Round 6 (Final) Formula 1 Qantas Australian Grand Prix

Defending champion Ken Smith (Lola T430) 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, " the Dunedin man said 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"

Best placed local driver was again D'arcy Russell (Lola T330), again in seventh place.

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," 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!"

Best locally-based driver across the line was again D'arcy Russell (Lola T330), this time in

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."

FM2 I didn;t really have a lot of knowledge the fact that it was a NZ car and had a bit of history led me to buy it


Race 1 (8 laps Saturday)
Steve Ross started from pole position with Ken Smith right behind him. But it was Chris Hyde who won the first race of the weekend on Saturday.

Hyde joined Ross on the front row of the grid for the eight lap race and, after getting the jump on his fellow McRae man at the start, led from start to finish - despite losing the use of second gear half way through.

Sensing there was something not quite right with Hyde's car, Smith closed to within passing distance of the #22 McRae as the pair started lapping cars on the second to last lap. But though he set a new class lap record - at 1.55.2134 a good two-and-a-half seconds under Tony Richard's 2009 event category benchmark - as he hunted Hyde down, the McRae driver had just enough of an advantage to cross the finish line just over half a second in front.

And Ross?

He looked comfortable in second place until the half shaft sheered and he was forced to stop.

With Hyde and Smith edging away from the field in the early laps, spectator interest behind them centred on UK visitor Greg Thornton and his giant-killing performance in his earlier model Class A Surtees TS11.

Compatriot Greg Dwyer (Lola T332) slotted into fourth with Roger Williams (Lola T332) fifth, David Abbott (Lola T430) sixth and Thornton - who qualified 10th - seventh. Sefton Gibb was the first to get past Abbott then both Thornton and Aaron Lewis (Chevron B24) following suit soon after.

Thornton was treading a very fine line in his earlier model car, however, and both Lewis and Abbott got back past when the Englishman overcooked it and went off the track

As he battled with Thornton, class stalwart Aaron Lewis was the quickest of the Australian competitors, but he ended up a late race dnf with what appeared to be fuel starvation.

As Thornton was shuffled back, to eventually spin late in the race, and Lewis slowed, the finishing order ended up being Hyde and Smith with a gap back to Dwyer, this season's Lady Wigram Trophy race winner Roger Williams, Gibb, Abbott and the man who - in Lewis' absence - inherited the title of first local home, Darcy Russell (Lola T330).

Despite his dramas Greg Thornton did get to the finish line - in eighth place - to claim Class A honours with John MacKinlay (March 73A/2) ninth and Bruce Leeson (McLaren M10B) tenth and second Class A driver home.

The MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series is organised and run with the support of sponsors MSC, NZ Express Transport, Bonney's Specialized Bulk Transport, Pacifica, Toll Holdings, Smith & Davies, Avon Tyres and Exide.