Hampton Downs – Kenny Smith Tribute Meeting;  20-22 January 2017

Mair and Duncan spent 3 days on Waiheke Island at Noel and Sharyn Woodford’s cottage. The oysters @ Te Whau Vineyard are truly the best in the world!! And then on Thursday evening, Formula Junior forgathered for the welcome party at St Margaret’s Cafe, Karaka, Auckland with 83 drivers and partners – a remarkable turnout, with FJ owners Stephanie May and Alan and Colleen Wolf present aswell, Jane Harratt representing the sadly absent Durlings, and Kevin and Erin Anderson apologising that transport problems had prevented the arrival of the T52 from Christchurch.  It was great to see the new UK contingent; Pearsons, Barrons, Bishop-Millers, the latter almost driven straight from the airport, McKays and Blockleys, but Erik & Berte Justesen were late at the airport so they and the Garmeys, Ian sadly still in hospital were the non-starters.

It was an excellent party, good food and a pleasant setting, organised by Sharyn Woodford. Patron Howden Ganley, Nigel Russell for the NZFJR and Duncan for the Tour, all said a few words.

 Earlier on Thursday, had seen much activity at the track, with the UK and WARM containers unloaded, a test session on the short track as the new ‘International’ was suffering surface degrading following some ‘muscle car’ activity – hopefully to be fixed for Friday. Above all, there was intense activity around Duncan’s engine which had been stripped by Marty and Dave Innes, completely rebuilt by Alan Harris (all organised by Tony Olissoff): reports were of ten people helping to lift the engine back into place in the Alexis! And then Tony and Robin Longdon putting all together.  What an incredibly supportive ‘family’.

Friday was early and up at 5.45am as its an hour from the Woodford’s in Auckland to the track and briefing was at 8.00am. Robin and Tony, staying on site, were already hard at work, but a few ignition and oil issues precluded the test session for Duncan but all was set for qualifying.

 The grids were divided between fronts with early drums and the two F3’s in the first, and the rear discs and faster drums in the second. After R1 there was to be a slight reorganisation with Doug’s Dreossi, the Koala and the Panther joining the first grid.

 Friday morning was very wet, and front FJ was first off the block for a first test on the new circuit, which adds a longer straight and then crams in six corners before then rejoining the short (National) circuit track after missing T2 and T3 (one of the most interesting on the National track).  Nigel Russell’s Stanguellini was a spinner, Paul Halford had brake problems with the Autosud, while Graham Barron (1 litre Gemini Mk 2) just did but a few laps to preserve the car. Tony Olissoff was fastest of the front cars, but Chris Atkinson, problems from the previous weekends shakedown resolved, was close behind with his Lotus 18.  Wayne Carter (Cooper BMC T76 F3-5-65) just stopped on his out lap.

 Greg Thornton (Lotus 20/22) stamped his authority on session 2, with Robs Lamplough and Marty Bullock (Lotus 27) in his wake.  Joe Ricciardo was making only his second outing in the original chassied Brabham BT6 FJ-15-63, up there to begin with and then spun, as did Jim Blockley (Caravelle II) and Noel Woodford.

 Friday afternoon and it was now dry for qualifying.  Robin and Tony had cast the right spells and Duncan was out gingerly, keeping the revs down.  Tony again led the group, but Jac Nellemann (Alfa Dana 00100) was out this time and close behind with, Walter Findlay third front.  Walter is a remarkable man; who else would have taken up racing for the first time in his late 60’s and chosen an Elva-DKW: AND be up there with the front leaders!!

Jim Barclay (Gemini 3A) led the rears in this drum grid.  Problems were numerous; Graham Barron had an oil leak and pitted, Tony Pearson (Bandini) pulled off, Max Pegram (Gemini Mk II) locked up and hit the rear of Ian Garmey’s T56, now being driven by Peter Benbrook.  Wayne Carter stopped again at the same spot, and Colin McKay (Gemini Mk II) just managed to join the tail as they headed on to the track, after much help and under car work himself, in repairing a holed sump after extracting the Gemini from the container.

 Then came the rear FJ’s for their qualifying, but not for long as Peter Boel (Lola 5A BRJ 54) came to a halt on track with defunct coil, which brought out the first red flag.  Out again, and Greg was still fastest, with Andrew Beaumont (Lotus 22), Marty, Noel Woodford (Gemini 3A) and Dave Innes (Lotus 27) in his wake.  It was a fine sight to see the two beautifully restored Lynx, 111 for Lance Carwardine and 117 for David Kent, circulating together.  Both last week’s winners were much further down the field this time, with Robs Lamplough (BT2) only 8th, and Bruce Edgar (Elfin) experiencing gearbox issues.  Andrew Beaumont then spun, and the second red flag came out to end the session.

 Saturday morning’s fine weather saw Race 1 for the fronts starting bright and early.  The Koala and Panther now also joined the field, but Pearson and Barron were absent as they felt too guilty leaving their very pleasant hosts at such an unearthly hour.  From side by side on the grid, it was Tony Olissoff and Jac Nellemann all the way – and together, avoiding the first lap melee coming out of T3 at the end of the new straight.  Roger Herrick (Lola Mk 2) spun, Walter Findlay taking avoiding action slowed to a flutter, and was last to recover anyway, meanwhile Richard Bishop-Miller (Autosport Mk 1) had hit Duncan up the tail as he, too, avoided the ‘action’ and then Colin McKay hit the Koala, the former with damaged aluminium nose, and losing all his oil when an oil cooler broke on impact, but all except Colin were able to continue, although the Autosport later discovered more serious war wounds . Jim Barclay had a spin on his own at turn 10, and Nigel Russell (Stanguellini 00198) had fuel vaporisation issues. Meantime, It was a great battle between Tony and Jac, with the latter only managing to get a nose ahead on lap 2, but still just 0.06s apart at the flag.  Jim Barclay succumbed to the pressure from Halford’s well driven Autosud on lap 3, but star of the race was Walter Findlay, whose Elva-DKW, post T3 incident, had set off after all the 22 car field. 10th by lap 3, and a further two places to hold off errant Herrick for 8th at the flag.  Nigel Russell struggled round with fuel vaporisation problems, while Alan Cattle retired, engine cutting out.

 R1 for the rears hardly got under way.  Marty Bullock had his customary twin dagger start but was soon passed by Greg Thornton with Robin Longdon in third behind them. Innes was dropping back from the Beaumont –Lamplough- Rapley train. However, lap 2 saw an oil hose pressurised on Beaumont’s 22.  Sadly, he didn’t realise until he found his feet swimming, and by then there was a trail of oil around half the circuit and a badly cooked engine – though not actually seized.  Safety car out after 2 laps and so the race finished, with Innes back ahead of Lamplough and Rapley.  Boel pulled off again on the last lap, this time with stripped 2nd gear, McCrudden stripped his gears and layshaft, while Jim Blockley was right behind the Beaumont ‘explosion’ and shot off bouncing into the infield on the oil, taking a chunk out of the gearbox casing, and getting stones jammed into his clutch. He resumed at the back after this terrifying episode with graunching noises from clutch Tony Simmons retired ‘off form’ while David Watkins (Elfin-drums) thought he had flicked the ignition switch, but it proved to be the scavenge pump.  Bruce Edgar’s gearbox problems had meant a non start.

 Now sunny, and plenty of visitors – including ex Stanguellini owner Colin Waite, whose Cooper Mk 8 IMP Duncan had driven at Pukekohe 9 years ago.  Stephanie May brought the newly restored T56 FJ-12-61 out for show and sale after it’s beautiful restoration.  Present were Period NZ Formula Junior Lotus driver Jim Palmer, Alan Woolf, local resident Simon Linstone, brother of Mark and son of Cyril and Phyllis, and of course Howden being ever such an important and dedicated Patron of the Tour.

There were Kenny Smith parades, and Chris (NZ) Atkinson demonstrated David Mitchell’s McLaren M10 B ex-David Good hill-climb car 

R2 for the FJ’s was somewhat delayed as the meeting schedule had slipped with all the oil and other races red flagged too, but eventually the fronts were out again, with Doug Elcomb (Dreossi) now joining the field, from the faster group.  The cars were held far too long on the grid, with several out of position, and the Panther with a broken throttle cable at the back. Eventually there was a second green flag lap.  However, Walter’s DKW was flooded, having turned the fuel off in the delay, he must have turned the water pump switch off too by mistake.  Graham Barron couldn’t wait any longer and well jumped the start being, lucky to only receive a 5 sec penalty.  Jac led away, but it was Roger Herrick in second this time from Tony Olissoff.  By lap 2 Tony was however into 2nd and then it was truly exciting – hardly an inch, and it was still only 0.06 secs at the flag.  Chris Atkinson (18) was again slow away, 7th on lap 1, ahead of the Dreossi and Michael Sexton’s Stanguellini (00152) on lap 2, past Jim Barclay on lap 3, and then Paul Halford’s Autosud at the flag.  Herrick (Lola Mk2) had gone the other way  – third still on lap 3, he dropped more places on lap 4, to hold 6th at the flag, just behind the Autosud.  Richard Bishop-Miller lost a piece of his carb on the track, and still had a very sore, if not broken, thumb, from his earlier incident.  Wayne Carter pulled off yet again with the Cooper, whilst poor John Holmes was still a dns struggling with clutch master cylinder in the pit garages.  Duncan inexplicably was struggling with his gears.

 R2 for the rears, and Greg led from Marty and Innes.  Robs was up to 8th, just behind Grant Clearwater’s Cooper. Lap 2 and Noel Woodford was 3rd but coming on to the old track, where it narrows and is quite sharp on the left, Noel went wide and sacrificed two places, back to 5th, but by lap 5 was in the middle of a Longdon-Innes sandwich, and took Robin again at Fishers on the final tour for 3rd.  Robs had problems and dropped behind JR, while Joe Ricciardo (BT6) went wide allowing David Kent (Lynx 117) through.  Jim Blockley trailed last with stones in his clutch and eventually pitted, as did Lance Carwardine (Lynx 111) with failing oil pressure.  Watkins again d.n.s, the scavenge pump failing as he warmed up.  Poor Erik had the U2 gearbox out and was not to be seen on track again.

 Saturday evening was the Kenny Smith Tribute dinner at the track, compered by Michael Clark, author of Kenny’s biography.  A succession of tributes, either in person or on film followed, from amongst others, Paul Radisitch,

Greg Murphy, Scott Dixon, “KB” (Kevin Bartlett), Warwick Brown, NZ GP Winner in 1975 and F5000 racer Bruce Allison, Howden, Jim Palmer, Paul Halford, who owned the rare ex KS Lamborghini, David Abbott, Brendan Hardley, young Tom Alexander, Tony Quinn (HD circuit owner) and then Graham Lawrence and David Oxted (who brought the Begg F5000 to Europe) – we had 3 FJ tables and enjoyed the fun.

 Sunday, and it was wet! This time Tony Olissoff had the front wheel drive advantage and held it to the flag, again super close, 0.4s!! Paul Halford, push started in pre grid without starter motor held a good 3rd from Herrick and Graham Barron and Vern’s Lynx, very well up, and Jim Barclay.  Colin McKay was going well.  On lap 3, Roger Herrick spun, and dropped behind Doug Elcomb into 10th spot while Peter Benbrook was enjoying the Garmey T56 (with Ian out of hospital and watching with Bev).  Unfortunately, Paul Halford spun at T10 on lap 4, and with no starter, was abandoned on the track, necessitating a Safety Car – so the race ran out with Walter Findlay in 6th.  Duncan had fun holding off Wayne Carter, now in Elfin 624 to replace the Cooper.  Nigel Russell had a fractious race, two spins, and not realising the SC was out.  Mike Rowe’s Koala retired with gearbox issues while Michael Sexton “slept in”.  Richard Bishop-Miller had a good finish, still troubled with the thumb. “Elephant hide springs to mind” said Karen!

 Still wet for the rears, then the start delayed as someone stopped at T10, so an extra green flag lap and race reduced to 4 laps.  Noel led briefly, but Greg was soon back in control with Marty, all together and then a gap back to Dave Innes.  Neil was falling back, with Marty closing. On the last lap Greg was clear, Marty still on Noel’s gearbox but couldn’t get past in the conditions.  Robin got by Innes on lap 2, but very close with Grant Clearwater behind.  Robs, John Delane (Lotus 18) and Joe Ricciardo were battling well, Robs dropping to last of the trio on the final lap.  Bruce Edgar was still well back, with no 3rd gear for a while. Lance Carwardine slowed as his clutch pedal just went to the floor, while David Kent was a dns having fixed the oil pump, now changing the head gasket.

 There were further demo’s on Sunday lunchtime, with the weather being pouring rain interspersed by hot sunny intervals – very uncertain!!

 Roger Herrick (Mk2 Lola) and Phil Foulkes (Lotus 20/22) went out as tribute to the FJ cars Kenny drove (although not the actual ones), but Chris Atkinson’s F5000 run was aborted as the front FJ grid was called.  Michael Sexton however, ran his Ford Escort, but the grid was gone before he could switch to the Stanguellini. 

 Despite the wet, it was Jac from Tony this time, and yet again very close at the flag, with Paul Halford’s Autosud behind. Graham Barron went straight on into the gravel at the hairpin on lap 2, and then, cresting turn 1, for the 3rd time, Alan Cattle spun the ex-Tony Childe-Freeman Volpini and poor Walter Findlay had nowhere to go and both ended up off the circuit, Walter’s nose and radiator damaged, and a very sore back, while the Volpini with some crumpled aluminium and deranged (FIAT) suspension.  Meantime the oil on T10 had caught the Dreossi, and Duncan, just behind, spun in sympathy, both soon resuming, but at the back.  Duncan eventually passing Brian Searles (Panther) , John Rowe (18) and Tony Pearson (Bandini) and chasing Wayne Carter’s Elfin.  Garth Thomas also spun the little red Cooper T 72 into retirement.  Up front, the rear’s had their day coming home 4th (Atkinson) with Benbrook close and Vern Williamson behind in 6th.

Finally out came the rears for their last race, but then another disappointing outcome as oil on T10 saw Robin off into the gravel, followed by Robs, who had been following John Delane and JR, followed then by Jim Blockley and Joe Ricciardo.  Robs, JR and John escaped but three trucks were needed to extract the cars, all muddy, but thankfully undamaged. Lance pitted again, problems unresolved, while Phil Foulkes wisely gave the race a miss.  Greg led from Marty and Noel, and Robin then Grant Clearwater and Innes.

 Supreme effort by David Innes and Marty had the World container loaded in time for the FJ prizegiving – luckily under an awning, as the rain came again.  Some beautiful Trophies created by Tony Olissoff were award to Greg, Noel, Jac and Paul Halford as Class Winners, and to the 2nd and 3rd in Class placement. Duncan presented and Nigel spoke on behalf of our hosts, the NZFJR.

 Rather later, due to rain, storm and tin top accidents, the circuit prizegiving took place. Michael Lyons was a winner for his incredible laps in the F1 Hesketh, Tony Olissoff won the FJ group “spirit of the meeting” Trophy for his major efforts in keeping Duncan and others on track; Jac Nellemann was presented with the Premier Class Trophy 2017 for his outstanding four races, and Howden Ganley presented Duncan personally with the Howden Ganley Trophy for the major contribution to the meeting for bringing the World Tour. Robs had won this in 2015 when he brought his BRM P 180.

 That evening we relaxed harbourside in the rain at the Soul Bar and Bistro and on Monday visited the McLaren Trust archive above the old McLaren garage, now owned by our Chris (NZ)Atkinson. Afterward Sharyn held a superb dinner party at home for the Rabagliatis, Longdons, Atkinsons and Michael and Sandy Clark.