Formula 5000 50th anniversary celebrations
Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion meeting
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, California
KIWI F5000 CARS/DRIVERS CHARM HOSTS AND FANS AT ROLEX REUNION MEETINGS IN THE US
Reigning SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series champion Andy Higgins (Lola T332) from Auckland capped off a fortnight of competing at this year’s Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion meetings at Northern California’s Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca with a close second place to top local driver Craig Bennett (Shadow DN06) in Sunday’s Rolex-backed 14-lap F5000 class feature race.
After 10th and 7th place finishes in the two F5000 category races at the Pre-Reunion meeting the weekend before, and third behind Bennett and SAS Autoparts MSC Series young gun Michael Collins (McRae GM1) from Christchurch in the Bonham Cup prelim race on Saturday Higgins appeared to be just getting into his stride.
Yet as he was surrounded by well-wishers after the Rolex race (which ran mid-morning Monday New Zealand time) the Auckland ace was happier talking about the response from officials, fans and fellow historic motor racing aficionados to the decision by the NZ F5000 Association to organise the trip to the two meetings to help their American counterparts celebrate the 50th anniversary of the stock-block 5 litre V8-engined ‘wings-and-slicks’ F5000 category.
"I know for a fact – because they came up and told me directly – that a lot of the people here really appreciated Stu (Lush), Geoff (Harper) and I bringing our ex Danny Ongais car back to race here. And from what other guys are saying it’s been the same with them,“ Higgins said. “People here really seem to appreciate the effort we have all put in to get here.”
Fellow driver, and the administrator of the US-based Formula 5000 Register, Seb Coppola, concurred, saying at the conclusion of racing on Sunday that; "We have certainly appreciated our Kiwi and Aussie cousins bringing their cars here to help us celebrate such an auspicious occasion as the 50th anniversary of our category at this iconic facility.”
Sunday’s 14-lap feature race ran very much to script, with Pre-Reunion meeting pace-setter and Saturday Bonhams race winner Craig Bennett from Milford, Michigan, behind the wheel of his unique Dodge-engined Shadow DN06 getting an early jump off pole position then sprinting away to a lead he then managed to the chequered flag. With Michael Collins (McRae GM1) out with an engine issue Andy Higgins slotted his Lola T332 into second where he, in turn, stayed for the rest of the race.
US-based Brit Kyle Tilley (Lola T330) proved to be big mover through the middle of the 14-lap race, storming up the rankings after getting caught up at the start, to eventually cross the finish line in third place ahead of a nine-car ANZAC battle pack led by two-time former SAS Autoparts MSC series title-holder Steve Ross from Dunedin in his ex Quicksilver McRae GM1, and including Melbourne-based series regular Paul Zazryn (Lola T332), Kiwis Grant Martin (Talon MR1A), Ken Smith (Lola T332), 2016/17 SAS Autoparts MSC series title holder Brett Willis (Lola T330), recent series convert Tony Galbraith (Lola T332), Australian category stalwart Phillip Lewis in his Australian designed-and-built Matich A50, Aucklander Aaron Burson (Talon MR1) and US-based Australian businessman and racer Bruce Lesson (McLaren M10B).
UK-based SAS Autoparts MSC series regular Greg Thornton (Chevron B24) was also part of this group early on, having finished Saturday’s prelim in fourth place, but was forced out on lap 9 with a broken input shaft.
Evergreen series veteran Ken Smith (Lola T332) was forced to sit out the Pre-Reunion races with a virus, but was back to his best for the Reunion meeting itself. The lack of track time showed in Sunday’s Rolex race, however, where a gamble on car set-up backfired and Smith was left struggling with a lack of grip. A strong fifth place in the Bonhams preliminary race on Saturday should have parlayed into a possible podium on Sunday; instead the just-turned 77-year-old from Auckland was shuffled back to seventh.
Like Andy Higgins – who won a special Bonhams Cup award for the driver (in this case in the F5000 category) who ‘best exemplified the spirit of the event’ – fellow Aucklander Grant Martin enjoyed a competitive and largely trouble-free run at both the Pre-Reunion and Reunion meetings, with a best finish over the weekend of sixth place on Sunday, but was happier talking about the meeting itself.
“It’s been seriously cool,"" he said. “Billionaires can and do spend millions buying cars to run at this meeting yet here we are a bunch of blokes in black T-Shirts from West Auckland out there mixing it with them. It’s been fantastic and once we got a direction on car set-up we were away.”
Like Martin it was a second time at the iconic Laguna Seca track for Dunedin driver Steve Ross, the pair having shipped their cars up for a meeting in 2014. Despite knowing which way the track went, Ross admits it remains a daunting place to race, and not just because of the stomach-churning drop down the infamous ‘Corkscrew’ turn three-quarters of the way around.
“We just don’t have anything like it at home, or even in Australia for that matter,” he said. “Back home most of our tracks are pretty flat and I can’t think of one that has any blind crests.Here you’ve got a serious climb plus a couple of blind crests going up the hill and even the corner as you drop down the start/finish straight is blind. I’ll tell you what you’ve got to have your wits about you here, particularly with 30-plus cars and a huge speed differential between the fastest and slowest.”
Having cast such a shadow over the racing scene in the US, the UK and Europe as well as in Australia and New Zealand it was no surprise that some famous names from the various F5000 series of 40-50 years ago made a point this year of attending the annual Rolex meeting.
Included in that number were category originals Derek Bell and David Hobbs from The UK, Kevin Bartlett from Australia, and both David Oxton and - of course - Ken Smith from New Zealand.
The SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series is organised and run with the support of sponsors SAS Autoparts, MSC, NZ Express Transport, Bonney's Specialised Bulk Transport, Mobil Lubricants, Pacifica, Avon Tyres, Webdesign and Exide Batteries.
You can follow the series on Facebook at F5000 New Zealand or on the NZ F5000 Association's website www.F5000.co.nz.
Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion meeting Wed-Sun Aug 22-26 2018
WeatherTech Raceway, Laguna Seca
Bonham Cup Race Results and Rolex Grid
Group 8A - 1968-1976 Formula 5000
Saturday, August 25, 2018
1. Craig Bennett US (1976 Shadow DN6) 14 laps
2. Michael Collins NZ (1972 McRae GM1) 14 laps
3. Andrew Higgins NZ (1974 Lola T332) 14 laps
4. Gregory Thornton UK (1973 Chevron B24) 14 laps
5. Ken Smith NZ (1975 Lola T332) 14 laps
6. Steve Ross NZ (1972 McRae GM1) 14 laps
7. Grant Martin NZ (1974 Talon MR1A) 14 laps
8. Kyle Tilley UK (1973 Lola T330) 14 laps
9. Johnnie Crean US (1969 Eagle Mk 5) 14 laps
10. Tony Galbraith NZ (1974 Lola T-332) 14 laps
11. Aaron Burson NZ (1974 Talon MR1A 14 laps
12. Philip Lewis AUS (1972 Matich A50) 14 laps
13. Paul Kuhl US (1968 Lola T-140) 14 laps
14. Bill Hemming AUS (1977 Elfin MR 8) 14 laps
15. Jim Stengel US (1973 McRae GM1) 14 laps
16. Bruce Leeson US (1969 McLaren M10B) 13 laps
17. Paul Zazryn AUS (1974 Lola T-332)13 laps
18. Russell Greer NZ (1973 Lola T-332) 13 laps
19. Adrian Akhurst AUS (1976 Lola T332C) 13 laps
20. Tim Rush NZ (1972 McLaren M22/3) 13 laps
21. Seb Coppola US (1970 Lola T192) 13 laps
22. Dudley Cunningham US 1973 Lola T332) 13 laps
23. Timothy Osborne US (1968 Crossle 15F) 13 laps
24. Martin M Fogel Jr US (1969 McLaren M10A) 13 laps
25. Peter Burson NZ (1972 McRae GM1) 13 laps
26. Craig Shrontz US (1969 Crossle 15F) 13 laps
27. Frank Karl NZ (1970 McLaren M10B) 13 laps
28. Paul Dudiak US (1969 McKee F5000) 13 laps
29. Eric Haga US (1973 March 73A) 13 laps
30. Frank Harris AUS (1973 Chevron B24) 12 laps
31. Jonathan Ornstein US (1970 Lotus 70) 12 laps
32. Bruce Sevier US (1968 Lola T140) 10 laps
33. Brett Willis NZ (1973 Lola T330)9 laps
34. Warren Briggs US (1973 Chevron B24)5 laps
35. David Arrowsmith NZ (1971 Lotus 70B) 3 laps
36. George Frey US (1969 McLaren M10A) 2 laps
37. Dean Camm AUS (1974 Chevron B24) 1 lap
Race 2 9 laps (Sunday)
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca
Rolex Race Results
1968-1976 Formula 5000
Sunday, August 26, 2018
1. Craig Bennett US (1976 Shadow DN6) 14 laps
2. Andrew Higgins NZ (1974 Lola T332) 14 laps
3. Kyle Tilley UK (1973 Lola T330) 14 laps
4. Steve Ross NZ (1972 McRae GM1) 14 laps
5. Paul Zazryn AUS (1974 Lola T332) 14 laps
6. Grant Martin NZ (1974 Talon MR1A) 14 laps
7. Ken Smith NZ 1975 (Lola T332) 14 laps
8. Brett Willis NZ (1973 Lola T330) 14 laps
9. Tony Galbraith NZ (1974 Lola T332) 14 laps
10. Philip Lewis AUS (1972 Matich A50) 14 laps
11. Aaron Burson NZ (1974 Talon MR1A) 14 laps
12. Bruce Leeson US (1969 McLaren M10B) 14 laps
13. Johnnie Crean (US) 1969 Eagle Mk 5) 13 laps
14. Warren Briggs US (Chevron B24) 13 laps
15. Russell Greer NZ (1973 Lola T332) 13 laps
16. Paul Kuhl US (1968 Lola T140) 13 laps
17. Bill Hemming AUS (1977 Elfin MR 8) 13 laps
18. Tim Rush NZ (1972 McLaren M22/3) 13 laps
19. Jim Stengel US (1973 McRae GM1) 13 laps
20. Dean Camm AUS (1974 Chevron B24) 13 laps
21. Seb Coppola US (1970 Lola T192) 13 laps
22. Peter Burson NZ (1972 McRae GM1) Orange 13 laps
23. Eric Haga US (1973 March 73A) 13 laps
24. Timothy Osborne US (1968 Crossle 15F) 13 laps
25. Craig Shrontz US (1969 Crossle 15F) 12 laps
26. Bruce Sevier US (1968 Lola T140) 12 laps
27. Paul Dudiak US (1969 McKee F5000) 12 laps
28. Jonathan Ornstein US (1970 Lotus 70) 11 laps
29. Gregory Thornton UK (1973 Chevron B24) 9 laps
30. Frank Karl NZ (1970 McLaren M10B) 9 laps
31. Frank Harris AUS (1973 Chevron B24) 8 laps
32. Michael Collins NZ (1972 McRae GM1) dnf
2018/19 SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series
Rnd 1. 2-4 Nov 2018 - Supercars ITM Auckland SuperSprint - Pukekohe, NZ.
Rnd 2. 19-20 Jan 2019 – Historic Grand Prix - Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park Taupo, NZ.
Rnd 3. 25-27 Jan 2019 - HRC/TRS – Hampton Downs NZ - Short Track, Waikato, NZ.
Rnd 4. 2-3 Feb 2019 - Skope Classic - Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Ruapuna, Christchurch, NZ.
Rnd 5. 23-24 Mar 2019 – HRC Legends of Speed Hampton Downs NZ - Short Track, Waikato, NZ.