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Back to Pukehoke for a revival of F5000 Tasman days



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Round 2 of the 2005/2006 F5000 Tasman Series (January 28, 2006)


A warm sunny day greeted us as Pukekohe hosted round 2 of the 2005/2006 Tasman Revival Series. The weekend was looked forward to with much anticipation, with 24 F5000 cars expected, the most ever seen on these shores in one meeting, to race alongside the Denny Hulme Yardley 1973 McLaren M23, the first M23 ever built. 7 Cars from the UK were slated to arrive, along with 4 from Australia, to take on the local Kiwi contingent. Unfortunately, problems with the boat bringing the UK cars meant they would be delayed until after the weekend was run. To compensate, Frank Lyons had his ex-James Hunt McLaren M26 air-freighted over, an extra thrill for everyone.

So we finished up with a lineup like this:

1. 1973 Talon MR1
2. 1971 McRae GM1
3. 1976 Lola T430
4. 1967 Lola T142
7. 1973 McLaren M23 (F1)
11. 1969 Begg FM2
14. 1973 Lola T332
15. 1971 McRae GM1
16. 1974 Chevron B24 (ex-Peter Gethin)
20. 1970 Lola T430
22. 1973 McRae GM1
23. 1974 Lola T332
26. 1976 McLaren M26 (F1)
30. 1974 Lola T332
35. 1973 March 73A/2
40. 1976 Lola T332
47. 1969 Lola T142
70. 1970 Lotus 70
81. 1969 Lola T142
91. 1972 March 73A

A total of 20 cars, making a great noise!

Besides the main event though there were also many other classic cars from different categories: a 1968 Chev Camaro SS, a 1963 Ford Zephyr 3, a 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO, Ferraris, Lotuses, Ford GT40s… the list goes on and on.

Here's a gallery of most of the cars present that day, and several race and atmosphere shots.

But the F5000s and two McLarens were what we were here for, to see them is one thing, to hear them in all their glory quite another. These were the cars my dad used to tell me about, and I could quickly see (or should I say hear!) why. The sound they make is something else, possibly how the new V8 F1 cars will sound? Let's hope so. The F1 cars were awesome to watch also, and really gave you and idea of how brave the drivers of these bullets were in the 70s. Today wasn’t a day for racing however, more a day for testing, sorting the cars out for the 15-lap Tasman GP on Sunday. Still, it was great to see them go round. Unfortunately we couldn’t make it to the Sunday race, but the cars are back at Pukekohe in March so we will see them race then.

Tasman Cup (F5000) races 1970-1975

The Tasman Cup was run between Australian and New Zealand based cars, on tracks in both countries. From 1964-1969 a 2.5-litre formula was used, and a large number of international stars came to race, such as Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill and many others. The fading 2.5-litre formula was replaced with the new 5-litre V8 powered F5000 cars for the 1970 season. While the fields continued to be strong, the international flavour of the series was diluted somewhat, with international stars only making the occasional appearance, due to the ever lengthening F1 season.

Pukekohe Park, as New Zealand’s premier Motor Racing venue, hosted one round of the Tasman Series each year, as the NZ Grand Prix, except 1974 when the NZ Grand Prix title was moved to Wigram Raceway for one season. The 1974 race was instead called the Pukekohe GP. The first NZ Grand Prix for F5000 cars was held on January 10, 1970, the second round of the Tasman series. 2.5-litre cars and smaller capacity F2 cars were permitted to run in the Grand Prix at Pukekohe, the entries accepted in a “Tasman” class. Appropriately it was a new F5000 car that won the race, Australian Frank Matich winning the race in his McLaren M10A, from Derek Bell in his 2.5-litre Brabham BT26A, and Kiwi Graeme Lawrence in his 2.4-litre Ferrari 246T, the car that had won the 1969 Tasman series in the more than capable hands of Chris Amon.

1971 saw the NZ GP take place on January 9 that year, once again as the second round of the Tasman series. By this time it was clear that the McLaren M10B was the car to have, the top three places occupied by the car in the hands of winner Neil Allen, second-placed Frank Matich and in third Kiwi Graham McRae. McRae began building his own cars soon after. F1 driver and local star Chris Amon made a guest appearance in the race, finishing 9th in a Lotus 70.

The 1972 NZ Grand Prix was held at Pukekohe as the first round of that year’s Tasman series, on January 8. Australian legend Frank Gardner dominated the event, winning in his Lola T300 from British F1 star Mike Hailwood in a Surtees TS8, with fellow Brit David Hobbs coming home 3rd in his McLaren M18/M22. The race was marred however by the death of local racer Bryan Faloon, who crashed fatally on lap 51 in his 2-litre Stanton 1 - Porsche 771 F8. It was the first, and thankfully last death in a Tasman race at Pukekohe.

The NZ GP was held as round 1 of the Tasman Series on 6 January 1973, Australian John McCormack taking the race in his Elfin MR5, from Alan Rollinson in his local McRae GM1, and Steve Thompson in a Chevron B24.

The January 12, 1974 race lost the NZ GP title for one year, that honour going to the round 3 Tasman Series race at Wigram the following weekend. Peter Gethin was the star name on the entry list that year, and he duly took the honours in his Chevron B24, from the previous year’s winner John McCormack, with the all Kiwi combination of David Oxton and his Begg FM5 taking 3rd.

The final Tasman Series round at Pukekohe was once again restored to full NZ GP status. The race, held on January 12, 1975 as round 2 of the series, was won by Aussie Warwick Brown in a Lola T332, from Jom Murdoch in a Begg 018, and Graeme Lawrence in another Lola T332. Chris Amon made a guest appearance once again, finishing 7th in a Talon MR1.

After 12 seasons together, the New Zealand and Australian authorities parted company for 1976, the Kiwis running their races as the 4-round Peter Stuyvesant series and the Australian races becoming the Rothmans International series. The final F5000 NZ GP was held on 4 January 1976 at Pukekohe, and was won by local Ken Smith in a Lola T332. The Kiwis changed to Formula Pacific (i.e. Formula Atlantic) for 1977.

Tasman Revival Series 2005/06

The NZ F5000 club decided in 2005 to rekindle memories of the glory days of the 70s with a 5-round revival series, with all 5 races in NZ, 2 of them at Pukekohe. As an added extra, the recently restored ex-Denny Hulme McLaren M23 is competing, and for the first Pukekohe round the ex-James Hunt McLaren M26 was also in attendance. Upwards of 20 cars from NZ, Australia and the UK have competed at the opening 2 rounds at Feilding and Pukekohe. Further news from round 5 on March 18/19 to come.