Will history repeat at the inaugural Taupo Historic GP meeting this weekend? That’s the question students of historic motor racing are asking after last weekend’s Festival of New Zealand Motor Racing meeting at Hampton Downs.
There, the man whose career the event was celebrating, Kiwi supervet Ken Smith (Lola T332 F5000), made a clean sweep of the SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series races and young Brit Michael Lyons (Hesketh 308E F1) was similarly dominant in the first appearance in this country of a group of Historic Formula 1 cars.
That sets the pair up for a classic confrontation when the two categories meet – arguably for the first time since the 1970s – in the much anticipated Race of Champions Revival feature at the Taupo Historic GP meeting on Sunday.
In 1973 Brit Peter Gethin did the unthinkable, beating a field full of pure-bred 3 litre Formula 1 cars to win the Race of Champions at Great Britain’s Brands Hatch circuit in a Formula 5000 Chevron B24 powered by a production-based ‘stock block’ 5.0 litre Chevrolet engine.
In doing so Gethin set a precedent which was never to be repeated, leading home Kiwi Denny Hulme in a McLaren M23 F1 and James Hunt in a Surtees TS9B F1
A year later Belgian ace Jacky Ickx, driving a Lotus, led home a Formula 1 whitewash with the first F5000 crossing the finish line two laps down in eighth place and in 1975 no Formula 5000s finished.
Fast forward over 40 years and to the other side of the world and the stage is set for a fascinating re-match. And despite his current provenance – the just-turned 26-year-old is the reigning FIA Masters Historic Formula One Pre-78 champion – Michael Lyons reckons Smith and the other top Formula 5000 runners have just as good a chance of winning the 14-lap Race of Champions Revival feature as he and his fellow Historic Formula One entrants do.
“The biggest advantage we have,” Lyons said this week.” is that the F1 cars have a lightweight aluminium racing engine in the back, meaning that we can brake a little later and carry more speed through the corners.”
“The disadvantage for us this weekend is that the 5000s produce more power, much more than they did in period, and the fact that here you use rolling starts which suit the 5000s better than an F1 car.”
Having cut his racing teeth in the F5000 class both here and in the UK, Lyons is also only too well aware of the threat Ken Smith poses and believes he will be the driver he has to beat if he is to get his name on the Race of Champions Revival trophy.
Smith is inclined to agree with Lyons…up to a point!
” In general terms I think the 5000s should have an advantage – more because to the torque than outright power though – and if you were to ask me can a 5000 beat a Formula One this weekend I’d say yes – against any other driver than young Michael!
“I’m certainly looking forward to the challenge but I’m under no illusions that we’re going to go down there and blow everyone away. He (Michael) is a good young steerer, very good to drive against and right now he’s at the absolute top of his game in that car (Lyon’s ex Rupert Keegan Hesketh 308E).”
With the enthusiastic support of Lyons’ parents Frank and Judy Lyons the organisers of this weekend’s meeting have attracted nine historic Formula One cars to supplement the 26 F5000 entries.
Included are the actual car Peter Gethin won the 1973 Race of Champions in, the Chevron B24 F5000 now owned and raced by British driver Greg Thornton, as well as the car that finished second, the ex-Denny Hulme McLaren M23.
Joining their son on the grid in their own period Formula One cars are Frank (McLaren M26) and Judy (Surtees TS9) Lyons, Brits Andrew Beaumont (Lotus 76) and James Hagan (Hesketh 308), and Aberdeen-based Irishman Tommy Dreelan (March 761).
Meanwhile, interest in the SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series races at Taupo will centre on points. The Taupo round is the fourth of five but the final of the new Trans-Tasman Trophy series-within-a-series with only two points separating long-time leader Bryan Sala from Melbourne (Matich A50/51) from top Kiwi Grant Martin from Auckland (Talon MR1A).
Qualifying and the first race of the weekend for both the F5000 and Historic F1 categories will be held on Saturday with two more races apiece on Sunday ahead of the combined 14-lap Race of Champions Revival feature timed to start at 4.19pm.
The 2016/17 SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series is organised and run with the support of sponsors SAS Autoparts, MSC, NZ Express Transport, Bonney’s Specialised Bulk Transport, Mobil Lubricants, Pacifica, Avon Tyres, Webdesign and Exide Batteries.
2016/17 SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series
Points (top 10) after Rnd 3 of 5
- Bryan Sala (Aust) Matich A50/51 291 points
- Grant Martin (NZ) Talon MR1A 289
- Brett Willis (NZ) Lola T330 255
- Glenn Richards (NZ) Lola T400 253
- Paul Zazryn (Aust) Lola T332 248
- Aaron Burson (NZ) McRae GM1 221
- Bill Hemmings (Aust) Elfin MR8 202
- David Banks (NZ) Talon MR1 177
9=: Ken Smith (NZ) Lola T332 104
9=: Tom Tweedie (Aust) Chevron B24) 104
- Ian Riley (NZ) Lola T332 98
2016/17 New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series
Rnd 1 – Oct 22-23 2016 – Barbagallo Raceway Perth WA Aust
Rnd 2 – Nov 05-06 2016 – VHRR Historic Sandown meeting Melbourne VIC, Aust
Rnd 3 – Jan 21-22 2017 – NZFMR – Ken Smith – Hampton Downs Auckland NZ
Rnd 4 – Jan 28-29 2017 – Race of Champions Revival – Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park Taupo NZ
Rnd 5 – Feb 04-05 2017 – Skope Classic Mike Pero Motorsport Park Ruapuna Christchurch, NZ
Prepared by FAST COMPANY of behalf of the New Zealand Formula 5000 Association www.F5000.co.nz
Feature image: Heading the Formula One entry is Michael Lyons (Hesketh 308E) seen here ahead of Andrew Beaumont in his Lotus 76. Two of the other Formula One cars set to start the Race of Champions Revival feature at Taupo this weekend are the March 761 of Tommy Dreelan (#35) and the McLaren M26 of Frank Lyons. Photo credit: Fast Company/Lance Hastie