Young gun Michael Lyons (Lola T400) won all four MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series races at the first New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing – celebrating BMW Motorsport meetings at the Hampton Downs circuit south of Auckland on January 21-22, 2012 but series point leader Steve Ross (McRae GM1) added the icing on the cake with a new outright track lap record.
Lyons, who with father Frank and mother Judy, has been traveling from the UK to contest rounds of the New Zealand-based MSC series for the past four years, showed an inkling of what he could do at the two New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing meetings last year and took up where he left off this, claiming pole position in the qualifying session on Friday then leading all four races – including the feature 15-lap final – from start to finish.
“The weekend has gone pretty well hasn’t it” the 20-year-old from Essex north of London said after his meeting clean sweep. “Last year we weren’t quite as well prepared and it was all a bit last minute. Also I hadn’t really driven the car much that year. This year we did most of the British championship, which we won, so we were better prepared with the car so it’s great to be able to come out here and be able to do so well.”
After winning both races in hot, dry conditions on Saturday, the first from Steve Ross, Ken Smith (Lola T430) and Clark Proctor (March 73A) and the second – after Ross and Proctor tangled at the first corner – from Smith, Mark Dwyer (Lola T400) and Brett Willis (Lola T330), Lyons led home a fired up Smith, Proctor and Ross in the rain-delayed third race just after lunch time and 15-lap feature final later in the afternoon on Sunday.
While the third race was very much a non-event because of the intervention for four of the eight laps of the Safety Car (while Kerry McIntosh’s bent Begg FM2 was retrieved from the safety barriers on the run up to the start/finish straight) the 15-lap feature saw Lyons, Ross, Smith, Proctor and Dwyer set a cracking early pace, a sign of just how quickly the leading cars were circulating, Steve Ross breaking the new outright track lap record Lyons had set during the first race on Saturday.
Heading into the meeting the outright record for the 2.800km circuit belonged to Ken Smith with a best time of 1.01.210 set at the second NZ Festival of Motor Racing meetings last year. Lyons lowered that to 1.00.813 on the first MSC F5000 race on Saturday but Ross went even quicker in the final on Sunday, trimming it to an 1.00.497 on just the second lap of the race.
When he found out the Dunedin man was literally lost for words, but when he found some he was quick to share the credit.
“I’ve held a few class lap records but never an outright track one,” he said. “All credit to the Motorsport Solutions team who prepare and run the car, they’ve done a brilliant job this weekend. The car was flying, absolutely flying.”
Behind Lyons and Ross, Ken Smith, Clark Proctor, Mark Dwyer and Brett Willis maintained their positions equidistant from each other for the remainder of the race with fan interest centred on Aaron Burson (McRae GM1 and his race-long battle with Michael Lyons’ father Frank (Gurney-Weslake) and Michael Whatley (Lola T300).
Lap after lap Burson stalked Lyons Snr until he eventually found a gap and pounced. Once past he then set off after Whatley, making up another position to cross the line a satisfied seventh.
“Frank’s a great competitor and he certainly knows his racecraft,” said Burson, whose own father Peter, who also drives a McRae GM1, finished not far behind in 13th place.”I had to try a few times to finally get past him but I’m not complaining, because I think we both enjoyed it!”
First Class A finisher was again Alan Dunkley, the 22-year-old former kart and Suzuki Swift Cup series front-runner completing a dream debut meeting in one of the oldest cars in the field, a family-run high-wing Lola T140. After a weekend-best seventh place finish in the rain-dampened third race of the weekend Dunkley battled Christchurch driver Dave Arrowsmith’s Lotus 70 in the 15-lap feature, the pair rarely more than a car length or two apart until – after handing the advantage to Arrowsmith mid-race – Dunkley found a way past down the inside through the first corner then pulled away to cross the finish line just behind 10th placed Shayne Windelburn.
“Yes,” Dunkley said, “I had a bit too much pressure in the tyres in case it rained and the tyres overheated. The engine got a bit hot too so I backed off for a couple of laps then got back on it with a couple to go.”
Dunkley’s T140 was one of three early model Lolas contesting the third round of the MSC F5000 series at Hampton Downs with Australian John Bryant and American category original Eric Haga completing the finishing lineup. Haga, who brought with him the very same car he raced in the L&M Continental Series in the United States and Canada in 1970, reckoned his decision to come ‘down under’ to compete was one of the best he has ever made.
“I’ve had a fantastic weekend. In fact right now I can’t think of a place I’d rather be.”
Race 3 (8 laps)
The first race on Sunday morning was postponed until after the lunch break in the hope that the track would dry but a short shower just before the delayed start saw cars back on stands as slick tyres were swapped for wets. Several drivers – Roger Williams, Stu Lush and David Banks amongst them – decided not to risk the changeable conditions, while Mark Dwyer could only sit and watch after his crew discovered a crack in his car’s front left suspension upright as they were swapping front dry to wet tyres.
As it turned out the race was very much decided when Kerry McIntosh spun his Begg FM2 exiting the final corner at the end of his second lap. The accident brought out the Safety Car and five of the next 8 laps were run under controlled conditions with pole man Michael Lyons leading from Ken Smith, Clark Proctor, Steve Ross and Brett Willis.
With the track drying drivers like Willis and Class A standout Alan Dunkley who had elected to start on slicks had their decisions vindicated but with just one lap left to run when the Safety Car returned to the pits the order at the flag remained the same, Lyons winning from Smith, Proctor, Ross, Whatley, Willis, Dunkley, John MacKinlay and David Arrowsmith.
Aaron Burson had been running just behind MacKinlay early on but he spun (harmlessly as it turned out) before the Safety Car came out, rejoining in13th place.
Day Two, Saturday
Lyons’s perfect weekend started on Friday with pole position in qualifying and continued with wins in both Saturday’s 8-lap races, the first – in the morning – from series points leader Steve Ross, defending series champion Ken Smith and Clark Proctor, and the second from Smith, Mark Dwyer and Brett Willis.
Missing, unfortunately, from the front-running pack was the driver who won all three races at the second New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing meeting last year, Canadian Jay Esterer (McRae GM1).
After a heavy startline accident at the second round of this season’s MSC F5000 series at Manfeild late last year the Canadian had to strip, rebuild and air freight out his second McRae GM1 to get it here in time for this weekend’s meeting but a fuel leak in practice then full-on engine fire in qualifying put paid to his efforts to re-join the fray before they had even started.
Having damaged his own Lola T332 in the startline accident at Manfeild, three-time series champion Ken Smith was also forced to revert to another car, in this case the familiar Lola T430 he has used with such effect for the past four seasons.
Fastest starter in both races was Dunedin’s Steve Ross but he and Proctor tangled as the field streamed into the first at the beginning of the second race leaving Lyons to win his second race unchallenged from Smith with Mark Dwyer third and Brett Willis a season-best fourth.
Initially Michael Lyons lead Smith and Dwyer and that’s how the order was when the results came out, but on the track Steve Ross rejoined the race between Smith and Dwyer and circulated in third place (albeit a lap down) until the chequered flag came out.
Alan Dunkley’s distinctive high-wing Lola T140 was first Class A (for older F5000 models) car home, finishing 11th in the first race and 10th in the second.
MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series competition continues at the second New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing – celebrating BMW Motorsport meeting next weekend.
For more information about the two NZ Festival of Motor Racing – celebrating BMW Motorsport meetings – visit www.nzfmr.co.nz.
2011/12 MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series
1. Michael Lyons (Lola T400) 1.01.489
2. Steve Ross (McRae GM1) 1.01.552
3. Ken Smith (Lola T430) 1.02.111
4. Clark Proctor (March 73A) 1.02.255
5. Roger Williams (Lola T332) 1.03.415
6. Mark Dwyer (Lola T400)1.04.498
7. Alastair Russell (McRae GM1) 1.04.577
8. Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) 1.05.252
9. Brett Willis (Lola T330) 1.05.397
10. John MacKinlay (March 73A) 1.05.967
11. Frank Lyons (Gurney Eagle FA-74-01) 1.06.140
12. Alan Dunkley (Lola T140) 1.06.294
13. Michael Whatley (Lola T300) 1.06.512
14. David Arrowsmith (Lotus 70) 1.07.244
15. Warwick Mortimer (Surtees TS5) 1.09.723
16. David Banks (Talon MR1) 1.10.640
17. Shayne Windleburn (Lola T400) 1.12.789
18. Eric Haga (Lola T190) 1.13.110
19. Peter Burson (McRae GM1) 1.14.072
20. John Bryant (Lola T140) 1.14.970
21. Judy Lyons (Lola T332) 1.31.534
22. Stuart Lush (McRae GM1) no time
Race 1 (8 laps)
1. Michael Lyons 8:12.498
2. Steve Ross + 5.632
3. Ken Smith + 6.078
4. Clark Proctor + 8.782
5. Roger Williams + 19.613
6. Aaron Burson + 25.097
7. Brett Willis +25.886
8. Mark Dwyer + 26.169
9. Frank Lyons + 38.145
10. Michael Whatley + 39.334 1
11. Alan Dunkley + 43.564
12. John MacKinlay + 44.867
13. Shayne Windelburn + 53.462
14. David Arrowsmith + 58.628
15. Peter Burson + 1:03.15
16. David Banks +1:04.465
17. Tim Rush +1 Lap
18. Eric Haga + 1 lap
19. Kerry McIntosh + 1 lap
20. John Bryant + 1 lap
21. Warwick Mortimer + 2 Laps
22. Judy Lyons + 2 laps
Fastest lap: Michael Lyons 1:00.813
DNS 2 Alastair Russell, Stuart Lush, Gregory Thornton, 27 Chris Lambden
Race 2 (8 laps)
1. Michael Lyons 1.01.064
2. Ken Smith +5.579
3. Mark Dwyer +17.955
4. Brett Willis +34.878
5. Michael Whatley +35.078
6. Frank Lyons +36.349
7. Aaron Burson +47.344
8. John McKinley +47.344
9. Shayne Windelburn +50.796
10. Alan Dunkley +51.834
11. Greg Thornton +55.654
12. Stuart Lush +1.05.402
13. David Arrowsmith +1.05.712
14. Peter Burson + 1 lap
15. David Banks + 1 lap
16. Steve Ross + 1 lap
17. Kerry McIntosh +1 lap
18. Warwick Mortimer +1 lap
19. Tim Rush +1 lap
20. John Bryant + 1 lap
21. Eric Haga +1 lap
22. Judy Lyons + 1 lap
dnf Clark Proctor, Roger Williams.
Race 3 (8 laps)
1. Michael Lyons 8 laps
2. Ken Smith +2.048
3. Clark Proctor +2.261
4. Steve Ross +3.991
5. Michael Whatley +8.201
6. Brett Willis +8.664
7. Alan Dunkley +9.916
8. John MacKinlay +10.658
9. David Arrowsmith +13.225
10. Frank Lyons +13.584
11. Warwick Mortimer +14.219
12. Tim Rush +17.937
13. Aaron Burson +19.410
14. Eric Haga +28.219
dnf Kerry McIntosh
dns John Bryant, Mark Dwyer, Roger Williams, Stuart Lush, Shane Windelburn, Greg Thornton, David Banks, Peter Burson, Judy Lyons.
Race 4 (15 laps)
1. Michael Lyons 15 laps
2. Steve Ross +9.671
3. Ken Smith +22.204
4. Clark Proctor +25.460
5. Mark Dwyer +32.323
6. Brett Willis +42.828
7. Aaron Burson +55.987
8. Michael Whatley +56.528
9. Frank Lyons +57.288
10. Shayne Windelburn + 1 lap
11. Alan Dunkley + 1 lap
12. David Arrowsmith + 1 lap
13. Peter Burson + 1 lap
14. David Banks + 1 lap
15. John Bryant + 2 laps
16. Eric Haga + 3 laps
dnf Tim Rush, Stuart Lush, Judy Lyons
dns Roger Williams, John MacKinlay, Warwick Mortimer.
NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival 2011 / 2012 – Race Calendar
Rnd 1: Nov 05/06 2011 Wigram Revival meeting, Powerbuilt Tools Raceway @ Ruapuna Park Christchurch
Rnd 2: Nov 12-13 2011 MG Classic Manfeild Feilding
Rnd 3: Jan 21-22 2012 NZ Festival of Motor Racing – BMW meeting x 1 Hampton Downs Auckland
Rnd 4: Jan 28-29 2012 NZ Festival of Motor Racing – BMW meeting x 2 Hampton Downs Auckland
Rnd 5: Feb 04/05 2012 Skope Classic meeting Powerbuilt Tools Raceway @ Ruapuna Park Christchurch
Rnd 6: March 09-11 2012 Phillip Island Classic meeting Phillip Island Victoria Australia
[Source: NZ F5000 Association; photo credit: Fast Company/Alex Mitchell]