SMITH SET TO MARK ANOTHER MILESTONE AT MANFEILD

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of the 3.0km Feilding circuit and Smith will be the only competitor at The Sound MG Classic meeting who has competed there every year since 1973.  

"I didn't do the very first meeting they had there, but I did the big one that summer and I've been going back ever since," said the 72-year-old about to embark on his 56th consecutive national motor racing season.  

Smith rates the Feilding circuit as one of his favourites, despite a serious accident at the start of the first MSC F5000 race the last time (two years ago) the series visited the circuit. 

 "It's like a second home to me," he said.

"The original promoters, Rob and Wendy Lester, were always very good with the drivers plus its good for the spectators because they can see all of the track rather than just one little bit of it, from the grandstands."  

Smith, a three-time former MSC series champion who drives a Lola T332 similar to the one he raced here and in Australia in the 1970s, heads a 13-strong Tasman Cup Revival Series entry at this weekend's two-day The Sound MG Classic classic and historic motor racing meeting at Manfeild.  

An unfortunate date clash with the inaugural Highlands 101 endurance race at the new Highlands Motorsport Park in Central Otago means that both defending MSC series champion Steve Ross (McRae GM1) and 2012/13 series race winner Clark Proctor (March 73A) will not be on the grid at Manfeild this weekend (the pair are sharing a Mosler sportscar at the Highlands event) though Smith will not exactly be lacking for competition.  

Series young gun Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) has impressed at the two rounds of the Formula 5000 Australia Cup series already held, and former MSC series champion Ian Clements from Christchurch (Lola T332) is more than capable of taking the battle to the Auckland pair.  

Also entered this weekend are 2011/12 series runner-up Aaron Burson and his father Peter (both McRae GM1), former Lady Wigram Trophy winner Roger Williams (Lola T332) and Talon  MR1 driver David Banks (all from Auckland), 2011/12 series third placeman Brett Willis (Lola T330) from Rotorua, series returnees Sefton Gibb from the Hawke's Bay and Tony Richards from Christchurch (both Lola T332), as well as longtime classic and historic event supporter Russell Greer (Lola T332) from Blenheim, local driver Tim Rush (McLaren M22) and Class A (for older cars) standout Alan Dunkley.  

Dunkley is a real crowd-pleaser in the only high-wing car (a 1968 Lola T140) in the MSC field and Smith, for one, rates him highly.

"They're certainly aren't many people who can push one of those old cars round like he can. He always gives 110%," says Smith.  

Ends  

FEATURE CAR 

 Lola T400 - Andrew Higgins  

At 32-years-of-age Andrew Higgins missed out on the thrill of watching the V8-powered Formula 5000 single-seaters thundering round local tracks first time around.

But having watched the resurgence of interest in the cars thanks to the MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival series he resolved not to miss out on the action a second time.  

Impressed by the speed and style of visiting British driver Michael Lyons in his Lola T400, Andrew and his father Paul went looking for one of their own.

As luck would have it they managed to turn up the sister car to Lyon's in Germany.   The two cars were originally bought in 1975 by the US-based Vel's Parnelli Jones racing team. When they proved no quicker (not to mention harder to set up) than the Lola T332s the team was already running, the two T400s were consigned to a back corner of the team's garage and used for spares.  

Team driver Al Unser did race the Higgins car at Mosport in Canada once - albeit only after crashing his T332 - but that was it and the two team T400s were eventually sold to an American enthusiast in 1989 with the Higgins' car being on-sold to German man Peter Kormann in 1998, in whose hands it stayed until Higgins made an offer on it. 

 "It was probably the most original, low-mileage 5000 for sale at that time," says Higgins.

"It had done three race meetings in its life when we bought it.'   Since then the self-employed Auckland sign-writer has spent the past three years developing it into a race-winning car, enjoying success with it here, in Australia and the UK.  

Though teams at the time felt the advances over the T332 model (in particular to the suspension geometry) were a bridge too far, Higgins - who has raced Formula Fords, Formula Pacifics and Toyota Racing Series single-seaters - says that once unlocked there is a lot of potential in the car. 

 "They've got some downforce, but not a huge amount, and they stop and corner well."  

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, Webdesign and Exide.