever!”

Not even the fact that his car’s input shaft broke on the cool down lap could wipe the smile off Hyde’s face. “In fact,” he said, “when it happened I just laughed and laughed, I couldn’t believe how it had just hung on until I crossed the finish line. It’s a sign our luck has changed!”

A little further back, meanwhile, 18th place was enough to secure series newcomer Kerry McIntosh (Begg FM2) from Auckland the Class A series title for 2009/10, not a bad effort for a complete racing rookie.

“That’s right, ” the self-employed Auckland businessman said. “The Begg is my first racing car and the MSC series is my first effort behind the wheel for which I would like to acknowledge the sterling job all the series sponsors have done for us, and make special mention of the role Roger Williams has played in all this. He was the one who helped motivate me this year, as well as help me get to Ruapuna for the Lady Wigram Trophy meeting and with parts here in Melbourne.”

Class A Winner Kerry McIntosh
Hyde leads field during the final race
Overall winner Ken Smith - Lola T430
Final Podium - Ken Smith, Chris Hyde and Mark Dwyer

2009/10 MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series Rnd 6 (Final) 2010 Formula 1 Qantas Australian Grand Prix meeting

1. Steve Ross 1:55.6506*
2. Chris Hyde 1:55.8014
3. Ken Smith 1:56.1456
4. Mark Dwyer 1:58.8804
5. Tony Richards 1:58.9237
6. Roger Williams 2:00.0470
7. David Abbott 2:00.0564
8. Aaron Lewis 2:00.9863
9. Sefton Gibb 2:01.7813
10. Greg Thornton 2:03.5457

Race 1 (8 laps)
1. Chris Hyde 15:35.5173
2. Ken Smith (NZ) 15:36.0290
3. Mark Dwyer (UK) 16:02.1171
4. Roger Williams (AUS) 16:17.6905
5. Sefton Gibb (NZ) 16:17.8414
6. David Abbott (NZ) 16:30.3897
7. D’arcy Russell (AUS) 16:33.6549
8. Greg Thornton (UK) 16:36.7255
9. John MacKinlay (NZ) 17:21.0892
10. Bruce Leeson (USA) 17:21.8768
Fastest lap: Ken Smith 1:55.2134R

Race 2
1. Chris Hyde (NZ, McRae GM1)15:29.6692
2. Ken Smith (NZ, Lola T430) 15:31.9409
3. Mark Dwyer (UK, Lola T332) 15:46.9677
4. Steve Ross (NZ, McRae GM1) 15:50.4603
5. Roger Williams (AUS, Lola T332) 15:55.3777
6. Sefton Gibb (NZ, Lola T332) 16:08.9171
7. D’arcy Russell (AUS, Lola T330) 16:15.2602
8. David Abbott (NZ, Lola T430) 16:19.9634
9. John MacKinlay (NZ, March 73A/2) 16:38.1285
10. Neil Glover (UK, Lola T330) 16:39.6919

Did Not Finish. Greg Thornton (UK) , Tony Richards (NZ), Kerry Anderson (NZ), Stan Redmond (NZ), Aaron Lewis, Tony Floreani (AUS)

Final Series points
1. Ken Smith 289
2. Steve Ross 273
3. Ian Clements 284
4. Chirs Hyde 262
5. Sefton Gibb 249
6. Roger Williams 197
7. David Abbott 149
8. Brett Willis 139
9. Aaron Burson 124
10 Tony Richards 97
11. Russell Greer 96
12. Greg Thornton 93
13. Peter Dunn 86
14. Aaron Lewis 71
15. Tim Rush 62
15. Michael Whatley
17. D’Arcy Russell 59
18. John McKinlay 56
19. Peter Burson 55
20. Darryl Tayor 51
21. Bruce Leeson 47
22. Hamish Paterson 43
23. Mark Dwyer 41
24. Poul Christie 38
25. Kerry McIntosh 29
26. Calven Bonney 26
27. Kerry Anderson 25
27. Bill Hemming 25
29. Lindaay O’Donnell 22
30. Paul Trevethan 20
31. Phil Mauger 18
32. Frank Lyons 17
33. Phillip Lewis 10
33. Judy Lyons 10
35. Stan Redmond 9
36. Shayne Windelburn 8
37. Bob Harborow 7
38. Grant Clearwater 5
38. Alastair Russell 5
38. Graham Smith 5
38. Marcus Pye 5
42. Ken James 4
42. Warwick Mortimer 4
44. Neil Glover 0

Final Class A Points
1. Kerry McIntosh 409
2. Poul Christie 379
3. Bruce Leeson 311
4. Kerry Anderson 297
5. Greg Thornton 291
6. Tim Rush 166
7. Michael Whatley 140
8. Bob Harborow 107
9. Warwick Mortimer 32
10. Grant Clearwater 29

New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series Calendar
Rnd 1: November 14-15 2009 MG Classic meeting Manfeild Feilding
Rnd 2: January 08-10 2010 Lady Wigram Trophy meeting Powerbuilt Tools Raceway @ Ruapuna Park Christchurch
Rnd 3: January 22-24 2010 NZ Festival of Motor Racing – celebrating Bruce McLaren Hampton Downs north Waikato
Rnd 4: January 29-31 2010 NZ Festival of Motor Racing – celebrating Bruce McLaren Pukekohe Park Raceway Pukekohe
Rnd 5: March 19-21 2010 VHRR Phillip Island Classic meeting Phillip Island Australia
Rnd 6: Mar 25-28 2010 Qantas Australian Grand Prix Albert Park Melbourne Australia

[Source: NZ F5000 Assoc.; Fast Company/Alex Mitchell]