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‘To the winner go the spoils, ‘as the old sporting adage goes, and there were certainly spoils aplenty awaiting the winner of this year’s Taupō Historic Grand Prix race, Rotorua’s Brett Willis, (Lola T332) at the now Tony Quinn-owned Taupo International Motorsport Park circuit on Sunday afternoon, January 22.

For a race as memorable for the way it was lost (by weekend paceman Grant Martin (Talon MR1/A) as much as it was won (by an absolutely beaming Brett Willis) it certainly packed a punch, not to mention the odd surprise or two.

The Punch first!

The Punch came late – very– in the 8-lap race, and was delivered by fate, rather than one of the other competitors.

One moment, Martin and his distinctive red Talon MR/1A held a huge lead, the next – and this was on the last lap, remember – car and driver ended up stuck fast in a gravel trap at the far south-eastern corner of the vast Taupo track complex, effectively gifting the race win to a ‘surprised but also delighted’ Brett Willis (Lola T332) from the fast-finishing Lola T400 of Glenn Richards (just 0.333 of a second behind at the ‘line) in second place, and fellow Aucklander Shayne Windelburn (Lola T400) third.

Immediately after the race had finished came one of the surprises; in the form of the flash new Supercars-style podium ceremony in pit lane.

Expertly compered by local V8 supercars legend-turned TV pundit Greg Murphy, the new ceremony added some real pizzaz to proceedings; as well as giving new venue owner and event promoter Tony Quinn, the opportunity to meet, greet, congratulate and hand over the three new plus-size trophies he had had especially minted for the first Taupō Historic Grand Prix race under his and CEO Josie Spillane’s watch.

As it turned out, however, there was a lot more, both to the Taupō Historic Grand Prix race and the 2022/23 SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series, than the new podium ceremony revealed.

For instance, at the same time Brett Willis and Glenn Richards were shaking up their bottles for the traditional post-podium champagne ‘spray,’ Grant Martin cut a lonely and dejected figure at the far end of the circuit as he surveyed the damage to his beloved but also this weekend, apparently be-devilled, Talon MR1/A.

Later in the day, however, Talon safely back in its pit garage, Martin was not only able to explain what happened on the fateful final lap of the Taupo Historic GP this year, he was also able to offer reasons as to why.

‘The key reason for my ‘crash’ if you like was component failure, pure and simple, specifically of a large magnesium casting which anchors the car’s rear suspension and driveline on (in this case) the right-hand side.

“This one had a crack in it and the crack turned into a weak point along which it eventually fractured. I could feel the car getting squirrely from about lap three or four, but with the race only being eight laps I figured I could hang on. I did but eventually we came up three corners short.”

The dramas started even earlier for several of the front-running competitors in the SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series as they prepared for the second round of their 2022/23 title fight at the revived Taupō Historic Grand Prix meeting at the Taupō International Motorsport Park circuit.

The irony of being the first of the series regulars forced to have to scratch their entry in an event like the Taupo Historic GP thanks to an NZ-wide shortage of some specialty engine rebuild parts is not lost, for instance, on David Banks, CEO of series’sponsor SAS Autoparts.

Bank’s son Codie (Lola T332) qualified a best of third, but he too had issues – mainly in the final GP race when his car throttle stuck open as he exited the complex, spinning out to avoid hitting anyone else.

Glenn Richards and fellow Lola T332 Driver Tony Galbraith were also in the wars in qualifying, both damaging rockers in their car’s engines. Unfortunately while there enough spares available for Richards’ car there were not for Galbraith’s. So he too had to scratch his entry and head home early.

While it was Grant Martin (Talon MR1/A) who claimed pole position and won the first race of the weekend from fellow front row starter Brett Willis (Lola T332) with Glenn Richards (Lola T400,unfortunately a fuel spill robbed current category form man Kevin Ingram (Lola T332) of the opportunity to set a lap time in the class qualifying session held earlier in the day, meaning that he had to start the race from the rear

Though Ingram was able to set the quickest race lap time, with just 6 laps to do it in, he ran out of both laps and opportunities. Crossing the finishing line in 6th place.

The next morning, his star-crossed weekend actually got worse as he tangled with the then-race leader Alastair Chalmers (Chevron B32) as he passed, spinning himself out of contention and ripping the front off of Chalmers’ Chevron. The race itself, which started with the category’s new rolling handicap start format, was won by new face Bruce Kett from fellow Lola T332 drivers Russell Greer and Brett Willis.

In Class A (for older cars) Tony Roberts (‘high wing’ McLaren M10A 300-09 [A]), again got the better of Toby Annabell (McLaren M10B 400-7), though Annabell was still recovering from shoulder surgery, which made it harder to drive his non-power steering equipped McLaren.

As well as races for Formula 5000s, the event featured races for the new/old Formula Open , Formula Junior and Historic Formula Ford single seaters plus races for Historic and Heritage Touring Cars and displays of Jaguar models spanning 60-70 years of motoring in 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.

Next stop for the 2022/23 series is this coming weekend (Feb 03-05) at the annual Skope Classic meeting, Mike Pero Motorsport Park Ruapuna, in Christchurch.

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