Blenheim-based 21-year-old Michael Hey won both of Sunday’s SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival series races held at Ruapuna.
Held as part of the annual SKOPE Classic weekend, the two races ran in beautiful summer weather conditions – contrasting that of Saturday’s opening race.
The first race was an 8-lap handicap start based on Saturday’s result, placing Shane Windleburn (Lola T400 HU 8 – London Rubber Co [Durex]) at the front. He was followed by Bruce Kett (Lola T332 HU 46). Last in the group was Saturday’s race winner, Steve Ross (McRae GM1) – seven seconds behind Hey (McRae GM1) and Kevin Ingram (Lola T332).
The passing was continual, and Hey became the lead contender as he worked his way through the field. By the start of lap six, he had closed on Windleburn, taking a run on the inside to the first turn and grabbing the lead. Slipping in behind was Ross, with just enough room to then move Windleburn to third.
In clear air, Hey was the prey while Ross hunted. Hey maintained the gap to the chequered flag, with Ross confirming he didn’t settle for second – he couldn’t catch the youngster.
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 the Lola T332 of Ingram.
Ruapuna’s long front straight gave fans an enduring earful of the thundering V8s – while Hey worked on catching up to Ingram. By the third lap, he was able to sneak underneath at the first turn and quickly locked onto catching Ross.
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, with the Lola T332 of Russell Greer in third.
As the cars returned, Amanda McLaren, daughter of the late Bruce McLaren, was there to greet them.
For McLaren, it was an opportunity to continue her father’s legacy in a category where many of his cars still race: “He was in it yes for the winning but also the camaraderie and fun – and that is what we have today with the Formula 5000. So to present the trophy and be a part of it is a great honour for me.”
The first award was the Stan Redmond Memorial Trophy, presented to a member of the F5000 fraternity that exhibits the same grace and passion its namesake was renowned for.
For 2024 that was Te Kauwhata’s Tony Galbraith (Lola T332 HU 38), who was stunned into silence as his name was called.
Hey was then awarded the Bert Hawthorne Cup, which was originally won in 1970 at a Brands Hatch Formula 3 race. From nearby Kaiapoi, Hawthorne trod the path alongside many of his era and carved a name for himself internationally until his journey was tragically cut short at Hockenheim in 1972.
“If there was any race to win, I’m glad it was the last one – it’s been a very special event to come out here in my debut and win this today,” said Hey, an aviation engineer.
“It has come as a bit of a shock. I didn’t expect I’d get a first, let alone a second. I was expecting to be fourth or fifth, honestly.
“I attribute that to my Formula Ford experience that I’ve just come from. This weekend, I’ve also been racing in the Libre class, so I’ve had a bit of track time out there.”
Hey said he nearly lost it on the final lap – as the large Avon tyres softened in the summer heat.
Focus now turns to having the cars stripped, cleaned, and packed into shipping containers for transport to Australia and the trans-Tasman leg of the series.
The fourth event for the 2023/2024 season will be held at Phillip Island, south-east of Melbourne – 7 to 10 March. A fast and flowing layout, the circuit features a mix of high-speed corners, a long main straight and ocean views.
From there, the cars will be transported to Melbourne to attend the Australia Grand Prix on 21-24 March as part of a McLaren celebration.