Tweedie sets the pace but battle not over says Smith

| Photographer Credit: Peter Ellenbogen

Youth – in the form of 27-year-old Sydneysider Tom Tweedie – made the running in the MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series races on the first day of competition at the annual VHRR Phillip Island Classic motor racing meeting in Australia today.

But the driver who pushed him all the way, 73-year-old Kiwi supervet Ken Smith reckons it’s way too early to write off age and experience just yet.

Tweedie, driving his family-owned ex Chris Craft/Tony Dean Chevron B24, qualified comfortably quickest on Friday but Smith (ex Danny Ongais Lola T332) beat him off the line and for the first lap in the first (6-lap) race this morning before crossing the finish line less than a second behind.

Then in the second race this afternoon Smith shadowed Tweedie early on and after easing back mid-race a fraction, closed the gap right up again only to have the chequered flag come out at the end of 5 laps rather than the 6 everyone was expecting.

“I had a little handling issue getting onto the straight in that first race “Smith explained. “The car was oversteering on the exit and he (Tweedie) was able to catch and tow past me down the shute. Through Turns 2,3,4,5 and 6 I could close the gap right back up because the car was grouse through there. But he was better onto the straight.”

Between races Smith and his crew made some suspension changes which allowed the hard charging veteran, now in his 58th consecutive season of national motor racing in his native New Zealand, to push Tweedie even harder. But by that time the track was past its best and though the gap between the pair remained at around two-hundredths of a second, Smith’s quickest time of the day remained the 1:28.5929 he set in the first race.

“He’s just got the edge on me,” admitted the Kiwi veteran, “but now that we’ve got the car dialled in I know I can really work it through there (the corner leading onto the main straight) so you just watch me tomorrow.”

Having comprehensively dominated this season’s MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival races at home Smith is plainly not used to being beaten. If anything though, he is thriving on the competition from Tweedie and had only good things to say about the former Australian Formula 3 and Carrera Cup front-runner.

“Tom is a very good driver and I’m rapt to be able to drive with him,” he said after the morning race. “He’s quick and he’s clean which is good when there’s so little between the two of us.”

As if the world’s quickest septuagenarian was not enough to deal with, Smith’s latest protégé, 21-year-old Tom Alexander from Christchurch, also made his presence felt in his debut races in the F5000 category today.

Former kart champ, New Zealand Formula Ford class front-runner and 2014/15 Toyota NZ 86 class champion Alexander had only done 10 laps in UK-based MSC F5000 series regular Greg Thornton’s Chevron B24 before the first race this morning.

But after qualifying fifth on Friday with a 1:31:3525 he set the third quickest race lap – a 1:29:4706 – as he passed and pulled away from local ace Paul Zazryn (Lola T332) on his way to fourth place.

Then, in the second, he went one better, jumping top local driver Tim Berryman (who had qualified third quickest on Friday and finished third in the first race in his family-owned ex Guy Edwards/Jon Davison Lola T332) to claim his first F5000 class podium alongside Tweedie and Smith.

Behind Berryman, meanwhile, came long-time local F5000 category supporter Andrew Robson in his family-owned Lola T330/2.

After sitting out both practice/qualifying sessions on Friday with a migraine, Robson stormed through the 26-strong pack from the back row in the first race to cross the finish line in seventh place behind fellow Melbournite Zazryn and fellow T330 driver Peter Brennan.

He then made it from seventh to fourth in the second race……in a car with its own Ken Smith story.

Smith enjoyed considerable success in the car in period and 40 years ago last month scored one of his most memorable victories on Australian soil, beating local hero and former F1 driver Vern Schuppan to victory in the Rothmans International Series round at Adelaide International Raceway.

And what about the other storied 73-year-old competing in the MSC F5000 class races at Phillip Island, four-time former Australian Drivers’ Champion, Alfredo (Alfie) Costanzo?

He qualified the Alan Hamilton-owned McLaren M10B 12th and finished the first race in that position but was a non-starter in the second race after breaking a rocker in the first.

The Hamilton team was busy tonight replacing the engine and Costanzo is expected back on the grid for Sunday’s two races.

With Smith attending to business up front the battle for second Kiwi MSC series regular home in both races was between Lola T332 drivers Russell Greer from Blenheim and Ian Clements from Christchurch.

Napier driver Sefton Gibb was also part of a strong mid-field battle pack in his Lola T332 with the three Kiwi Talons MR1s of David Banks, Aaron Burson and Grant Martin.

Banks struggled with a gear selection issue in the first race, having to start from pit lane and culminating in a lurid spin at Lukey Heights, while Grant Martin lost control of his car in the second race and grazed the barriers between turns two and three, fortunately only doing superficial damage.

The second race saw the return of local Matich A50 owner and driver Bryan Sala (otherwise driving a Ford Sierra Cosworth Group A touring car at the meeting) in Geoff Munday’s Elfin MR5B. UK-based MSC series regular Greg Thornton continued to suffer fuel problems with his hi-tech 3.4-litre V6 Cosworth-Ford engined March and Jay Bondini had a brake issue.

There are another two races for the F5000 cars at Phillip Island tomorrow, a second 5-lapper in the morning and a 10-lap feature final early in the afternoon.


Grid order after P1 and P2

1. Tom Tweedie (NSW) 1973 Chevron B24 1:28.1513
2. Ken Smith (NZ) 1976 Lola F5000 T332 1:28.6049
3. Tim Berryman (NSW) 1974 Lola T332 1:29.2050
4. Paul Zazryn (VIC) 1974 Lola T332 1:30.9494
5. Tom Alexander (NZ) Chevron B24 1:31.3525
6. Peter Brennan (VIC) 1973 Lola T330 1:33.8909
7. Russell Greer (NZ) 1973 Lola T332 1:34.0786
8. Ian Clements (NZ) Lola T332 1:34.2756
9. Sefton Gibb (NZ) 1974 Lola F5000 T332 1:34.5521
10. David Banks (NZ) 1974 Talon F5000 1:34.5637
11. Grant Martin (NZ) 1974 Talon MR1A 1:35.5510
12. Alfredo Costanzo (VIC) 1970 McLaren M10B 1:36.0334
13. Aaron Burson (NZ) 1974 Talon F5000 MR1 1:36.0986
14. Philip Lewis (DNK) 1972 Matich A50 1:36.4779
15. Glenn Richards (NZ) 1975 Lola T400 1:36.5300
16. Darcy Russell (VIC) 1972 Lola T330 1:38.4679
17. Frank Harris (VIC) 1973 Chevron B24 1:42.5534
18. Bill Hemming (VIC) 1977 Elfin MR 8 1:43.6614
19. Maxwell Pearson (QLD) 1971 Elfin MR5 1:43.8289
20. Tony Roberts (NZ) 1969 McLaren M10A 1:43.8556
21. Andrew Kluver (NSW) 1972 Lola T300 1:45.1014
22. Jay Bondini (VIC) 1974 Lola T332 1:46.1958
23. Rodney Carroll (NSW) 1968 Lola T140 1:46.3729
24. Gregory Thornton (UK) 1975 March 75A 1:46.7909
25. Frank Karl (NZ) 1970 McLaren M10 1:52.1479
26. Geoff Munday (VIC) 1975 Elfin MR5B 1:53.2999
27. Mike Glynn (VIC) 1977 Elfin MRB-BC 1:58.6828


Formula 5000 – Race 1

Event R15 6 Laps
1. Tom Tweedie (NSW) 1973 Chevron B24 8:58.3799
2. Ken Smith (NZ) 1976 Lola F5000 T332 5000 9:00.0198
3. Tim Berryman (NSW) 1974 Lola T332 9:05.5160
4. Tom Alexander (UK) Chevron B24 9:09.5266
5. Paul Zazryn (VIC) 1974 Lola T332 9:26.8993
6. Peter Brennan (VIC) 1973 Lola T330 9:32.0056
7. Andrew Robson (VIC) 1973 Lola T330/2 9:38.8849
8. Russell Greer (NZ) 1973 Lola T332 9:39.3967
9. Ian Clements (NZ) Lola T332 9:39.7170
10. Sefton Gibb (NZ) 1974 Lola F5000 T332 9:41.5098
11. Grant Martin (NZ) 1974 Talon F5000 9:45.5504
12. Aaron Burson (NZ) 1974 Talon F5000 MR1 9:46.5913
13. Alfredo Costanzo (VIC) 1970 McLaren M10B 9:48.1278
14. Philip Lewis (DNK) 1972 Matich A50 9:48.2140
15. Darcy Russell (VIC) 1972 Lola T330 9:48.4835
16. Glenn Richards (NZ) 1975 Lola T400 9:52.5927
17. Bill Hemming (VIC) 1977 Elfin MR 8 10:04.3355
18. Frank Harris (VIC) 1973 Chevron B24 10:32.5164
19. Tony Roberts (NZ) 1969 McLaren M10A 10:34.7496
20. Maxwell Pearson (QLD) 1971 Elfin MR5 10:37.6179
21. Rodney Carroll (NSW) 1968 Lola T140 10:39.8213
22. Jay Bondini (VIC) 1974 Lola T332 10:39.8847
23. Andrew Kluver (NSW) 1972 Lola T300 9:10.2826
24. Frank Karl (NZ) 1970 McLaren M10 9:41.0097
25. Geoff Munday (VIC) 1975 Elfin MR5B 9:58.0079
26. + 1 lap: David Banks (NZ) 1974 Talon MR1 8:12.7488

Formula 5000 – Race 2

Event R27 5 Laps
1. Tom Tweedie (NSW) 1973 Chevron B24 7:32.9865
2. Ken Smith (NZ) 1976 Lola F5000 T332 7:34.1662
3. Tom Alexander (UK) Chevron B24 7:37.3228
4. Tim Berryman (NSW) 1974 Lola T332 7:38.8765
5. Andrew Robson (VIC) 1973 Lola T330/2 7:51.3962
6. Paul Zazryn (VIC) 1974 Lola T332 7:53.3680
7. Peter Brennan (VIC) 1973 Lola T330 7:58.7673
8. Ian Clements (NZ) Lola T332 8:02.0427
9. Russell Greer (NZ) 1973 Lola T332 8:02.2665
10. Darcy Russell (VIC) 1972 Lola T330 8:09.4501
11. Sefton Gibb (NZ) 1974 Lola F5000 T332 8:12.4035
12. David Banks (NZ) 1974 Talon F5000 8:12.6232
13. Aaron Burson (NZ) 1974 Talon F5000 MR1 8:14.0490
14. Glenn Richards (NZ) 1975 Lola T400 8:21.2355
15. Philip Lewis (DNK) 1972 Matich A50 8:35.1666
16. Bryan Sala 1975 Elfin MR5B 8:36.1800
17. Bill Hemming (VIC) 1977 Elfin MR 8 8:41.9799 1
18. Tony Roberts (NZ) 1969 McLaren M10A 8:43.5755
19. Frank Harris (VIC) 1973 Chevron B24 9:20.5268
20. Rodney Carroll (NSW) 1968 Lola T140 7:45.6029
21. Frank Karl (NZ) 1970 McLaren M10 7:46.7023
22. Andrew Kluver (NSW) 1972 Lola T300 7:46.9545
DNF. Grant Martin (NZ) 1974 Talon MR1A, Gregory Thornton (UK) 1975 March, Maxwell Pearson (QLD) 1971 Elfin MR5
DNS: Alfredo Costanzo (VIC) 1970 McLaren M10B

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