STRENGTH OF MSC F5000 SERIES SEEN IN NUMBERS


Ten years on the series is not only one of the country's biggest and best supported classic and historic racing categories it is also one of the most popular categories across the whole motorsport spectrum, here and increasingly, in Australia as well.  

Since an unusually early start to the 2012/13 season at the big Muscle Car Masters meeting at the Sydney Motorsport Park in September last year fields of as many as 27 cars have been entertaining fans on both sides of the Tasman.  

This weekend the series returns to Christchurch's Powerbuilt Tools Raceway at Ruapuna Park with defending MSCseries champion and current Lady Wigram Trophy holder Steve Ross (McRae GM1) from Dunedin heading the points standings after five of the seven rounds from former series champ Ken Smith (Lola T332) and last season's series runner-up Aaron Burson (McRae GM1/Talon MR1-A). 

With Smith a late withdrawal from this weekend's meeting and Ross the dominant figure the last time the MSC series visited Powerbuilt Tools Raceway the Dunedin man is the obvious favourite this weekend.  

A sign of the true quality of the MSC field, however, is that so far this year there have been six different race winners, and four of those six - Ross, Aucklander Clark Proctor (March 73A), visiting British driver Greg Thornton and Melbourne man Bryan Sala (Matich A50/51) - will be facing the starter's lights at Powerbuilt Tools Raceway this weekend.   

Sala struggled with minor mechanical issues at both NZ Festival of Motor Racing - celebrating Denny Hulme meetings at Hampton Downs earlier this month but at the opening series round in Sydney in September he qualified quickest and beat both Smith and Ross to the line in the first race.  

Proctor, meanwhile, qualified quickest at the first NZ Festival meeting and after running both Smith and Ross close claimed his first series race win in the final 15-lap feature at the second meeting last weekend.  

And Greg Thornton?

He claimed his first and second MSC race wins at the non-championship round at Australia's Tasman Cup Revival Series meeting back at the Sydney Motorsport Park in November.  

And that's just race winners.   

Aaron Burson (McRae GM1/Talon MR1-A) and fellow Talon MR1 driver David Banks (it was Burson and his father Peter who persuaded Banks to buy a Formula 5000 car and join the MSC series) are currently running third and fourth in the points standings thanks to a combination of speed and consistency.  

Greg Thornton is not the only quick British visitor either.

Mark Dwyer (Lola T400) and Peter Dunn (March 73A) are also capable of challenging for a place on the podium.  

A strong mid-field is also a feature of the MSC series with the likes of Rotorua driver Brett Willis (Lola T330, Napier's Sefton Gibb (Lola T332), Blenheim man Russell Greer (Lola T332), Christchurch category stalwarts David Abbott (Lola T430 and Stan Redmond (Lola T333CS), Christchurch-born long-time Melbourne resident Chris Lambden (McRae GM1), and former saloon series ace Peter Sundberg (Lola T332) from Auckland supplemented this weekend by Australian visitors Sala, Aaron Lewis (Matich A50), Paul Zazryn (Lola T332) and Bill Hemming (Elfin MR8A-C).  

Then there is category young gun Alan Dunkley in one of the oldest cars in the MSC field, a high-wing 1968 Lola T140.

Aucklander Dunkley, 23, currently heads the Class A category for older cars by a decent margin but his real focus is seeing how far up the main field he can qualify then finish in every race.  

So far this season that has netted him a third place finish in the Lady Wigram Trophy race and second behind Greg Thornton in the second race at the Tasman Revival meeting in Sydney last November.  

The Class A category has also blossomed this season with Dunkley set to be joined this weekend by fellow Kiwi Warwick Mortimer (Surtees TS5), fellow Lola drivers John Bryant and Rod Carroll (both Lola T140) from Australia, category original Eric Haga from the United States (Lola T192) and Christchurch man David Arrowsmith (Lotus 70).  

This weekend there will be three NZ Express-backed MSC F5000 series races on Skope Classic programme with qualifying on Saturday morning and the first 8 lap race in the afternoon.  

There will then be two more races on Sunday, another eight lapper in the morning and a 12 lap feature (set to start at 3.30pm) in the afternoon.  

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, Mobil Lubricants,  Pacifica, Avon Tyres and Exide. Invercargill's Teretonga Park hosts the final round at the Classic Speedfest meeting in a fortnight's time