Visiting Canadian driver Jay Esterer (McRae GM1) completed his prodigal-like comeback in style at the second New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing – Chris Amon meeting January 28-30, 2011 at Hampton Downs, claiming a hat trick of MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series wins only a week after a heavy accident at the rain-shortened first festival meeting at the same track.
Though it was defending series champion Ken Smith (Lola T430) who was quickest in the initial qualifying session on Friday morning, and visiting Monaco-based British driver Peter Dunn (March 73A/05) who earned pole position after topping the time sheets in the final Top Ten Shootout in the afternoon, Esterer won the weekend’s first MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series on Saturday afternoon from Mark Dwyer (Lola T430), the second (on Sunday morning) from Smith and the 15-lap Tasman Grand Prix final on Sunday afternoon from series young gun Michael Lyons (Lola T400) and series newcomer Clark Proctor (March 73A-1).
The Tasman Grand Prix final was a cracker, with Ken Smith taking over pole position from Esterer after bettering his qualifying time (as he chased down a runaway Esterer) in the second race of the weekend on Sunday morning.
The pair were neck and neck off the rolling start but with the inside line through the daunting downhill first turn Smith held the initial advantage. Esterer was in front when the field thundered across the finish line at the end of the first lap but for the next three he came under intense pressure – not just from Smith either.
As he tried everything he could to find a chink in Esterer’s armour, both Dwyer (who started from P3 on the grid) and Lyons (who started the race from P5) joined the fight. Smith finally found a way past Esterer on the fourth lap but his lead was short-lived, Esterer back in front before another lap was run.
The action remained fast and furious, however, with Mark Dwyer shuffled back down the field and eventually out of the race with a bent front wing, before Lyons got the better of Smith to claim second. Last season’s MSC series runner-up Steve Ross (McRae GM1) was also part of the leading group early on but spun and clouted the armco on lap five.
At that stage the order was Esterer, Lyons, Smith with a small gap back to the dueling March 73s of Clark Proctor and Peter Dunn then a slightly larger margin to Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) and Amon F101 F1 car driver Ron Maydon.
Esterer’s car was faster up the start-finish straight but 20-year-old UK single-seater up-and-comer Lyons was like a terrier, almost making it all the round Esterer through the daunting first turn and when that didn’t work, trying the same round-the-outside trick through the right-left Turns 2 and 3 complex. Smith, meanwhile, remained a threat to both in third place only to be forced to pit for a new rear wheel and tyre after a coming together with a lapped car with just five laps to go.
Lyons continued to worry Esterer but the Canadian remained resolute, eventually crossing the finish line just over two-hundredths of a second in front of Lyons who in turn has a 14 second buffer on Clark Proctor.
Peter Dunn matched Proctor move for move early on before being forced to back off late in the race when he lost brake pressure, while behind him Ron Maydon finally got the better of a race-long dice with Aaron Burson for fifth. Seventh was young gun Lyons’ father Frank (Gurney-Eagle FA74-01), eighth, Kiwi F5000 orginal Reg Cook, and ninth series newcomer Andrew Higgins (both Lola T400).
McRae GM1 drivers Alastair Russell and Stu Lush had been part of a multi-car battle for mid-pack with Cook but neither made it round the last lap.
After the race, like the rest of the packed programme enjoyed by a large and appreciative crowd in fine, warm weather, a delighted Jay Esterer said he wanted to extend a vote of thanks to his Kiwi hosts, both for helping him to repair, then successfully dial in, his car.
“I feel fantastic and for that I have to thank all the people who have helped me since I arrived here. After last weekend, obviously, we needed to fix my car and everyone has been so good about it. Roger Williams, for instance, he gave me a McRae nosecone, and the Bursons gave me a radiator.”
And though he struggled to find a suitable balance between under and oversteer in qualifying, Esterer says that changes to his car’s set-up between Friday’s qualifying sessions and Saturday’s first race paid off and each time he went out in the car he felt more comfortable driving it.
“I was definitely getting more used to it and the track by the Grand Prix,” he said.
Like Esterer, Michael Lyons spent the weekend working his way forward but he met his match in Esterer.
“OK, ” he said, “starting from P5 is not ideal, but I got round Jay at Turn 1, I got round him at Turn 2, I got round him at Turn 4 and I had a damn good try at getting round him at Turn 5. I don’t think I’ve ever passed a car so many times and not won the race!”
New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival 2011 – Chris Amon Festival Race 2 (8 laps)
The weekend’s second MSC series race was also an Esterer benefit, the Canadian dispatching front row starters Steve Ross and Peter Dunn before edging away to cross the finish line just over 1.3 seconds ahead of Smith with Ross third and fast closing Michael Lyons an impressive fourth.
After an early off in qualifying then a suspension-bending clash with a spinning Reg Cook early in the weekend’s first MSC series race Lyons started the race from the ninth row of the grid but by mid race he had made up nine positions and by the penultimate lap he had made up five more and was closing on Steve Ross.
“It was a bit NASCAR-like, trying to pick my way through the traffic early on,” he admitted, “but we got there in the end.”
Up front the interest was in the battle for first-through-fourth positions with Steve Ross, Roger Williams and Mark Dwyer dispatching poleman Peter Dunn before themselves being picked off one by one by Jay Esterer.
Once Esterer was in front he edged away as Ross, Williams and Ken Smith disputed second place with Williams holding the advantage until he retired with a broken gear lever. That left Esterer leading, Ross and Smith with a gap back to Clark Proctor, Peter Dunn, Aaron Burson, Frank Lyons, Reg Cook, Alastair Russell and Ron Maydon.
Mark Dwyer had been part of the leading bunch early on but after spinning resumed the race towards the back of the field, eventually crossing the finish line in 15th place between Lola T332 drivers Ian Clements and Peter Sundberg.
Leading Class A qualifier Michael Whatley ran in the top eight early on before before slowing and eventually stopping with a flat battery. Auckland driver Stu Lush was also doing well when his race came to a premature end with his car’s right front wheel worked loose.
With Whatley out of the race, interest in the Class A category transferred to Kerry McIntosh (Begg FM2) who was shadowed all the way by Warwick Mortimer, having one of his best races to date in his Surtees TS5, and class stalwart Poul Christie (Lola T190).
New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival 2011 – Chris Amon Festival Race 1 (8 laps)
Esterer’s winning run began in Saturday, the quick Canadian having fortuitously worked his way forward from the fourth row of the grid to the front when the Safety Car was deployed to remove Michael Lyons’ prone car.
When the track was eventually cleared and the Safety Car returned to the pits the Canadian pulled out a two second lead over fellow front-row starter Mark Dwyer with Peter Dunn, Ken Smith, series Clark Proctor and Steve Ross disputing third-through-sixth places.
And defending series champion Smith?
He started from P10 on the grid after breaking a half shaft in the second qualifying session and ended up fourth behind Esterer, Dwyer and Dunn with Proctor fifth, Steve Ross sixth and Roger Williams seventh.
After an early end to the rain-affected second MSC series round at Hampton Downs last weekend (only one of the three races was contested) and a successful conclusion to the third this weekend, the fight for championship honours now heads south, with the fourth round of the 2010/11 Tasman Cup Revival series at the annual Skope Classic meeting in Christchurch next weekend and the penultimate round at the Evolution Motorsport Classic Speedfest meeting at Invercargill’s Teretonga Park a fortnight later.
The MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series is organised and run with the support of sponsors MSC, NZ Express Transport, Bonney’s Specialized Bulk Transport, Mobil Lubricants, Pacifica, Smith & Davies, Avon Tyres and Exide.
2010/11 MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series Rnd 3 Preview NZ Festival of Motor Racing – Chris Amon meeting Hampton Downs Fri-Sun Jan 28 2011
1 Ken Smith (Lola T430) 1.01.881
2. Jay Esterer (McRae GM1) 1.02.286
3. Mark Dwyer (Lola T400) 1.02.414
4. Steve Ross (McRae GM1) 1.02.786
5. Clark Proctor (March 73A-1) 1.02.860
6. Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) 1.02.101
7. Peter Dunn (March 73A-05) 1.03.104
8. Roger Williams (Lola T332) 1.03.477
9. Frank Lyons (Gurney-Eagle FA74-01) 1.03.898
10. Stuart Lush (McRae GM1) 1.04.112
11. Ian Clements (Lola T332) 1.04.161
12. Ron Maydon (Amon F101 F1) 1.04.207
13. Alastair Russell (McRae GM1) 1.04.362
14. Reg Cook (Lola T430) 1.04.511
15. Michael Whatley (Surtees TS8) 1.04.947
16. Brett Willis (Lola T330) 1.05.563
17. Greg Thornton (Chevron B24) 1.05.809
18. Peter Burson (McRae GM1) 1.07.652
19. Peter Sundberg (Lola T332) 1.07.831
20. Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) 1.08.786
21. Kerry McIntosh (Begg FM2) 1.10.201
22. Warwick Mortimer (Surtees TS5) 1.10.643
23. Poul Christie (Lola T190) 1.13.377
24. Hamish Paterson (Chevron) 1.19.733
25. Michael Lyons (Lola T400) -no time.
Race 1 (8 laps)
1. Jay Esterer 11.01.373
2. Mark Dwyer +2.118
3. Peter Dunn +4.409
4. Ken Smith +4.476
5. Clark Proctor +5.112
6. Steve Ross +5.521
7. Roger Willliams +5.786
8. Michael Whatley +6.680
9. Frank Lyons +8.801
10. Ron Maydon +9.990
11. Ian Clements +11.250
12. Andrew Higgins +12.172
13. Aaron Burson +12.209
14. Alastair Russell +17.306
15. Peter Sundberg +18.677
16. Gregory Thornton +22.130
17. Poul Christie +25.119
18. Peter Burson +25.804
19. Warwick Mortimer +26.973
20. Kerry McIntosh +30.098
21. Hamish Paterson +1 lap
dnf Reg Cook, Michael Lyons
dns Stuart Lush.
Race 2 (8 laps)
1. Jay Esterer 8.20.894
2. Ken Smith +1.362
3. Steve Ross +2,462
4. Michael Lyons +6.754
5. Clark Proctor +11.477
6. Peter Dunn +12.346
7. Aaron Burson +13.035
8. Frank Lyons +18.389
9. Reg Cook +23.046
10. Alastair Russell +23.370
11. Ron Maydon +24.236
12. Gregory Thornton +29.543
13. Andrew Higgins +30.715
14. Ian Clements +32.976
15. Mark Dwyer +34.690
16. Peter Sundberg +50.217
17. Peter Burson +50.943
18. Kerry McIntosh +1.03.822
19. Warwick Mortimer +1.04.211
20. Poul Christie +1.04.720
21. Hamish Paterson +1 lap
dnf Michael Whatley, Roger Williams, Stuart Lush
Race 3 Tasman Grand Prix (15 laps)
1. Jay Esterer 15.45.706
2. Michael Lyons +0.267
3. Clark Proctor +14.270
4. Peter Dunn +25.868
5. Ron Maydon +28.363
6. Aaron Burson +28.801
7. Frank Lyons +37.729
8. Reg Cook +44.733
9. Ian Clements +45.490
10. Andrew Higgins +45.961
11. Gregory Thornton +1 lap
12. Peter Sundberg +1 lap
13. Peter Burson +1 lap
14. Michael Whatley +1 lap
15. Ken Smith +2 laps
dnf Alastair Russell, Stuart Lush, Warwick Mortimer, Poul Christie, Kerry McIntosh, Hamish Paterson, Steve Ross, Mark Dwyer
dns Roger Williams.
NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival 2011 Calendar
Rnd 1: Oct 30/31 2010 Christchurch Casino Wigram revival meeting Powerbuilt Tools Raceway @ Ruapuna Park Christchurch
Rnd 2: Jan 21-23 2011 NZ Festival of Motor Racing – Chris Amon meeting x 1 Hampton Downs Auckland
Rnd 3: Jan 28-30 2011 NZ Festival of Motor Racing – Chris Amon meeting x 2 Hampton Downs Auckland
Rnd 4: Feb 05/06 2011 Skope Classic meeting Powerbuilt Tools Raceway @ Ruapuna Park Christchurch
Rnd 5: Feb 19-20 2011 Evolution Motorsport Classic Speedfest meeting, Teretonga Park Invercargill
Rnd 6 (Final) March 25-27 2011 Qantas Australian Grand Prix March Albert Park Melbourne, Australia
[Source: NZ F5000 Assoc.; photo credit: Fast Company/Alex Mitchell]