After another stellar summer of racing on tracks around New Zealand, runaway points leader Ken Smith (Lola T332) and his fellow New Zealand’s F5000 Association members cross the Tasman next week to contest the final round of the 2015/16 MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series at the 27th annual VHRR Classic meeting at the Phillip Island circuit south of Melbourne.
The meeting – one of the biggest and most prestigious on the classic and historic motor racing calendar in this part of the world – is being held from Friday March 11 to Sunday March 13 and has attracted a record 540-plus entry over 12 separate classic and/or historic categories.
One of these is Formula 5000 with 28 cars entered, 16 from Australia, 11 from New Zealand and one from the UK.
With its long, undulating start/finish straight, smooth, wide surface and long, open, ultra-fast corners the Phillip Island circuit is a favourite with MSC series regulars on both sides of the Tasman.
For good reason, says Melbourne-based expat Chris Lambden.
Having learned his trade in karts at home and in Europe and raced V8 Touring cars and more recently a McRae GM1 F5000 single-seater in the MSC series here and in Australia Lambden is uniquely qualified to pass judgement. And he makes no bones about how good the circuit is, and how well suited the thundering 5-litre V8-powered F5000 cars are to it.
“Phillip Island is one of the best, most daunting race tracks in the world before you even start – before you front up with 550bhp just behind your ears and the biggest set of rear slick tyres since Formula 1 was really good…” he said this week.
“The combination of fast, sweeping curves, and a couple of serious stops for tighter corners presents all the challenges. One of the most fabulous race cars ever dreamed up on one of the most fabulous race tracks in the world … no wonder the F5000s flock to the ‘Island.”
Evergreen now 73-year-old Kiwi veteran Ken Smith has again been the dominant force in this season’s MSC series, crossing the Tasman with 626 points, 178 more than second placed fellow Lola T332 driver Sefton Gibb from Napier, and 192 more than Lola T330 driver Brett Willis from Rotorua.
The trio head the 11-strong New Zealand landing party with support from Talon MR1 trio Aaron Burson, David Banks and Grant Martin, fellow Aucklanders Tony Roberts and Frank Karl (McLaren M10A & B respectively), Lola T332 trio Russell Greer from Blenheim, Ian Clements from Christchurch and Sefton Gibb from Napier, and Tom Alexander from Christchurch (Chevron B24).
UK-based Greg Thornton is also making the trip to drive his rare Ford V6-engined March 75A F5000 car.
Regular MSC series sparring partner Paul Zazryn (Lola T332) heads the Australian line-up which includes another active 73-year-old racing veteran, four-time former Australian Drivers’ Champion Alfie Costanzo from Melbourne, who will be driving a McLaren M10B.