The Kiwi still has it
Ken Smith doesn’t like racing in the rain – never has.
Like many drivers who wear glasses, the rain and warm weather conspire to fog up his eyewear, making it difficult to see even if you’re leading the race. And if you’re not, there’s the added hazard of rooster tails of spray form the car in front. NO, Smith doesn’t like racing in the rain.
It was raining at Ruapuna last Sunday when he drove his Lola T430 in the Lady Wigram Trophy race but that didn’t seem to bother Smith who racked up his third win in the event, and his second – 33 years apart – in a V8-powered Formula 5000 open wheeler.
He won there in the Tasman series heyday driving a Lola T332, a car he rates the best he’s ever driven, and last weekend he won the Trophy race as part of the Tasman Revival series. It was in another Lola, a later model T430.
Smith won the event a third time, in 1990 in a Swift DB4 Formula Atlantic; the first two wins were on the ultra-fast Wigram temporary circuit on the old RNZAF base.
Smith started from pole position last Sunday, drew away from his pursuers and led by more than 34 seconds when officials red-flagged the event on safety grounds on lap 13.
"I'm no lover of the rain but honestly, it was magic out there,” he said. “Just magic, and being in a Lola again, it was just like 1976 all over again."
Working on Smith’s car last weekend were Barry Miller and Phil Richardson, two of the mechanics who fettled his Lola T332 in 1976.
American Jay Esterer (McRae GM1) won last weekend’s first F5000 race and then battled Aucklander Roger Williams (Lola T332) in race two. Officials slapped first-across-the-line Esterer with a time penalty for jumping the start which handed Williams the race two win.
Where had Smith been? He spun early in race one and fought back from the rear of the field to place sixth, and he came home second (third on the road) in race two.
In the Trophy Race, he led home a trio of Lola T332s driven by Richards, Ian Clements and Stan Redmond.
"I kept looking in my mirrors to see if anyone was coming with me,” said Smith of his Lady Wigram win. “But they weren't and even keeping the old girl in the high gears and being careful with the throttle I was still pulling away."
Results of the Lady Wigram Trophy race.
1. Ken Smith, New Zealand, Lola T430.
2. Tony Richards, NZ, Lola T332, +34.100 seconds.
3. Ian Clements, NZ, Lola T332, +47.381s.
4. Stan Redmond, NZ, Lola T332, +1.12.952s.
5. Jay Esterer, USA, McRae GM-1, +1.15.822s.
6. Russell Greer, NZ, Lola T332, +1m 57.277s.
Race one: 1. Jay Esterer; 2. Sefton Gibb, NZ, Lola T332, +9.021s; 3. David Abbott, Lola T430, +17.430s; 4. Aaron Burson, Australia, Talon MR1A, +19.670s; 5. Clements, +20.217s; 6. Smith, +20.226s.
Race two: 1. Roger Williams, NZ, Lola T332; Smith, +0.201; 3. Richards, +2.924s; 4. Ian Clements, +5.656s; 5. Stan Redmond, +6.725s; 6. Esterer, +9.242s.