The year 1972 will go down in the annals of New Zealand’s motor racing history as the year driver/engineer Graham McRae came of age – in a car – the garish fluro pink Leda LT27/GM1 – of his own design.
This weekend, at the 31st annual Skope Classic historic motor racing meeting in Christchurch, the legacy of this great Kiwi and the very same car will be brought back to life in the SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series races by category young gun Michael Collins.
Collins, 25, is the defending SAS Autoparts MSC Series title-holder and this season is joined on the grid by sister Anna Collins. Both got their competition start in karts, with both competing with distinction at Island and National level before a move ‘up the ladder’ to the Formula Ford class.
Both, after successful tests in the ex Evan Noyes/Chris Lambden Leda LT27 004 owned by Queenstown couple Alistair & Vicki Hey, have now found a home in the world-renowned F5000 series, Michael, 25, now entrusted with the original – comprehensively rebuilt – ex McRae/Dexter Dunlop ‘STP-pink’ Leda GM1 001, and Anna, 28, joining her brother in the family-run team this season, in the 004 car.
The oldracingcars.com website doesn’t mince its words when it describes the man behind the two Leda cars in the field this weekend, Wellington-born Graham McRae, as ‘arguably the quickest F5000 driver of the day’ and his 1972 Tasman Series-winning Leda LT27/GM1 as ‘beautifully-engineered, especially Graham’s prototype 001,’ as well as ‘the top car of 1972 and one of the best of 1973.’
What McRae was able to do in his new car at the Lady Wigram Trophy meeting proved the point.
Writing in the 10th Shell Annual of NZ Motor Racing which covered the 1972 summer motor racing ‘tour’ including the Australian rounds, the Editor, the late Peter Greenslade, summed it up thus;
“Averaging 181.772 km/h (112.92 mph) over 47 laps of the fast, open 3.43km circuit in his Leda GM1 Chev, Graham McRae dominated the 18th International Lady Wigram Trophy (race) at Christchurch on 22 January.”
Not only did McRae start the race from pole position with a best qualifying lap of 1:05.09, he also grabbed an early lead he never ever looked close to relinquishing, setting the fastest race lap (and new category and outright lap record of 1:06.06) as he lapped all but eventual race runner-up, works Surtees driver (and multi-time former world motorcycle champion) Mike Hailwood (Surtees TS8A).
It really was a master-class display and coming hot on the heels of a similar giant killing performance in the Winfield ‘72 Tasman International race at his home circuit, Levin, the weekend before, helped lay an early foundation for McRae’s second Tasman Series title in a row, and first in a car he had such a large part in designing and setting up.
The field of cars set to contest the SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series races at the Skope meeting this weekend is by necessity smaller than at previous years’ meetings thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions on international travel – particularly from the UK where at least six usual series’ regulars live and work.
That hasn’t stopped the local F5000 Association from rustling up a quality 11-strong field, however, headed by local Leda siblings Michael and Anna Collins.
Set to once again take the battle to the pair this weekend is 2019/20 series’ runner-up Glenn Richards from Auckland (ex Eppie Wietzes Lola T400) plus the series’ other familial pair, father and son David and Codie Banks.
Once again, David – the man behind series’ sponsor SAS Autoparts – will be back behind the wheel of his ex-Jon Woodner Talon MR1 while son Codie, who works with his parents in the family business, will be driving the ex-Kevin Bartlett/Johnnie Walker ‘Magnum Wheels’ Lola T332.
Also back for more SAS Autoparts MSC series action are fellow Lola T332 owner/drivers Russell Greer from Blenheim (ex-Graeme Lawrence/Murray Sinclair HU28), Tony Galbraith from Hampton Downs (ex-Tuck Thomas/Ian Clements/Sefton Gibb HU38A), and former NZ Formula Ford champion Kevin Ingram from Feilding (ex John Morton/Chuck Haines/Ian Clements HU48R).
Joining them on the grid this weekend will be Rnd 1 second race winner Shayne Windelburn from Auckland in his ex-Richard Scott/Bob Evans Lola T400 HU8, as well as last season’s Class A (for older cars) winner Frank Karl (ex-Mike Walker/Guy Edwards McLaren M10B 400-18, and Tim Rush from Feilding in his later model (1972) McLaren M22 M22-3-72.
The SAS Autoparts MSC F5000s will be on track for their official qualifying session on Saturday morning at 10.25am then back for their first rolling start 8-lap race of the weekend at 3.40pm.
On Sunday there is a second 8-lap rolling start race in the morning (due to start at 11.40am) then the final 12-lap event feature race set to start at 3.30pm.
Main Image: Terry Marshall