F5000 New Zealand Rounds 2 & 3

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Taupo International Motorsport Park

With three races over the weekend, the first 2024 round of the New Zealand ‘23-‘24 F5000 season brought 10 cars to the grid on 20 January at Taupō International Motorsport Park.  Originally 14 starters were on the entry list, with amongst others, the McLaren M10A of Tony Roberts, which suffered engine failure in Friday’s free practice.  

Saturday morning’s qualifying had been a washout, with only the McRae of Steven Ross and the Lola of Russell Greer able to go out with wet-weather tyres.  Current tyre stocks are depleted, and the fine summer weather was expected to allow a time buffer for a new supply to arrive.

Steve Ross took the took the Historic GP title at Taupō International Motorsport Park

Things dried up after that but just as the cars took to the circuit for the mid-afternoon race the rain began to fall again.  The live televised race was helped by event organisers maintaining the dry race status so it could be run by all competitors.  On slick tyres in slick conditions, it was a struggle for race winner Steven Ross.

Sunday started with an eight-lap, reverse-grid, handicap on a dry track. Toby Annabell was first off the mark, but was soon overcome by the chasing nine cars, with Ross coming through the field to take a 2.896sec victory ahead of Codie Banks, while Bruce Kett’s blue Lola T332 rounded off the morning podium.

The afternoon’s final 10-lap race for the Historic GP title was held under brilliant sunny skies and 27-degree conditions.  Ross once again steered the McRae to victory in a lights-to-flag performance, winning him the Historic GP title and earning him points towards the F5000 Championship.  

Skope Classic

Only two weeks later the cars were on the South Island for the third event of the season and a final shakedown before heading offshore to Philip Island.  Three heats were again on the 3-4 February programme for the Skope Classic, marking the event’s 34th year at Ruapuna’s 3.33km circuit.  Adding to the grid was a new driver, young – 21 years old – aviation engineer Michael Hey, driving the family Leda LT 27 McRae GM-1.

On Saturday, forecast cool weather and showers arrived during qualifying, and passed just as quickly.  The race was won by Steve Ross in the car originally campaigned by US based Quicksilver Racing, while debutant Hey caused a stir when he came second. 

New young driver Michael Hey won the afternoon’s final in the family Leda LT 27 McRae GM-1

The afternoon race was reduced to 10-laps, with Ross taking the front row alongside Hey, on the outside.  At the start Ross roared off into the lead, closely followed by Ingram.  However, Hey was soon back in second with Ross in his sights.  Closing the gap to 0.5sec by the fifth lap, Hey got a clean pass on the sixth lap to take the lead.  By the seventh lap it appeared Ross was slowing.  At the start of lap nine he pulled to the left and parked – retiring with a broken half-shaft.

Hey came round to the chequered flag with an enthusiastic fist-pump as he crossed the line.  Ingram finished second, and the Lola T332 of Russell Greer came third.  As the cars returned, Amanda McLaren, daughter of the late Bruce McLaren, was there to greet them.

For the full story, read our March 2024 issue,,,

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