THE 1976 SERIES
There was no Tasman Series for 1976. For 12 years, the Tasman motor racing series had been the premiere event on both the New Zealand and Australian motor racing calendars. Originally devised as a true international contest, to bring the world's best drivers down under, and to give the locals the chance to try themselves against world class drivers, the series was no more.
The two countries split and ran their own four race series. New Zealand ran its normal four races under the sponsorship of Peter Stuyvesant, and this was followed one week later by a four race series in Australia, sponsored by Rothmans.
There was also uncertainty about the future of the F5000 formula. Nobody knew what was going to happen after 1976. There was all-sorts of talk as to what the new formula might be and as such nobody was prepared to invest in new machinery at this time. New Zealand had also announced that the series would be limited to engines over three litres.
Now the battle was on between the two countries to attract top line drivers for their series. Australia was quick to announce they had John Cannon, Vern Schuppan and David Purley, along with their own top drivers and a host of new up and coming drivers. When New Zealand made their announcement, it was very disappointing. There was only one driver who was not from Australia or New Zealand. He was Brian Redman, the English born, American based driver who for a short time had driven Formula One for the Shadow team, and had been twice L&M Champion in the USA.
Redman had been teamed up with young Australian Alan Jones, and the pair were scheduled to drive a pair of March 751's powered by the 3.4 litre Cosworth V6. Unfortunately the deal fell through just weeks before the series was about to start. Jones had no contract, but Redman did, so another deal was quickly put together with Fred Opert in the USA, who was keen to have Redman drive for him. He purchased the latest Chevron B29 F2 car, which was powered by a 2 litre BMW motor. So much for the rules governing engine sizes, Redman's entry was accepted.
David Purley had also agreed to come to New Zealand with a March V6, but was told there was not enough money available to bring him as well as the Redman / Jones team. When their deal fell through Purley was re-approached, but he had upped his price further and became too expensive.
Ten Australians had been secured for the series, but of these only five turned up to do all four races and John McCormack only had enough money to do the Grand Prix. The 1975 Tasman Champion, Warwick Brown, was also not competing as he could not reach an agreement with the organisers concerning his guarantee. He came anyway, without his car, accompanying Bruce Allison and acted as a very experienced helper for him. The other ironical fact was that Paul Bernasconi turned up with a Lola T400, the car that Redman had used in the L&M Series in the US.
Of the rounds, unfortunately it was the worst race, round three at Wigram, that got all the publicity. Motoring News of England said "The once prestigious Tasman Championship slumped to its lowest level yet when the New Zealand race at Wigram Airfield turned into a complete shambles minutes after the start. The Series is finished. And Sunday's showing at Christchurch looked like the end of the road for F5000 in New Zealand". Even New Zealand's own Motor Action described the Lady Wigram Trophy race as "one of the most disastrous big races ever held in NZ with only five cars contesting most of the event".
Criticism notwithstanding, it was Ken Smith's series. Not only did the diminutive New Zealand driver take out the 1976 Peter Stuyvesant Series but he also won the NZ Grand Prix as well.
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