Event Preview - Qantas F1 GP Melbourne

With just six points separating impressive series newcomer Steve Ross (McRae GM1) and defending title holder Ken Smith (Lola T430) the battle for this season's MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series title is set to go down to the wire at the final round at the Qantas Australian Grand Prix meeting in Melbourne's Albert Park this weekend.

After a spectacularly successful debut appearance on the support roster at the Grand Prix meeting last year, another 35-strong field of beautifully restored and race-prepared 1970s Formula 5000 racing cars will join the V8 Supercars, Australian GT Championship and Australian MINI Challenge series on the support roster at the Qantas-backed meeting this year.

Practice and qualifying is today with two races on the programme over the weekend, both over eight laps, one on Saturday morning, the other on Sunday.

After five rounds of the 2009/10 MSC series Dunedin driver Steve Ross continues to hold the narrowest of points leads over defending series champion, evergreen New Zealand motor racing veteran Ken Smith, with former series champion, Christchurch man Ian Clements (Lola T332) third, Napier's Sefton Gibb (Lola T332) fourth and 2007/08 series champion and 2009/10 round one winner Chris Hyde (McRae GM1) fifth.

Smith has to claim favourite status heading into the final based on his dominant performances at the two NZ Festival of Motor Racing - Bruce McLaren meetings back home in late January and quickest qualifying time and two wins from three starts at Phillip Island last weekend.

But at last year's final Smith was an early casualty of contact and could only watch as UK visitor Mark Dwyer (Lola T400) won the first race and Christchurch man Tony Richards (Lola T332) won the second.

Both are back for this year's, Dwyer - like Richards - behind the wheel of a Lola T332.

Speed and clockwork-like consistency from driver and Motorsport Solutions crew alike have kept Steve Ross in the picture all season though, so he cannot be discounted.

Nor can fellow McRae GM1 driver Chris Hyde, who won the first race at Phillip Island before being forced out of the second by a minor electrical fault. he then stormed back through the field to finish third in the final.

In the Class A category for earlier model cars, Auckland's Kerry McIntosh driving the New Zealand-built Begg FM2 has a healthy lead in the points standings from category stalwart Poul Christie (Lola T190) and Kerry Anderson (Lola T142) though at the three most recent meetings Class A honours have become a battle of the visiting UK drivers with Greg Thornton (Surtees TS11) fifth overall behind McIntosh, Christie, Anderson and US-based Australian driver Bruce Leeson (McLaren M10B), and Surtees TS8 driver Michael Whatley seventh behind young New Zealand driver Tim Rush (McLaren M22).

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.