Hyde wins Formula 5000 Grand Prix
It was a case of championship points leader Chris Hyde winning the battle but arch-rival Ken Smith the war in Round 3 of the 2007/2008 MSC Formula 5000 Tasman Cup Revival motor racing series at Pukekohe Park Raceway, south of Auckland, last weekend.
Though Aucklander Roger Williams (Lola T332) qualified quickest and won two of the three races, it was Hyde (McRae GM1) who won the Tasman Cup Revival Grand Prix feature race, and Smith (Lola T430) – with a second place and two thirds – who won the round.
The Tasman Cup Revival Grand Prix race had spectators on their feet as Williams, Hyde, Smith and Stan Redmond (Lola T332) jostled for position off the rolling start.
Williams and Hyde opened a small gap on Smith and Redmond, but the pair lost the advantage as quickly as they had gained it as the field was slowed behind the safety car.
At the restart, Hyde challenged for the lead, and got past at the hairpin.
Williams remained within striking distance for two laps then pulled off the circuit with an electrical problem.
That left Hyde to take the flag and trophy unchallenged and the consistent Ken Smith finished second ahead of Redmond, Shayne Windelburn (Lola T400) and visiting British driver Frank Lyons (Lola T400).
The V8-powered Formula 5000 cars were one of the major drawcards at the Tasman Cup Revival meeting and they didn’t disappoint.
Williams gave an indication of the pace the beautifully restored and race-prepared stock-block 5.0-litre V8-engined open wheelers can produce when he bettered the track’s original F5000 lap record (56.70 seconds) set by Australian great Frank Matich in a McLaren M10B in 1971.
Williams lapped at 55.35 seconds, then got very close to Ken Smith’s contemporary best in an F5000 car (55.20s set in a Matich A50 in 1993) in Race 1; his quickest lap was 55.80s.
Williams and Hyde then went quicker again on Sunday, Williams setting a best lap of 54.59s, Hyde 54.73s, both in Race 2.
But that was only the tip of the iceberg, and nine drivers went faster than 60 seconds in qualifying.
Roger Williams won the first race on Saturday from fellow front row starter Smith and McRae GM1 driver Alastair Russel.
Williams won the second race of the weekend on Sunday morning from Hyde and Smith.
Hyde set the third quickest lap time in qualifying but was an early retirement from Race 1 when a stub axle broke.
Russell, driving the McRae GM1 originally restored and race by Williams, impressed in qualifying – setting the fourth quickest time – and finished third in Race 1 and fifth in the second.
An engine problem forced him to sit out the Grand Prix.
That left category stalwart Redmond with one of his best results to date. After qualifying 12th fastest he worked his way up to eighth at the line in the first race, fourth in the second and third in the Grand Prix.
Regular Tasman Cup Revival Series visitor Frank Lyons also got better as the weekend went on, qualifying his recently acquired Lola T400 in 11th place but carding an eight-six-five run through the races.
South Australian John Bryant raced one of the oldest cars in the field, a Lola T140.
The T140 was one of the last Lola cars built without aerodynamic wings, yet the determined Bryant was 19th fastest in qualifying and went on to finish 17th in the first race, 19th in the second and a weekend best 12th in the Grand Prix.
The Pukekohe races were the first of two at Historic Racing Club meetings this season. The second is at the Taupo Motorsport Park next weekend.