'WE'LL BE THERE' SAYS SUPER-VET SMITH


Smith and long-time crew members Barry Miller and Phil Richardson bought the car from a museum in Los Angeles three years ago and Miller had just completed a ground-up rebuild when a differential malfunction pitched Smith and car into a concrete pitwall at high speed at the second round of the 2011/12 MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series at Manfeild 14 months ago.  

Smith, now 71, and contesting his 55th consecutive New Zealand motor racing season, broke a bone in his left ankle and the beautifully rebuilt and finished car - painted and trimmed in the bright red La Valise travel agency colours Smith's original T332 wore in the early 1970s - was for all intents and purposes a write-off.  

Despite the injury and damage Smith completed the 2011/12 season in the Lola T430 he had driven previously and Miller began the mammoth task of stripping and re-building the T332 for a second time.   It's that job he has all but completed, Smith confident enough to confirm that it will indeed be ready by Friday....or Saturday!  

"We'll be there don't you worry about that," he said on Monday. "It's almost finished as we speak but, you know, these jobs always take longer than you think. We'll be right by the weekend though. "  

There was considerable interest in the new car when Smith gave it its original New Zealand debut at the Lady Wigram Trophy Race meeting at Christchurch's Powerbuilt Tools Raceway at Ruapuna Park in November 2011.  

Smith a three-time winner of the New Zealand Grand Prix, and four-time winner of the Lady Wigram trophy, enjoyed some of his greatest early career successes behind the wheel of his original Lola T332.

But though he knows where that car is, its Melbourne owner Andrew Robson has made it clear it is not for sale, even to the man who enjoyed so much success in it first time round.  

Smith, of course, has enjoyed even more success second time around in a later model Lola T430, winning the MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series title three years in a row from 2009 to 2011. That's not stopped him keeping his eye out for a T332 to buy, however, and he says that after a second rebuild in as many years the ex Ongais Lola is a tribute to the man responsible for both, Barry Miller.

"Just about everything's new, from the tub to the suspension uprights and wheels, as well as the bodywork which we had to get out of England. It's looking brilliant, Barry has made a magic job of it."  

The NZ Festival meetings have always attracted a strong field of Formula 5000 single-seaters and this year's are no different with 32 entries over the two weekends.   

After two championship rounds of this season's MSC series - one in Australia, one here - defending title holder Steve Ross (McRae GM1) from Dunedin leads the points standings from Aucklanders Aaron Burson (McRae GM1), Ken Smith, and David Banks (Talon MR1A).

Leading the Class A (for very early series cars) standings, meanwhile, is Alan Dunkley, also from Auckland, who drives a distinctive high-wing Lola T140.  

The two NZ Festival meeting rounds of the MSC series have attracted a number of Formula 5000 drivers from overseas with six coming from Australia, three from the United Kingdom, two from the United States, and one from Monaco.  

Heading the Australian squad is 2012/13 MSC series round one race winner Bryan Sala from Melbourne who will drive a Matich A50/51. Joining him are fellow Victorians Paul Zazryn (Lola T332), and Bill Hemming (Elfin MR8), South Australian John Bryant (Lola T140), and Rod Carroll (Lola T140) and Aaron Lewis (Matich A50) from New South Wales.  

The UK will again be represented by regular MSC series visitors Mike Whatley (Lola T300 & Surtees TS8), Greg Thornton (McRae GM1) and Mark Dwyer (Lola T400), the United States by US-based Australian Bruce Leeson (McLaren M10B) and category original Eric Haga (Lola T190), and the Republic of Monaco by expat Brit Peter Dunn (March 73A) - from Monaco.   

There will be a total of three MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series races at Hampton Downs this weekend, with qualifying and the first eight lap race on Saturday then a second eight-lap race on Sunday morning before a 15-lap final in the afternoon.  

The two NZ Festival of Motor Racing - celebrating Denny Hulme meetings are again expected to attract large crowds with cars either once driven by or associated with Hulme, New Zealand's only Formula 1 World Champion, being shipped in from all over the world for display and/or demonstration.  

After the two rounds at the NZ Festival meetings at Hampton Downs the MSC series title chase heads south for the penultimate round at the annual Skope Classic meeting at Christchurch's Powerbuilt Tools Raceway at Ruapuna Park over the February 02-03 weekend and the final at Invercargill's Teretonga Park a fortnight later.  

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.