The reason is the return, after a season's absence, of  young UK gun Michael Lyons (Lola T400).  

The last time Lyons was here (for three rounds of the 2011/12 MSC series) the 23-year-old second-generation racer from Falsted in Essex set a new outright circuit lap record (59.840) as he completed a rare clean sweep of the (six) MSC F5000 races at the two New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing meetings. 

And he returns on a high after multiple wins in the 2013 FIA Historic Formula 1 championship and finishing sixth in class in the International GT Open European sportscar series behind the wheel of a semi-works Ferrari 458. 

"Michael will be the one to beat, that's for sure," admitted Smith this week. "He's very quick and he's got a lot of experience for his age. I rate him very highly." 

With his father Frank (Eagle FA74), mother Judy (Lola T332) and fellow UK Historic Racing series regulars Mike Whatley (Surtees TS8B) and Greg Thornton (March 75A) Michael Lyons will be one of four MSC visitors to take on top locals Smith, Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) and Clark Proctor (March 73A) from Auckland and defending and now two-time series champion Steve Ross (McRae GM1) from Dunedin. 

Lyons Jnr is not the only member of the visiting UK contingent with serious recent Northern Hemisphere historic racing credentials either. Greg Thornton is the current FIA Masters Formula 1 Champion in the Post-1978 class!  

It's three-time former series champion Smith who heads into the Hampton Downs double-header with the lead in the series points standings however, with fellow Manfeild podium finishers Andrew Higgins and Roger Williams (Lola T332) second and third respectively. 

Neither Steve Ross nor Clark Proctor were at that meeting, though, and Smith says both also have the ability to take the battle to young gun Lyons this and next weekend, making for what could well be a four-car battle for supremacy - and a new outright track lap record which Smith says could well end up in the high 57/low 58 second bracket. 

There will be at least 20 Formula 5000 cars on the grid at each event over the next two weeks which see the return to the MSC series of former Truck racer Calven Bonney in the ex Jim Murdoch Begg 018 and the debut in the Lola T400 initially driven by former Mini and Shellsport ace Reg Cook of car owner Glenn Richards. 

Joining Richards on the grid will be his Christchurch-based brother, Tony Richards, and fellow Lola drivers Ian Clements from Christchurch, Sefton Gibb from Napier and Russell Greer from Blenheim (all Lola T332) and Brett Willis (Lola T330) from Rotorua. 

Lola will be the best represented marque with 10 cars entered with McRae (Steve Ross, father and son Peter & Aaron Burson, and Alastair Russell in their GM1s) next with four followed by Surtees (Mike Whatley and local man Warwick Mortimer) and March (Greg Thornton and local man Clark Proctor) on two and the New Zealand-made Begg (Calven Bonney) and the US-made Talon (David Banks from Auckland) and Eagle (Frank Lyons) one each. 

This year Ferrari is the featured marque at the two New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing meetings with more than 130 examples - including three Formula 1 cars. 

The trio will be demonstrated on both days and though he hasn't - so far - been asked, Ken Smith says he'd be happy to put one through its paces. 

"Nobody's said anything about it so far," says Smith, the original ultimate lap record holder at the track,"but yes, if they were handing out rides it would be nice to have a steer." 

There will be three MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series races at each New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing rounds at Hampton Downs with qualifying sessions on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, the first race on Saturday afternoon and two more races on Sunday, one in the morning and the weekend feature in the afternoon. 

More information and on-line ticket sales are available on the Festival website 




It's been a case of 'better-late-than-never' for Talon MR1 owner/driver David Banks, the 50-year-old Auckland businessman who joined the MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series three seasons ago in the ex-Jon Woodner Talon MR1. 

There's a strong 'Kiwi' connection to the American Talon marque, legendary New Zealand driver/constructor Graham McRae licensing the rights to his successful GM2 design to the man behind it, American Jack McCormack. 

According to Banks, five Talons were built, three MR1s and two MR1As. The car Banks bought is the original, chassis 74-07-1 and is now the only MR1 in existence. 

"They changed the configuration slightly when they were building the MR1As and converted two of the three MR1s to the new specification at the same time." Why they didn't convert the original one is open to conjecture but Banks thinks it might be because that car was 'down under' being used by Kiwi F1 great Chris Amon in 1975 Tasman Series.

"There are no guarantees (as to authenticity) but ours was never converted and the only thing we can pin it down to to is that it wasn't around when they were building the MR1As because it was down here doing the Tasman Series." 

Banks credits good friend and fellow MSC series regular Peter Burson for his decision to buy a car - in particular a Talon - and get behind the wheel himself. 

"I remember the cars from the first time around but not even in my wildest dreams did I ever think I'd own let alone drive one but Peter and I have been mates for many, many years and he kept saying to me, 'I'll give you a drive one day in my car. Of course, I was always saying yeah, yeah, yeah....come on, come on, come on, then one day he did and if you ask my wife Brenda the smile didn't leave my face for a week." 

The car that Peter drove was the Talon MR1A originally imported by local class and historic racing identity Tony Roberts and subsequently bought by the Burson family for son Aaron to drive.   

It obviously made quite an impression on David because that was what he went looking for when he decided to buy a car of his own and that's what he found - thanks again to Peter Burson - for sale in the United States. 

"Peter turned up one night," says David, " and said, 'you're not going to believe this but I've just found the only other Talon which is running in the world...'"  

Soon after that car was on its way to New Zealand and now David is not only one of the category regulars, he has had a best finish of fifth (in a Lady Wigram Trophy race no less) and last season finished fifth in the series points standings. 

Though business (he owns automotive parts supplier SAS) and family remain his main priorities David says that buying a car and joining the MSC series is one of the best things he has ever done. 

"What do I like about? Everything! I love hanging on and focusing on what I am doing when I am out on the track, I love the camaraderie with the other drivers on and off the track, and I've got a great young guy in Steve Webster who helps me, so between he and I we do pretty much do the whole thing." 


2013/14 MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series
Points after Rnd 1 of 4
1. Ken Smith (Lola T332) 124 
2. Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) 112 
3. Roger Williams (Lola T332) 104 
4. Brett Willis (Lola T330) 88 
5. Sefton Gibb (Lola T332) 87 
6. Ian Clements (Lola T332) 86 
7. Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) 82 
8. Russell Greer (Lola T332) 62 
9. Peter Burson (McRae GM1) 35 
10=. Alan Dunkley (Lola T140) 21 
10=. David Banks (Talon MR1) 21 
12. Tim Rush (McLaren M22) 1 
Class A. 
1. Alan Dunkley  (Lola T140) 32