Motorsport legend returns to NZGP
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.