Formula 5000 blast from past

Last updated 05:00 15/02/2013

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When Formula 5000 single-seaters first captured the imagination of Southland race fans back in the early 1970s, crowds flocked to the annual Tasman Series meeting at Teretonga in January to watch top New Zealand drivers Graham McRae, Graeme Lawrence and David Oxton take on their overseas counterparts.

More than 30 years later many of those same fans will be back at the circuit to watch a 16-strong MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Revival Series field repeat the exercise at the annual Evolution Motorsport Classic Speedfest meeting, starting tomorrow.

Appropriately it is again a Kiwi driver, this time defending MSC series champion Steve Ross (McRae GM1) from Dunedin, who has a healthy lead in the points standings ahead of the Teretonga final, with series original Ken Smith (Lola T332) second and newcomer Clark Proctor (March 73A) third.

Smith, a two-time MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series champion, decided not to travel south for the Skope Classic and Evolution Motorsport Classic Speedfest rounds this season, so the battle up front will be between champion-elect Ross and Proctor.

The latter worked his way into series podium contention after claiming his first pole position at the first NZ Festival of Motor Racing meetings at Hampton Downs in January and his first MSC series race win at the second festival meeting a week later.

Since then the former Speedway, NZV8s and Targa competitor has gone on to claim a second pole and two more race wins at the annual Skope Classic meeting in Christchurch and Ross is in no doubt what he has to do this weekend.

Of the internationals it is the Australians who have the best record at Teretonga, with Neil Allen (McLaren M10B) from Sydney winning in 1971, Kevin Bartlett (McLaren M10B), also from Sydney winning in 1972 and Max Stewart (Lola T330) from Orange winning in 1974.

This weekend three of their counterparts will be at Teretonga trying to emulate their illustrious predecessors: Bryan Sala from Sydney driving a Matich A50 and Melbournites Paul Zazryn (Lola T332) and Bill Hemming (Elfin MR8A-C).

Sala qualified quickest and won a race - over Ken Smith and Steve Ross - at the opening round of this season's MSC series at Sydney Motorsport Park last September and with Zazryn and the three British drivers competing this weekend is a definite podium prospect.

British driver Allan Rollinson won the 1973 Teretonga race in a McRae GM1, so it is entirely appropriate that one of the trio of Brits, Greg Thornton, also drives one.

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He and compatriots Michael Whatley (Surtees TS8) and Monaco-based Peter Dunn (March 73A) have all run strongly at earlier MSC rounds this season, with Thornton winning two of the three races at the non-championship round in Sydney in November.

There are three MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series races on the programme at the Evolution Motorsport Classic Speedfest meeting, with qualifying on Saturday morning and an eight-lap race in the afternoon before a second eight-lap race on Sunday morning and a 12-lap final (all with rolling starts) in the afternoon.

- The Southland Times

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