Christchurch Casino Lady Wigram Trophy meeting

Can New Zealand's evergreen racing veteran Ken Smith (Lola T430) match compatriot Graham McRae's Lady Wigram Trophy record this weekend?

That's the question motorsport fans around the country - indeed round the world - are pondering in the lead-up to this weekend's Christchurch Casino Lady Wigram Trophy meeting at Powerbuilt Tools Raceway at Ruapuna Park.

This year as last, the prestigious Lady Wigram Trophy will go to the winner of the feature MSC New Zealand Formula 5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series race at the annual Christchurch Casino Lady Wigram Trophy meeting

Last year that winner was Smith, the now 67-year-old veteran of 52 consecutive seasons of top-level motor racing in this country.

Smith, who went on to win the 2008/09 MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series, first won the Lady Wigram Trophy in 1976 behind the wheel of a Lola T332 Formula 5000 car, then won it for a second time in 1991 behind the wheel of a Swift Formula Pacific machine.

By winning it again at the Christchurch Casino meeting this time last year he became only the fourth driver after Peter Whitehead, Jim Clark and Craig Baird to hold the Trophy three times.

And if he can repeat last year's podium-topping performance this year he will be only the second driver - after contemporary Graham McRae - to claim it for a fourth time.

The Canterbury Car Club has received 26 entries for the MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series races at this year's Christchurch Casino Lady Wigram Trophy meeting with Smith sharing favourite status with 2007/08 MSC series champion and the winner of the first round of the 2009/10 series, Chris Hyde (McRae GM1) from Christchurch.

On the evidence of the first round Smith and Hyde can themselves expect strong competition from Napier's Sefton Gibb (Lola T332), Dunedin's Steve Ross (McRae GM1), former series champion Ian Clements (Lola T332) from Christchurch, and impressive series newcomer Brett Willis (Lola T330) from Rotorua.

Several local series regulars will also be making their season debut at the Lady Wigram Trophy round, including local Lola T430 driver David Abbott in the sister car to Ken Smith's, as well as long-time MSC series supporters Roger Williams (Lola T332) from Auckland, and Tony Richards (Lola T332), Stan Redmond (Lola T332CS) and Lindsay O'Donnell (Begg FM5) from Christchurch.

The Christchurch Casino Lady Wigram Trophy round is also the first round of the 2009/10 MSC series to host some overseas guests, namely highly-rated British driver Peter Dunn (March 73A), and Australians Bill Hemming (Elfin MR8A-C), Ken James (Elfin MR8C), Paul Trevethan (Elfin MR 6L) and Aaron Lewis (Matich A50).

In terms of marque numbers Lolas are by far the most numerous of the beautifully rebuilt and race-prepared '70s era stock-block 5-litre V8-engined F5000 cars that make up the MSC field with 11 followed by McRae with four, Begg and Elfin three, March two and Chevron and Matich one each.

Not all the Lolas are later model T330-430 models either, with long-time series supporter Poul Christie driving what is widely regarded as the best T190 model still in regular use around the world, and fellow Aucklander Kerry Anderson piloting an even earlier but just as tidy T142.

A little bit of category history will also be created on Friday when the only late-model T430 Lolas built, the sister cars of Ken Smith and David Abbott, and the ex Brian Redman car of Christchurch's Todd Stewart, will be on track.

Finally, also competing with the F5000 cars at the three meetings is Christchurch man Phil Mauger driving his ex Denny Hulme McLaren M23 Formula 1 car.

The MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series cars qualify and have a first six lap race on Saturday before two further races on Sunday, a second six lapper on Sunday morning and the feature Christchurch Casino Lady Wigram Trophy race over 15 laps set to start at 3.30pm

Supporting the MSC F5000 cars are OSCAs, Sports Saloons, Super Six Saloons, Formula Fords, BMW saloons and Superbikes.

After this weekend's round MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup revival Series action heads to the North Island with consecutive rounds at the New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing - Bruce McLaren meetings at the new Hampton Downs circuit over the January 23-24 weekend and at Pukekohe the weekend after.

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.