Per capita New Zealand has more restored Formula 5000 racing cars than any other country. And this weekend the 18 confirmed for the opening round of the 2009/10 MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series are the main attraction at the 24th annual MG Classic Race Meeting at Manfeild.

The stock-block V8-engined Formula 5000 category was New Zealand's premier motor racing class through the 1970s with the likes of driver/constructor Graham McRae from Wellington, Graeme Lawrence from Hamilton and Ken Smith and David Oxton from Auckland building successful careers on their ability to get the most out of the big, spectacular cars.

Incredible as it may seem, 30+ years on evergreen racing veteran Ken Smith is back behind the wheel of one of the cars this weekend, bringing favourite status with him to Manfeild on the back of his popular win in the 2008/09 MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series.

Smith, now 67-years-of-age and in his 53nd consecutive season of national level competition, was first reacquainted with a Formula 5000 single-seater two years ago and after finishing a close second to Christchurch's Chris Hyde in the 2007/08 MSC series returned to win the title in 2008/09.

This weekend he is back behind the wheel of the ex Teddy Pilette/Alfie Costanzo Lola T430 facing competition from 2007/08 series winner Chris Hyde (McRae GM1), former series champion Ian Clements and Napier driver Sefton Gibb (both Lola T332) and Aucklander Aaron Burson (McRae GM1).

Hyde is back after a season's sabbatical behind the wheel of category stalwart Stu Lush's McRae GM1 and this weekend Aucklander Burson will be seen for the first time behind the wheel not of the Talon MR1A he has raced for the past four seasons but the McRae GM1 raced here last summer by Canadian Jay Esterer.

Dunedin's Steve Ross, who impressed last season behind the wheel of one of the earlier model Class A cars, a Lola T142, will also be behind the wheel of a McRae GM1 this weekend, this time the one Chris Hyde used to win the 2007/08 MSC title.

Meanwhile making their debut in the MSC series this weekend are former Truck and SuperGT racer Calven Bonney of Auckland and Rotorua driver Brett Willis.

Bonney has bought the ex Jim Murdoch/Phil Mauger Begg 018 off Invercargill's Noel Atley while Willis has had a Lola T330 restored by Christchurch-based specialists Motorsport Solutions.

Lola is the most popular marque in the field with eight cars followed by McRae with four, the New Zealand-built Begg with three and March and Chevron with one each.

Joining Ken Smith, Sefton Gibb, Ian Clements and Brett Willis in Lolas are Auckland's Shayne Windelburn in a T400, Blenheim's Russell Greer in the ex Graeme Lawrence/Murray Sinclair T332, Poul Christie in a T190 and Kerry Anderson in a T142.

Joining Chris Hyde, Aaron Burson and Steve Ross in McRae GM1s, meanwhile, is Burson's father Peter in his own car.

Local interests are satisfied by the three Begg cars in the field with Calven Bonney driving the last car built by the Southland manufacturer, the 018, young Feilding driver Tim Rush behind the wheel of the ex David Oxton FM4 and Auckland driver Kerry McIntosh driving one of the first F5000 Beggs built, an FM2.

The other two cars in the field are the March 73A-2 of John McKinley and the Chevron B32-01 of Hamish Paterson, both men from Auckland.

The MSC Tasman Cup Revival Series cars head a varied programme of classic and what could be termed contemporary classic categories at the annual MG Classic meeting with support from the Central Muscle Car, BMW, Pre 65 and New Zealand Sports Car categories

Over the years Manfeild has been the scene of some classic Formula 5000 races and chief executive Heather Verry says she that it is always good to see the cars and their drivers back at the circuit.

"Formula 5000 was the premier category of New Zealand motorsport in the 1960s through the 1970s, which is also the period when Manfeild came into life. The circuit hosted some fantastic F5000 racing back in those days, including memorable tussles involving our own Ken Smith, a New Zealand motor-racing legend who, fittingly, will be here this weekend in one of the great cars of the period.

"It's a real coup that people can have the opportunity to come to Manfeild this weekend to see cars these cars in their full glory again. It is a fantastic opportunity for those people who might recall seeing these cars in their heyday, and also for a while new generation who might have only read about the F5000 era but never had the chance to see and hear them.

"F5000 has been described as being the equivalent of speedway sprint cars for the circuit - they are fast, they are loud and they are hugely memorable. We are very lucky to have, in New Zealand, a group of people who have had the passion and foresight to bring these amazing machines back to life, and use them to their full potential."

Cars will be on track at Manfeild from Friday, when testing begins, with qualifying and the first round of races across the classes on Saturday and a full day of racing on Sunday.
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