One of the Scalpel's International friends - Aaron Lewis - sent me this report from the recent F5000 extravaganza at the Australian GP.  A full blown double header of two support races took place and as you will read the weekend at least started off being led by Kiwi veteran Kenny Smith and Anglo-irish prodigy Michael Lyons - son of Frank and Judy of course.  Aaron was there and here is how it seemed to him!

TASMAN CUP @ AGP – F5000s.

With as much hype as we could muster a hardy group owning 32 cars made the sojourn to Albert Park, Melbourne for the running of the 2009 support races at the AGP. With a support staff of at least 150 this was the largest grid of F5000s ever assembled anywhere in the world EVER! Well almost. In 1973 and 1974 there were often 30 or more cars running in the USA with 35 cars at Riverside April 29 1973 where Brian Redman won in a Lola T330. Surprising perhaps is that the largest grid in Australia was not the 22 cars which lined up for the 1971 AGP at Warwick Farm but the 24 cars which assembled in 1978 at Oran Park near the end of the formula’s reign as our premier open wheel category.

Lola remains the dominant force today as it was then but there are enough other makes and various models stretching over a nine year period to create a quite spectacular grid. The home grown Elfin and Matich cars added some local flavour and the Kiwis provided McRaes and Beggs. There were 2 Marches, one driven by regular Australian competitor Graeme Smith, to round out the most diverse collection imaginable, unless you want to try and find a Trojan. The nearest we got was a Durex sponsored T400.

The usual suspects put their cars near the front and 71 year old Kenny Smith parked his car next to 16 year old Michael Lyons on the front row after disrupted practice sessions. Sadly the 84 year old veteran and his 15 year old apprentice made a hash of it and the race was run mostly under pace car conditions. We got a 2 lap green flag dash at the end with the results setting the grid for the main race Sunday.

With Smith (87 years old) unable to get his T430 repaired in time and young Lyons (12 years old) starting from the rear of the grid it was down to first race winner Englishman Mark Dwyer and Tony Richards to head up the rumbling rolling start.

While the front cars managed a safe get away there was an incident between Lyons senior and Roger Williams which sent the latter spearing off into the inside wall and causing palpitations and loose bowels among all 20 cars who followed. In a fine display of defensive driving no one else got caught up in a potential disaster and the race finally settled. The freight train of 9 cars at the front was soon whittled away as various maladies unheard of in F5000 racing took their toll. Who would have thought that 500 h.p. 35 year old cars would break half shafts, uni joints, fuel pumps, engines, gear boxes …… Business as usual!

Of course the Kiwis romped home with the first 3 places to Tony Richards, Sefton Gibb and group organizer David Abbott with Ken James in the Elfin MR8 and your correspondent in the Chevron B24 fighting for 4th and 5th. Andrew Robson, Tony Floriani and D’arcy Russell had all been running within sight of the leaders when they fell victim to various problems but overall this was the most Australian based cars on track at one time since Oran Park in 1989. Nine local cars entered is our best showing for many years but still well behind the marvelous effort our friends from across the ditch have managed with a concerted effort over the last 7 years or so.

Running at the AGP can be a double edged sword with real potential for a red flag which nearly happened in our first race. Luckily for us Kevin Bartlett and the race organizers decided to leave us out there while the accident was cleared. He was very complimentary of the presentation of cars and his presence and advice has been greatly appreciated by the competitors as having legends like KB and Kenny (97) adds credibility to our group. Have we done enough to be invited back? Stay tuned.



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