Mo­tor­sport leg­end re­turns to NZGP

The Horowhenua Mail - - SPORT - SHAUN EADE

Ken Smith will be hop­ing to teach the driv­ers on the New Zealand Grand Prix grid a few lessons when he lines up for his 47th start at Man­feild this week­end.

At 76, Smith is six years older than the com­bined age of the top four driv­ers in the Toy­ota Rac­ing Se­ries stand­ings.

He has not been driv­ing in the se­ries, but with the with­drawal of Calvin Ming, Smith agreed to re­turn for the fi­nal round and will race in the aptly num­bered car 47.

Smith is in a five-way tie for the most NZGP wins in his­tory with three – 1976, 1990 and 2004. His first race was in 1964. ‘‘I can’t re­mem­ber where I came,’’ he said.

‘‘It might have been last. I was cer­tainly down the back some­where.’’

The big­gest chal­lenge for Smith this year is that it’s his first out­ing in a mod­ern gen­er­a­tion sin­gle seater with pad­dle shift gear­boxes.

He will drive a green, Manawatu¯-decked-out car spon­sored by Man­feild, the Cen­tral Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Agency, Palmer­ston North City Coun­cil, the Manawatu¯ Car Club and Cap­ture Signs.

The mo­tor­sport leg­end will face off with an im­pres­sive group of up-and-com­ers for the ti­tle this week­end.

Through four weeks of the Toy­ota Rac­ing Se­ries there has been four dif­fer­ent win­ners in the four fea­ture races.

Rus­sian Robert Shwartz­man was the lat­est to claim a fea­tur­erace ti­tle in a strong show­ing in the Denny Hulme Me­mo­rial Tro­phy race in Taupo¯.

The 18-year-old has been con­sis­tent all se­ries, stand­ing on the podium seven times in 12 races. His worst fin­ish was fifth place.

He is sec­ond in the se­ries be­hind fel­low Fer­rari academy mem­ber Mar­cus Arm­strong.

Arm­strong, 17, had not missed the podium head­ing into the Taupo¯ week­end, but had a fifth and a fourth be­fore fin­ish­ing sec­ond in the fea­ture race.

His big week­end came at his home track in Christchurch, where he claimed two race wins, in­clud­ing the first fea­ture race of the se­ries.

That form, cou­pled with his per­for­mance at Man­feild last year, when he had two sec­onds and a third, has him as the favourite for the week­end.

Dutch driver Richard Ver­schoor is an­other one to watch.

The Red Bull academy driver has been im­pres­sive through­out the se­ries and has the most race wins – four – to date, in­clud­ing the fea­ture race at Hamp­ton Downs.

But, he has been count­ing the cost of a punc­tured tyre, which saw him fail to record any points in one of the Christchurch races.

Out­side that trio, just three other drives have recorded race wins.

British driver Cle­ment No­valak took out the fea­ture race in In­ver­cargill.

Amer­i­can Juan Manuel Cor­rea has been an in­con­sis­tent op­er­a­tor, with race fin­ishes rang­ing be­tween 10th and first.

Kiwi Bren­don Leitch also picked up a race win in Taupo¯.

There are three other Ki­wis in the race – Tay­lor Cock­er­ton, Ryan Yardely and Reid Harker.

The Man­feild event will fea­ture nine race cat­e­gories – TRS, New Zealand V8s, V8 Utes, Porsche se­ries, GTR NZ, Toy­ota 86s, Mazda Pro 7, For­mula 1600 and For­mula First.

The third and fi­nal TRS race of the week­end will de­cide the grand prix win­ner.

Ken Smith, 76, is chas­ing his fourth New Zealand Grand Prix ti­tle in his 47th at­tempt at the race.

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