ROSS BACK IN FRONT AT SECOND HAMPTON DOWNS MEETING

After pipping firstroundrace winner Ken Smith (Lola T332) in qualifying in the morning Ross got the jump on Smith and series returnee Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) in the weekend's first MSC series race and was never headed,setting the fastest race lap on his way to crossing the finish line aftereight scintillating laps just undera half a second ahead of Smith and just over five seconds in front of Higgins with first NZ Festival round fast man Clark Proctor (March 73A-1) fourth, and the first of the visiting contingent of British drivers, Greg Thornton (McRae GM1), fifth.

Ross twice finished second to Smith at the first NZ Festival round at Hampton Downs last weekend and made no secret of his disappointmentboth in not qualifying better - he ended up third behindProctor andSmith - and having to play second fiddle to Smith in the races.

This time there was no holding the Dunedin man and after the race a frown had been replaced with a wide smile.

"Yes," he grinned,"there was a bit of a point to prove after last weekend. This time though wehad a really good qualifying session this and we did enough to stay in front in the race. It's always good to beat Kenny of course, particularly on his home turf!'

Smith, the 71-year-old veteran now back behind the wheel of the Lola T332 he co-owns with crew members Barry Miller and Phil Richardson, was able to bridge the gap when the pair caught the tail-enders of the 27-strong field but the flag came out before he could get within striking distance.

Smith was not exactly disappointed with second place though, reckoning that in Sunday's longer feature he will have a better chance.

"Steve had the same sort of pace last weekend, it's just that this time he got off the line better. He's got some wicked straight line speed but I think my car is working better than his and over 15 laps I think I could hunt him down."

And Proctor?

After beating both Ross and Smith to pole position at the first NZ Festival meeting last weekend the popular Auckland all-rounder experimented with a new nosecone this weekend, and reaped the reward or paid the price, depending on your perspective.

"As ateam wedecided this weekend touse the meeting as a test weekend to try and learn a bit more about our car. So we fitteda new Formula 1 nose cone that came with the car. Like everyone this weekend we've been struggling withfront end grip and weknew it was a big call but we put it on for qualifying, changed springs and a few other things and sure enough we picked up a huge amountof front grip. The problem was that we lost rear grip and the car was so unstable I couldn't use full throttle."

That meant Proctor lined up in fifth place on the grid. An aggressive start saw him make up two places on the first lap, but entering the second he ran wide exiting the first turn and promptly lost those places back, but he persevered and made one back to cross the finish line in fourth place.

Behind Ross, Smith and Higgins, Proctor spent the race working his way back past Greg Thornton (McRae GM1) and Mark Dwyer (Lola T400) while Melbourne's Paul Zazryn (Lola T332) found himself following the high-wing Class A Lola T140 of category young gun Alan Dunkley.

Dunkley went even quicker in qualifying at this weekend's meeting and forced his way through to seventh on the first lap. Early on he easily led Zazryn who in turn had an advantage over Brett Willis (Lola T330), andAustralian Aaron Lewis (Matich A50) but towards the end of the race Zazryn found a way past Dunkley to cross the line in seventh position.

An early casualty was British visitor Michael Whatley (Lola T300) who pitted when he lost oil pressure. Local class stalwart Poul Christie (McLaren M10B) also pulled into the pits, but in his case it was because of his concerns with the low grip levels off the racing line on a couple of corners resealed overnight after the track surface broke up on Friday.

Making history for the second weekend in a row, meanwhile, were Talon drivers David Banks and Aaron Burson. Only five Talons weremade and at the moment only two are in race-ready condition - and those two are being raced at Hampton Downs this weekend.

"It's amazing isn't it," said Banks who finished 16th in today's race." It's probably been 30 years since there have been two Talons on the same track at the same time."

Finally, enjoying a better run this weekend was American veteran Eric Haga. Last weekend the 72-year-old F5000 series original struggled with fuel and handling issues and didn't finish a race. This weekend he qualified in 25rd place and ran a strong race to finish 23th.

"It was a clogged pressure relief valve in fuel injection system," explained Haga. "But everything is fine now."

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. It continues with two more races tomorrow.