STORMING START FOR SMITH AT FIRST HAMPTON DOWNS MEETING

With a best lap of 59.264 the 73-year-old in his 57th year of national level single-seater racing circulated under the category lap record - 59.483s - then led the first race at the first New Zealand round of this year's trans-Tasman MSC series from start to finish. 

The points leader after the first two rounds of this year's series in Australia, Kiwi Clark Proctor (March 73A/1), had an early set-back with a slow puncture in qualifying, but fought back strongly in the race to cross the line second behind Smith. 

Though rain fell briefly earlier in the day and threatened just before the start, the eight-lap race was held in warm, dry conditions with Proctor - who qualified third - attacking pole man Smith aggressively on the inside at Turn 1 just after the start. 

Smith fought him off and by the end of the first lap had established a handy lead over Proctor, fellow former series champion Steve Ross (McRae GM1) and visiting Australan driver Paul Zazryn (Lola T332). 

Smith, Proctor and Ross started pulling away on the second lap only to have their advantage negated on the third when the Safety Car was dispatched after Russell Greer spun his Lola T332 exiting Turn 1. 

Greer was able to restart the car and drive it back to the pits but the field remained behind the Safety Car for another full lap. 

Proctor was again aggressive off the re-start, this time trying to drive around the outside, but Smith again had his measure edging away this time to win the race from Proctor, Ross and Brett Willis (Lola T330). 

Like Smith, Willis was in comeback mode, in his case after a heavy crash at the second NZ Festival meeting last year, and after qualifying seventh capped off a strong return with a final lap move to claim take fourth  place off fellow Lola driver Paul Zazryn. 

Early on in the race Alastair Russell (McRae GM1) was running as high as seventh but slipped back through the field as the race went on. 

UK-based series regular Greg Thornton swapped from his Chevron B24/28 to his Surtees TS8 for the race and ran in the top six, initially between Paul Zazryn and Brett Willis, while defending series champion Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) quickly made his presence felt to break into the top eight after engine issues in qualifying saw him start the race from the last row of the grid. 

Aaron Burson (Talon MR1/A) did well to qualify fourth quickest but slowed suddenly early in the race, forcing a closely following David Banks in the other Talon in the race to swerve to avoid him. 

What was the problem? 

"I accidentally hit the kill switch," Burson admitted. 

Banks, showing new speed which he attributed to the extra track time he is getting in an historic Formula Ford he has recently purchased, was able to continue and crossed the line in eighth place, just behind Greg Thornton and Andrew Higgins but in front of Ian Clements (Lola T332), Glenn Richards (Lola T400), visiting Australian driver Peter Brennan (Lola T330), and Alastair Russell. 

Enjoying a trouble-free debut in his recently finished high-wing McLaren M10A, meanwhile, was Tony Roberts, one of the men behind the Hampton Downs circuit, who crossed the line  in 14th place in front of Peter Burson (McRae GM1), visiting English driver Robs Lamplough in the ex Howden Ganley Formula 1 BRM P180, and a three-car battle pack consisting of Tim Rush (McLaren M22), Warwick Mortimer (Surtees TS5) and Poul Christie (McLaren M10B). 

Unfortunate not to make it to the finish was series' young gun Allan Dunkley in his giant-killing high-wing Lola T140. Dunkley qualified the Lola, the oldest car in the field, 13th but was forced out early in the race with a broken universal joint.  

Today's race was the first of three at the first Gulf Oil Howden Ganley F5000 Festival meeting at Hampton Downs with a second eight lapper on Sunday morning and a 15-lap feature 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, Webdesign and Exide. 

Ends 

2014/15 MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series Rnd 3 2015 Gulf Oil Howden Ganley F5000 Festival #1 Hampton Downs Nth Waikato New Zealand Fri-Sun Jan 16-182015

Qualifying
1. Ken Smith (Lola T332) 59.2642. 
2. Steve Ross (McRae GM1) 1.01.106
3. Clark Proctor (March 73A/1) 1.01.476
4. Aaron Burson (Talon MR1/A) 1.02.256
5. Paul Zazryn (Lola T332) 1.02.263
6. Greg Thornton (Chevron B24/28) 1.02.452
7. Brett Willis (Lola T330) 1.02.586
8. Alastair Russell (McRae GM1) 1.02.864
9. Glenn Richards (Lola T400) 1.02.978
10. David Banks (Talon MR1) 1.03.326
11. Peter Brennan (Lola T330)  1.03.379
12. Ian Clements (Lola T332) 1.03.605
13. Allan Dunkley (Lola T140) 1.04.481
14. Russell Greer (Lola T332) 1.04.802
15. David Abbott (Lola T430) 1.05.981
16. Peter Burson (McRae GM1) 1.06.967
17. Tony Roberts (McLaren M10A) 1.07.779
18. Robs Lamplough (BRM P180 F1) 1.07.805
19. Lindsay O'Donnell (Begg FM5) 1.08.460
20. Warwick Mortimer (Surtees TS5) 1.09.248
21. Poul Christie (McLaren M10A) 1.11.558
22. Grant Clearwater (McLaren M10B) 1.11.608
23. Tim Rush (McLaren M22) 1.12.220
24. Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) 1.11.876
25. Shayne Windelburn (Lola T400) no time. 

Race 1 8 laps
1. Ken Smith 
2. Clark Proctor 
3. Steve Ross 
4. Brett Willis 
5. Paul Zazryn
6. Greg Thornton
7. Andrew Higgins
8. David Banks
9. Ian Clements
10. Glenn Richards
11. Peter Brennan
12. Alastair Russell
13. David Abbott
14. Tony Roberts
15. Peter Burson
16. Robs Lamplough
17. Tim Rush
18. Warwick Mortimer
19. Poul Christie
dnf. Aaron Burson, Russell Greer, Allan Dunkley, Lindsay O'Donnell, Grant Clearwater, Shayne Windelburn