Phillip Island Classic
Fri-Sun March 09-11

Kiwi Steve Ross (McRae GM1) wrapped up the 2011/12 MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series title in style with a win in the feature eight lap final at the Phillip Island Classic motor racing meeting in Australia on Sunday.

The series win is the Dunedin contractor's first in three year's contesting the MSC series and comes after early career success at home in the Pre 65 and OSCA classes.

Heading into the weekend it looked like 25-year-old US-based professional James Davison (Lola T332) would have the upper hand, but though the third-generation Australian racer claimed pole position with a time a second-and-a-half quicker than Ross, it was Ross who won three of the four races and set the fastest race lap in the feature final.

With two laps to go it looked like the Kiwi would finish second in the other race, too, until he mistook the final lap flag for the chequered one and slowed down, allowing Andrew Robson (Lola T332) to demote him to third before he realised his mistake.

Robson, driving the Lola T332 originally owned and raced in the 1970s with much success by three-time MSC F5000 series champion Ken Smith, ended up best of the rest of the bumper MSC F5000 field, splitting race winner Steve Ross and third placeman David Abbott (Lola T430) in the first race of the weekend on Saturday morning then finishing second to either Ross or Davison in the other races.

Abbott, in turn, was the best of the other New Zealand-based MSC series regulars, qualifying fourth then finishing third in the first race, fifth in the second and fourth in each Sunday race.

Sunday's races were not just close run affairs up front either, Abbott leading home a tightly-bunched freight train of cars in the 6 lap morning outing with UK-based MSC series regular Greg Thornton (Chevron B24) fifth, eventual series runner-up Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) sixth and former series champion Ian Clements (Lola T332) from Christchurch sixth.

A little further back Kiwi Russell Greer and Australian Darcy Russell circulated nose-to-tail in their similar Lolas (Greer's the ex Graeme Lawrence T332, Russell's the ex Max Stewart/Kevin Bartlett T330) with series newcomer David Arrowsmith again the first of the Class A (for earlier cars) runners in his recently acquired Ford-powered Lotus 70.

For 2011/12 series runner-up Aaron Burson the fourth and final race was his best, the Aucklander crossing the line four seconds behind Abbott in fifth with Brian Sala (Matich A50) and Ian Clements (Lola T332) on his tail.

Greg Thornton separated Abbott and Burson for much of the race, but ran low on fuel in the final lap, slipping back to eighth place and crossing the finish line just in front of Sefton Gibb (Lola T332). Paul Zazryn (Lola T332) and the trans-Tasman duo of Russell Greer and Darcy Russell.

That's it for the MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series for another year but the success of that series has spawned a new one in Australia, the Australian F5000 Cup for which the Phillip Island Classic meeting was the openin round. Subsequent rounds of that series will be held at major historic motor racing meetings in Australia during the year with the final at one of the early rounds of the 2012/13 MSC F5000 (New Zealand) series meaning both series compliment rather than compete against each other. 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.

Dunedin driver Steve Ross (McRae GM1) has so far proved the man to beat at the final round of the 2011/12 MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series at Australia's Phillip Island circuit this weekend - despite the speed of local ring-in James Davison (Lola T332).

Davison, 25, who races professionally in the United States, set a blistering pace to snatch pole position in qualifying from MSC series champion-elect Ross on Friday. But it was Ross who won the first two MSC F5000 races on the programme at the annual Phillip Island Classic meeting today, the first from Australian Andrew Robson (Lola T332), Kiwi David Abbott (Lola T430) and Australian Bryan Sala (Matich A50), the second from the Aussie trio of Robson, Sala and a resurgent Davison.

The young third-generation Australian driver, whose cousin Will won the second V8 Supercar race at the Clipsal 500 meeting in Adelaide last weekend, conceded the start of the first race to fellow front row starter Ross but was closing in for a pass at the hairpin on the third lap when a driveshaft failed, leaving his car stranded in the gravel trap.

The car - which his father Jon used to race in Australian in the late 1970s - was repaired in time for the second race, but because he hadn't finished the first the former Formula Atlantic and Firestone Indy Lights series front-runner had to start it from the back row of the grid, meaning Ross went on to win a second race unchallenged.

Behind the leading four - Ross, Robson, Abbott and Sala - in the first race came former MSC F5000 series champion Ian Clements, (Lola T332) with a small gap back to UK-based series regular Greg Thornton (Chevron B24) and Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) with similar gaps back to Brett Willis (Lola T330) and Darcy Russell (Lola T332), and Sefton Gibb and Russell Greer (both Lola T332), and Christchurch series rookie David Arrowsmith the first of the Class A (for earlier model cars) category drivers home in 12th place.

The big question in the second race was how far could Davison make it back up through the field before the chequered flag came out, the answer, fourth place, his progress aided by the race's quickest lap, a 1.30.1503. Not as quick as the 1.29.6362 he set in qualifying, but still just over a second better than Steve Ross' best in the race.

Behind Davison at the flag came David Abbott then a five car battle-pack consisting of Greg Thornton, Ian Clements, Aaron Burson, Sefton Gibb and Brett Willis.

A little further back, American visitors Scott Drnek (Surtees TS8) and Eric Haga (Lola T190) were enjoying their introduction to Australasia's fastest circuit, Drnek driving fellow American Harin de Silva's ex Peter Revson Surtees TS8, 70-year-old Haga - who contested three of the New Zealand-based rounds of the 2011/12 MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series - the very same Lola T190 he ran first time around in the United States in the 1970s.

1. James Davison (Lola T332) 1:29.6362
2. Steve Ross (McRae GM1) 1:31.3099
3. Andrew Robson (Lola T332) 1:31.9762
4. David Abbott (Lola T430) 1:33.3947
5. Ian Clements (Lola T332) 1:34.7349
6. Paul Zazryn (Lola T332) 1:34.8189
7. Bryan Sala (Matich A50) 1:35.5243
8. Greg Thornton (Chevron B24) 1:35.9145
9. Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) 1:36.8644
10. Darcy Russell (Lola T330) 1:36.9202
11. Brett Willis (Lola T330) 1:36.9277
12. Sefton Gibb (Lola T332) 1:37.3711
13. Russell Greer (Lola T332) 1:38.4646
14. Chris Hocking (Matich A52) 1:39.2454
15. Dave Arrowsmith (Lotus 70B) 1:39.2682
16. Scott Drnek (Surtees TS8) 1:39.7216
17. Graham Smith (March 73A) 1:40.2400
18. Bill Hemming (Elfin MR8 AC) 1:42.0460
19. Robert Harborow (Elfin MR8) 1:42.5898
20. Philip Lewis (Matich A50) 1:43.4713
21. John Bryant (Lola T140) 1:44.9685
22. Jay Bondini (Lola T332) 1:47.9765
23. Timothy Rush (McLaren M22-3) 1:51.2272

Race 1 (Sat 5 laps)
1. Steve Ross 7:40.812
2. Andrew Robson 7:49.7320
3. David Abbott 7:54.1416
4. Bryan Sala 7:54.3979
5. Ian Clements 7:55.2411
6. Greg Thornton 8:05.1892
7. Aaron Burson 8:05.3072
8. Brett Willis 8:09.8070
9. Darcy Russell 8:10.7555
10. Sefton Gibb 8:15.7387
11. Russell Greer 8:15.7606
12. Dave Arrowsmith 8:18.5075
13. Chris Hocking 8:18.6269
14. Bill Hemming 8:30.9175
15. Scott Drnek 8:30.9728
16. Philip Lewis 8:35.5418
17. Robert Harborow 8:47.2281
18. John Bryant 8:54.4184
19. Jay Bondini 8:58.2834
20. Timothy Rush 9:21.7907
21. Eric Haga (Lola T190) 7:52.5426

DNF Paul Zazryn (Lola T332), Graham Smith (March 73A), James Davison (Lola T332)

Race 2 (Sat 6 laps)
1. Steve Ross 9:16.3933
2. Andrew Robson 9:22.7601
3. Bryan Sala 9:24.4205
4. James Davison 9:27.0463
5. David Abbott 9:36.2926
6. Greg Thornton 9:41.7281
7. Ian Clements 9:42.0878
8. Aaron Burson 9:42.4318
9. Sefton Gibb 9:42.7369
10. Brett Willis 9:43.0950
11. Darcy Russell 9:47.3020
12. Russell Greer 9:48.3394
13. Dave Arrowsmith 9:56.7463
14. Bill Hemming 10:12.0688
15. Scott Drnek 10:39.1963
16. Robert Harborow 10:39.9125
17. Philip Lewis 10:40.5954
18. Jay Bondini 10:55.2706
19. Eric Haga 9:41.0418

DNF Chris Hocking, John Bryant, Timothy Rush

Race 3 (Sun, 6 Laps)
1. James Davison 9:09.1226
2. Andrew Robson 9:23.6423
3. Steve Ross 9:27.6461
4. David Abbott 9:31.5410
5. Greg Thornton 9:31.7545
6. Aaron Burson 9:32.3621
7. Ian Clements 9:32.6542
8. Sefton Gibb 9:40.8712
9. Brett Willis 9:41.0821
10. Bryan Sala 9:45.4126
11. Russell Greer 9:50.5603
12. Darcy Russell 9:50.7879
13. Dave Arrowsmith 9:55.1512
14. Bill Hemming 10:05.0179
15. Philip Lewis 10:05.5641
16. Paul Zazryn 10:18.2385
17. Scott Drnek 10:31.1048
18. Jay Bondini 10:33.7391
19. Tim Rush 9:17.0280
20. Robert Harborow 9:17.1950
21. Eric Haga 9:38.7724

New category lap record James Davison (Lola T332) 1:29.3062

Race 4 (Sun 8 laps)
1. Steve Ross 12:21.8589
2. Andrew Robson 12:39.3619
3. James Davison 12:40.2964
4. David Abbott 12:40.8408
5. Aaron Burson 12:46.1548
6. Bryan Sala 12:46.2175
7. Ian Clements 12:46.5693
8. Greg Thornton 12:49.4614
9. Sefton Gibb 12:52.7510
10. Paul Zazryn 12:53.2443
11. Russell Greer 12:58.9577
12. Darcy Russell 12:59.1939
13. Brett Willis 13:06.2565
14. Bill Hemming 13:20.6072
15. Dave Arrowsmith 13:21.6203
16. Scott Drnek 13:21.8009
17. Philip Lewis 13:49.0367
18. Jay Bondini 14:08.4909
19. Robert Harborow 12:39.4749
20. Timothy Rush 12:41.3054
21. Eric Haga 13:22.5337

All pictures courtesy of Fast Company/Alex Mitchell.

Andrew Robson (Lola T332).

The stranded James Davison T332 at the hairpin

Australian Andrew Robson (Lola T332 leads Bryan Sala (Matich A50), and fellow Kiwi David Abbott (Lola T430) during the first MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series race of the weekend at Phillip Island.

Series winner Steve Ross (#5) shares the front row of the rolling start with Andrew Robson as the MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series field lines up for a rolling start to the third race of the weekend on Sunday morning.

David Abbott leads Aaron Burson.

Aaron Burson leads Sefton Gibb, James Davison and Brett Willis.

2011/12 Series winner Steve Ross (centre) is flanked by runner-up Aaron Burson (left) and third placed Brett Willis (right).