Smith, Collins and Thornton podium first F5000 race at Taupo
First race of the weekend for the SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series at the Taupo Historic Grand Prix meeting at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park today and pole man Ken Smith (Lola T332) continued on his winning way despite intense competition from fellow front row starter Michael Collins (McRae GM1) and fast-finishing UK-based series regular Greg Thornton (Chevron B24).
Smith and Collins (the latter back in his ex Evan Noyes McRae GM1 after driving the newly finished ex Graham McRae/Dexter Dunlop Leda LT27 at the opening series round at Pukekohe in November last year) quickly pulled away from Thornton, who qualified third and ran third, while Brett Willis (Lola T330) settled into fourth place ahead of Glenn Richards (Lola T400), and the Lola T332s of David Banks and Tony Galbraith.
As the race progressed Smith started to struggle with tyre grip in the hot mid-afternoon conditions.
Collins also found his car struggling for rear grip, allowing Thornton to catch the pair and make it an impressive three-car battle-pack on the run to the flag with Thornton setting his fastest race lap - a 1.27.38 - with just two laps to go.
Smith and Collins were the only other drivers to crack the 1.28.00 barrier in the race, with Collins claiming the fastest lap of the race - a 1.27.253 – on the third lap as he and Smith (who also did his best race lap of 1.27.373) on lap 3) still had some decent grip in their tyres.
Behind them Brett Willis had a lonely race to fourth ahead of Glenn Richards who finished fifth.
David Banks had actually passed Richards for fifth with two laps to go only to overcook it into the sweeper at the top end of the course and spun.
He was able to get going again but on the last corner on the last lap was dispatched to 7th place by fellow Lola T332 driver Tony Galbraith.
That left Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) and class new face Kevin Ingram (Lola T332) to cross the line in eighth and ninth place respectively with Tony Roberts in the Class 2 McLaren M10B completing the field after losing half a lap to a spin on the first lap.