Second-generation racer Michael Lyons (Lola T400) marked himself as a driver to watch with two MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series wins from three starts at the annual Skope Classic motor racing meeting in Christchurch on February 5-6, 2011.
In sweltering temperatures which topped 33 degrees C just as the 18-strong field of V8-engined Formula 5000 single-seaters lined up for the 12-lap Mobil 1 feature in the middle of the afternoon, 20-year-old British driver Lyons followed fellow front row starter Steve Ross (McRae GM1) for five laps before muscling his way past into a lead he would never lose at the beginning of the sixth.
After claiming his debut MSC series win in the weekend’s second MSC series race earlier in the day Lyons was in a confident frame of mind heading into the final but having played second fiddle to his young adversary off the start in the first and second races, it was Ross who got the better of the start in the third, holding the advantage until the end of the fourth lap when he went wide at the sweeping corner which leads onto Powerbuilt Tools Raceway’s start/finish straight.
“I just went in way too hot,” the Dunedin man admitted. “I tried to gather it all back together but by the time I got the thing straight he (Lyons) was gone.”
Having already proved his speed and racecraft in the first race of the weekend on Saturday afternoon, then led the second from start to finish, young gun Lyons – whose father Frank (Gurney-Eagle FA74) crossed the finish line four places behind – was probing for just such an opportunity when Ross went wide and – not surprisngly – grabbed it with both hands
“Because its such a hard place to pass here I had to spend the first couple of laps working out who was quick where so when I sent Steve in a bit deep at the sweeper I was able to cut back in, get alongside and keep my foot in it until I was past, ” he said.
With race one winner Jay Esterer (McRae GM1) a reluctant spectator after damaging an engine on his way to his Saturday win, the finishing order in the second MSC series race of the weekend on Sunday morning was Lyons, Ross, MSC series points leader Ken Smith (Lola T430) and Peter Dunn (March 73A).
In the 12-lap Mobil 1 feature, meanwhile, it was Lyons, Ross and Mark Dwyer (Lola T400).
For most of the race Dwyer circulated in fifth position behind Lyons, Ross, top local (Christchurch) driver Tony Richards and Ken Smith, but Richards and Smith tangled through the infield with less than a lap to go, gifting the final step of the podium to Dwyer with race winner Lyons’ father Frank fifth and fellow UK visitor Peter Dunn sixth.
Behing the leading bunch there was another good multi-car battle for the mid-field placings with Frank Lyons forcing his way past Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) on the first lap before settling into eighth just behind Peter Dunn and Ian Clements (Lola T332). Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) finished sixth in the eight lap sprint race in the morning but found his car overheating in the oven-like heat in the final, eventually crossing the finish line in eighth place, just in front of giant-killing veteran Michael Whatley (Surtees TS8) in the first of the older Class A cars.
Race 2 (8 laps)
The weekend’s second MSC series race on Sunday morning gave Michael Lyons his debut series win, the young UK driver edging away from fellow front row starter Steve Ross off the rolling start before pulling out a lead he never looked like losing.
In the absence of first race winner Jay Esterer, the Canadian sidelined by engine problems, Lyons ran a lonely race, pulling out an early advantage over Ross with Ken Smith a similar distance back in third.
As the field sorted itself out on the first lap Lyons led Ross, Smith, race one standout Tony Richards and Mark Dwyer though neither Dwyer nor Richards made it to the end of the lap. Richards was the first to go when his car’s battery cried enough, Dwyer following soon after with a gearbox problem.
Behind them Andrew Higgins caught and passed Aaron Burson under braking into the sweeper to claim seventh place but race positions remained static for the next two lap as the Safety Car was introduced to allow track workers to move Richards prone car.
That bunched the field back up but any hope Ross might have had of latching onto the tail of Lyons’s Lola T400 were dashed when the 20-year-old also got the better of the re-start, quickly re-establishing the advantage he had and setting the fastest race lap on his way to a three-and-a-half second victory from Ross with Smith third, Peter Dunn fourth, Andrew Higgins fifth and Aaron Burson sixth.
Former MSC series champion Ian Clements had been running fifth between Dunn and Higgins, but he stopped early with a broken half shaft.
David Abbott and Frank Lyons were also running well early on before being forced out of the race, Abbott with a gearbox problem, Lyons with fuel starvation.
In their absence, Greg Thornton (Chevron B24) steadily worked his way through the field getting past Reg Cook for 10th place with one lap to go and just pipped compatriot Michael Whatley for ninth place on the line.
Race 1 (8 laps) Saturday
It was the McRae GM1s of Steve Ross and Jay Esterer, meanwhile, which were the cars to beat on the first day of competition at the Skope meeting on Saturday, Ross bouncing back from a dnf in the final MSC race at the third round of the series at Hampton Downs the Sunday before to claim pole from Michael Lyons, and Esterer winning the first MSC series race of the weekend from Tony Richards and Lyons.
Having won all three races at Hampton Downs the weekend before, Esterer had every right to be confident heading into the Saturday race. But when poleman Ross was swamped at the start all bets were off.
Chief beneficiary of the confusion was Tony Richards who rocketed into an early lead from the outside of the second row of the grid and led until the penultimate lap when Esterer – who had smashed the lap record as he carved his way back up through the field – finally made it back to the front.
While Esterer was on his charge Richards and Lyons initially disputed the lead from Mark Dwyer, Peter Dunn and Ian Clements with Ken Smith, Steve Ross and David Abbott (Lola T430) line astern.
After running comfortably in third then fourth place (once he was passed by Esterer) Mark Dwyer was forced to stop on the fifth lap with a loose nose cone, while soon after compatriot Greg Thornton brought out the double waved yellow flags after slowing and pulling off the circuit adjacent the start/finish line with a driveline problem.
The flags could not have come out at a better time for Esterer, with Richards and Lyons slowing just enough to allow the quick Canadian to hook into their draft and slingshot past when the Safety Car returned to the pits.
While all this was going on up front the battle for places in the mid-field was just as intense with Steve Ross eventually crossing the finish line fifth from Peter Dunn, Ian Clements, Aaron Burson, David Abbott, Frank Lyons, Michael Whatley and Reg Cook.
Blenheim driver Russell Greer (Lola T332) was also in the mix until, like Dwyer, he was forced to stop with loose bodywork.
With four of the six rounds completed, the battle for the 2010/11 MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series now heads to Invercargill’s Teretonga Park for the penultimate round in a fortnight’s time before crossing the Tasman a month later for the grand final the Qantas Australia Formula 1 Grand Prix meeting in March.
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 Skope Classic meeting Powerbuilt Tools Raceway @ Ruapuna Park Sat-Sun Feb 05-06
New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival 2011 – Skope Classic Qualifying
1. Steve Ross (McRae GM1) 1.18.781
2. Michael Lyons (Lola T400) 1.18.981
3. Jay Esterer (McRae GM1) 1.18.989
4. Tony Richards (Lola T332) 1.19.113
5. Ken Smith (Lola T430) 1.19.294
6. Peter Dunn (March 73A) 1.22.045
7. Mark Dwyer (Lola T400) 1.22.142
8. Ian Clements (Lola T332) 1.22.313
9. Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) 1.22.794
10. David Abbott (Lola T430) 1.22.800
11. Frank Lyons (Gurney-Eagle FA74) 1.23.164
12. Russell Greer (Lola T332) 1.23.477
13. Michael Whatley (Surtees TS8) 1.23.624
14. Reg Cook (Lola T400) 1.23.716
15. Stuart Lush (McRae GM1) 1.23.795
16. Greg Thornton (Chevron B34)
17. Phil Mauger (McLaren M23) 1.25.800
18. Peter Burson (McRae GM1) 1.26.682
19. Stan Redmond (Lola T332) 1.27.829
20. Andy Higgins (Lola T400) 1.31.196
New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival 2011 – Skope Classic Race 1 (8 laps)
1. Jay Esterer 10.46.529
2. Tony Richards +0.711
3. Michael Lyons +1.959
4. Ken Smith +10.786
5. Steve Ross +14.299
6. Peter Dunn +25.959
7. Ian Clements +28.632
8. Aaron Burson +35.050
9. David Abbott +35.511
10. Frank Lyons +40.556
11. Michael Whatley +50.484
12. Reg Cook +51.457
13. Stan Redmond +51.836
14. Phil Mauger +1.06.001
15. Peter Burson +1.12.347
16. Kerry McIntosh +1 lap
17. Andy Higgins +1 lap
dnf Russell Greer, Greg Thornton, Mark Dwyer, Stuart Lush.
Fastest lap (and new lap record) Jay Esterer 1.18.164
New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival 2011 – Skope Classic Race 2 (8 laps)
1. Michael Lyons 12.13.408
2. Steve Ross +3.509
3. Ken Smith +7.544
4. Peter Dunn +8.679
5. Andrew Higgins +0.141
6. Aaron Burson +11.678
7. Russell Greer +8.594
8. Greg Thornton +5.036
9. Michael Whatley +0.207
10. Reg Cook +0.437
11. Stan Redmond +0.527
12. Peter Burson +13.518
13. Phil Mauger +3.108
14. Peter Sundberg +0.268
15. Kerry McIntosh –
dnf; Frank Lyons, David Abbott, Ian Clements, Stu Lush, Tony Richards, Mark Dwyer
Fastest lap: Michael Lyons 1.19.694
New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival 2011 – Skope Classic Race 3 (12 laps)
1. Michael Lyons 16.14.999
2. Steve Ross +8.625
3. Mark Dwyer +32.296
4. Ian Clements +34.174
5. Frank Lyons +39.932
6. Peter Dunn +41.793
7. Andrew Higgins +46.612
8. Aaron Burson +1.09.822
9. Michael Whatley +1.10.396
10. Reg Cook +1.17.757
11. Russell Greer +1.29.288
12. Peter Burson +1 lap
13. Peter Sundberg +1 lap
dnf. Tony Richards, Ken Smith, Stan Redmond, Kerry McIntosh, Greg Thornton.
Fastest lap: Michael Lyons 1.19.903