Marcus Pye's Diary

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Comparing sheep to F5000s in New Zealand, and taking a step back in amazement at the Stanton Special

Christchurch New Zealand’s sheep-to-human-beings ratio may rank second to the Falkland Islands, but it leads the world table of Formula 5000 horsepower per head of population. With around 20 cars spread among four million inhabitants that’s indisputable.

Given that the gruff 500bhp monsters were raced for a great deal longer in Australia — through to 1981 in fact — it seems bizarre that they enjoy a far greater following among the Kiwis, who abandoned F5000 in ’76 after seven years of Tasman Cup and Gold Star activity.

The greatest concentration of the cars is on the South Island, in the splendid city of Christchurch, where no fewer than 10 currently reside — four Lola T332s, all three T430s (one being rebuilt from Aussie Alan Hamilton’s wreck), a T142, a McRae GM1 and a Begg FM5.

That may be no coincidence given that the country’s leading historic racecar preparation shop, John Crawford’s Motorsport Solutions organisation, is based on the outskirts of the Ruapuna Park circuit.

It’s a one-stop shop, offering everything from chassis restoration to engine building. Upstairs sits the Canterbury Racing School, while its modern race team operates Formula Toyotas.

While I was there, Crawford’s crew worked all hours to finish Australian Aaron Lewis’s Matich A50 (having made a new monocoque since a big shunt at Teretonga in 2005) and its Holden-Repco engine — similar to that which powered Gerry Marshall’s Vauxhall Ventora and Firenza Super Saloons, featured elsewhere in this issue.

Crawford is no mean driver either. Having worked for Robert Synge’s Madgwick Motorsport team at Silverstone in 1984, he returned home with one of Adrian Reynard’s newfangled FF1600 chassis and swept the board en route to the national title.

Despite my planned F5000 racing going down the pan, after the boat carrying our cars only reached Western Australia at the time it was supposed to land its cargo in Auckland, all was not lost.

David Abbott’s selfless offer to share his ex-VDS Lola T430 in qualifying at Pukekohe broadened my class experience to eight cars, and I enjoyed chatting to past masters Graham McRae and Graeme Lawrence among a tremendous cross-section of F5000s in the pits.

While McRae built his most successful cars in England — three of the coke bottle-sided GM1s were in the North Island field — George Begg and Fred McLean were toiling away in the south making Begg F5000s.

Seven were made, and FM2 and FM5 models (each one of a pair) were raced in the Tasman Revival, together with the ultimate 018 design, which drew its styling cues from McLaren’s M23. The unique FM4, which locals hadn’t seen in ages, was also displayed at Pukekohe.

Initially raced by Jim Murdoch, the gorgeous 018 is now back near its birthplace, owned and raced by Invercargill engineer Noel Atley.

Special-building is a foundation stone of New Zealand motorsport, and at Ruapuna the British contingent gawped in amazement as the legendary Stanton Special thudded round the track with the intrepid Warner Mauger (say ‘major’) up.

Built in the early ’50s by brothers Maurice and Charles Stanton of Christchurch, it’s a hairy old monster. Formed from exhaust tubes, the rudimentary chassis is home to a supercharged 6.1-litre, four-cylinder de Havilland Gipsy Major aero engine from a Tiger Moth.

A starter in the inaugural New Zealand GP at Ardmore in ’54, it was also sand-raced and hillclimbed with distinction. Its major claim to fame, however, remains the NZ Land Speed Record. Dressed in an all-enveloping Microplas Mistral body (long discarded) with a distinctive dorsal fin, the narrow-tyred cropduster achieved a staggering 173.8mph on a narrow road in ’58.

Morrie Stanton’s mark stood until 1996, but the legend lives on. Of all the oddities I’ve seen on my travels, the Stanton Special is — along with the Lycoming Special which Bruce McLaren drove and is still raced with distinction by Ralph Smith — one which I feel needs to be shared with Goodwood Festival of Speed-goers.

Related articles

Related products