DISAPPOINTING WEEKEND FOR LOLA DRIVERS AT RUAPUNA PARKNO LOLA PODIUMS THIS WEEKEND.
Auckland driver Clark Proctor's winning run in this season's MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series has continued on the first day of competition at the Canterbury Car Club's annual Skope Classic motor racing meeting in Christchurch.
Last Sunday the former Speedway, NZV8s and Targa front-runner who drives a 1973 model March 73A claimed a popular debut category win in the 15-lap feature final at the second NZ Festival of Motor Racing - celebrating Denny Hulme meeting at Hampton Downs.
Today he made it win number two, pipping defending series champion Steve Ross (McRae GM1) for pole position in the morning qualifying session before setting the fastest race lap on his way to a lights-to-flag win in the eight lap race.
In hot dry conditions Proctor proved the class of the 20-strong field, establishing an early buffer over a determined Ross, the pair quickly pulling away from third quickest qualifier Michael Whatley in the first of the earlier Class A cars (a Surtees TS8), Whatley's fellow Brit Greg Thornton (McRae GM1) and a trans-Tasman battle pack led by category returnee Sefton Gibb (Lola T332) from Napier and Paul Zazryn (Lola T332) and Bryan Sala (Matich A50) from Melbourne.
Ross was resolute in his pursuit of Proctor, but despite closing the gap to less than a car length at the hairpin at one stage, couldn't find a way past.
"Yes," he dead-panned after the race, "we had a few problems....the main one being the yellow car in front of us!"
For his part Proctor said his second win in as many races was as much a tribute to the tireless work his crew and family have put in since he joined the MSC series. That and the fact that a gamble he took in the red flag-interrupted qualifying session in the morning paid off.
"It (the win) is definitely a reward for the whole team. I was a bit lucky getting pole given the circumstances (Proctor only managed two full pace laps before the session was red flagged because of oil on the track) but I took a gamble that no one else would be able to better the time I set given the conditions."
He was right too, as he was about how Ross would respond in the race.
"I knew Steve was going to be strong under brakes into Turn 1 because he is always really good there but fortunately for me he wasn't able to get close enough to take advantage and in the end it was a pretty easy win."
As Proctor and Ross eased away Whatley circulated quickly and cleanly in third with Thornton fourth but not really closing the gap and Sefton Gibb - making an impressive return to the series after 18 months out of his Lola T332 - fifth, Paul Zazryn and Bryan Sala vigorously disputing sixth and category young gun Alan Dunkley (Lola T140) seventh.
After fixing a gearbox problem which saw him run his other car, a Lola T300, at the second NZ Festival meeting at Hampton Downs last weekend, Whatley was back to his crowd-pleasing best in the older Surtees, explaining; "That was the best place (third) I've ever qualified in this series so I was determined not to give it up. It wasn't easy holding out (Greg Thornton) because his car has much better aero than mine so I was giving it everything I had, 100% in some corners and 110% in others."
Sefton Gibb was having a similar run, attributing his strong pace to "some clever little things we've done to the car over the winter," and the fact that though it took him a while in testing to get rid of the cobwebs, come race day "it all comes back to you pretty quickly."
Behind Alan Dunkley, Blenheim man Russell Greer (Lola T332) caught and passed Lola T430 driver David Abbott with Abbott leading a three car freight train consisting of Lola T332 drivers Peter Sundberg and Stan Redmond and last season's series runenr-up Aaron Burson driving his Talon MR1-A.
Behind him his father Peter Burson (McRae GM1) eventually got the better of visiting Australian driver Bill Hemming (Elfin MR8) to close the finish line in 15th place with Rod O'Carroll, who had been able to repair damage to his Lola T140 sustained at Hampton Downs with the help of Christchurch-based F5000 specialists Motorsport Solutions Ltd, 16th and compatriot John Bryant in a similar Lola T140 18th.
Auckland driver David Banks (Talon MR1) was running strongly early on, only to be forced to pit with a flat tyre on the first lap and category original Eric Haga (Lola T190 ran low on fuel after the field were given an extra warm-up lap before the start!
Today's race was the first of three for the MSC F5000s on the programme at this year's Skope Classic meeting with two more tomorrow, another eight-lap sprint in the morning and a 15-lap feature final in the afternoon.
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, Avon Tyres and Exide. Invercargill's Teretonga Park hosts the final round at the Classic Speedfest meeting in a fortnight's time.
Qualifying1. Clark Proctor (March 73A-1) 01:20.130
2. Steve Ross (McRae GM1) 01:20.261
3. Mike Whatley (Surtees TS8) 01:22.393
4. Sefton Gibb (Lola T332) 01:22.401
5. Gregory Thornton (McRae GM1) 01:22.807
6. Paul Zazryn (Lola T332) 01:22.968
7. Bryan Sala (Matich A50) 01:23.730
8. Russell Greer (Lola T332) 01:24.253
9. David Abbott (Lola T430) 01:24.571
10. Peter Sundberg (Lola T332) 01:24.664
11. Peter Dunn (March 73A) 01:24.933
12. Alan Dunkley (Lola T140) 01:25.282
13. Aaron Burson (Talon MR1-A) 01:25.562
14. David Banks (Talon MR1) 01:26.120
15. Peter Burson (McRae GM1) 01:27.026
16. David Arrowsmith (Lotus 70) 01:27.154
17. Stan Redmond (Lola T332) 01:29.013
18. Rod Carroll (Lola T140) 01:32.855
19. Eric Haga (Lola T190)01:33.658
20. Bill Hemming (Elfin MR8) 01:35.060
21. John Bryant (Lola T140) 01:36.610
23. Aaron Burson (Talon MR1A) no time
Race 1 (8 laps Sat)1. Clark Proctor 10:43.984
2. Steve Ross +00:00.756
3. Mike Whatley +00:23.678
4. Gregory Thornton +00:25.660
5. Sefton Gibb +00:30.139
6. Paul Zazryn +00:32.008
7. Bryan Sala +00:32.837
8. Alan Dunkley +00:37.666
9. Russell Greer +00:38.277
10. David Abbott +00:41.814
11. Peter Sundberg +00:42.620
12. Stan Redmond +00:43.072
13. Aaron Burson +00:44.330
14. Aaron Lewis +00:45.882
15. Peter Burson +01:21.517
16. Bill Hemming +01:26.825
17. Rod Carroll +01:27.339
18. John Bryant +1 Lap
DNF. Eric Haga, David Banks
Fastest lap: Clark Proctor 01:19.813
SUNDAY REPORTNew MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series paceman Clark Proctor (March 73A) again proved the man to beat in the 12-lap NZ Express-sponsored final at the annual Skope Classic meeting in Christchurch on Sunday.
It was the second win of the weekend at the 3.33km Powerbuilt Tools Raceway at Ruapuna Park circuit for the talented Auckland-based all-rounder, who claimed his debut series pole position and win at the fifth MSC series round at Auckland's Hampton Downs circuit a week before, and who only missed out on a sixth round series clean sweep at this weekend's penultimate 2012/13 series round when a brake line blew while he was leading the second race of the weekend earlier in the day.
Defending series champion Steve Ross (McRae GM1) shadowed Proctor in the red flag-interrupted qualifying session on Saturday morning and beat a slowing Proctor to the finish line in the first race of the day on Sunday morning but the lap times told the story, Proctor quickest in all three races, including the second before he was slowed by the brake problem.
After the final, however, Proctor was just as happy talking about Ross, a driver who - like fellow former series champion Ken Smith - has set the bar in the class so high.
"Steve's a good competitor, a great guy to race against and a good all round guy off the track as well. He and Kenny are the guys who have set the milestones in this class so they are the guys, when you come into the class, you aim at. Yes, the class is first and foremost about the cars but there's still an element of competitiveness amongst the drivers and Steve is a benchmark so it is really great to compete with him at this level," he said.
In hot, dry conditions in front of a large and appreciative crowd Proctor and Ross thundered away from the rolling start at the start of the feature NZ Express final side by side but Proctor was already a couple of car lengths ahead as he and Ross accelerated away from the first corner with UK-based series regular Greg Thornton slotting his ex Stu Lush McRae GM1 into third ahead of a fast-starting Russell Greer (Lola T332), Class A standout Michael Whatley (Surtees TS8) and the first of the six-strong contingent of visiting Australian drivers, Paul Zazryn (Lola T332).
That's how the order looked like it was going to stay too, until Michael Whatley pitted to check out fluctuating oil pressure (a problem quickly traced to a cracked oil tank). That elevated Greer to fourth until he was shuffled back to sixth by Paul Zazryn and compatriot Bryan Sala (Matich A50).
Behind Sala, Greer led a race-long battle for Lola supremacy initially fronted by David Abbott (Lola T430) from Sefton Gibb (Lola T332), series young gun Alan Dunkley (Lola T140) and Peter Sundberg (Lola T332 with Australian Aaron Lewis in the other Matich A50 in 11th and Talon MR1 pair Aaron Burson and David Banks disputing 12th.
Initially, Proctor and Ross pulled away from Thornton but as Ross got closer their pace slowed, allowing Thornton to pull back a couple of car lengths and enjoy the dice from the best seat in the house.
"It was brilliant," he said."Clark and Steve are both champions and to be able to watch them at such close quarters was fantastic. They both used completely different lines which of course I tried and to be honest it was wonderful just to be within a second of them. My car was fantastic too and I think we are now getting back to the point where we were in Australia (where Thornton won two of the three MSC series races at the non-championship Tasman Revival meeting in November)."
A little further back former New Zealand saloon car star Peter Sundberg (LOla T332) was having one of his best MSC series races to date following Sefton Gibb past David Abbott (Lola T430) mid race and eventually crossing the finish line in eight place.
Behind Abbott, Talon MR1 drivers Aaron Burson and David Banks remained close and Aaron's father Peter (McRae GM1) again got the better of Australian visitors Bill Hemming (Elfin MR8) and Rod Carroll (Lola T140) after the trio swapped places throughout the race.
(Race 2 8 laps Sunday)With another crack start and a healthy early margin on Steve Ross, Clark Proctor looked set to win the second race too, leading comfortable until slowing on the fourth lap with a long brake pedal, letting Ross close back up and a lap later find a way past.
"The problem," he explained afterwards,"was the clip on the brake line on the right rear caliper let go. On about the fourth lap the pedal started getting a little spongy which affected my gear changing then by about lap five the brake pedal was absolutely on the floor."
Behind Proctor, Ross and Michael Whatley the big mover was Paul Zazryn who slotted into fourth place in front of Greg Thornton and Sefton Gibb. Behind Gibb, young gun Dunkley circulated in seventh until caught and passed by a hard-charging Bryan Sala with fellow Matich driver Aaron Lewis in ninth in front of local Lola men Russell Greer, David Abbott, Peter Sundberg and Stan Redmond.
By the third lap Greg Thornton had caught and passed Zazryn with Bryan Sala edging away from Gibb, Dunkley, Lewis and the battling duo of Greer and Abbott.
Twice Abbott got past Greer but each time Greer was able to respond and take the positioin back.
"Yes," said Greer, "one of those times I made a mistake and David got past me but then he made an even bigger one (mistake) and I was able to get the place back!"
Just ahead, Sala was edging closer to Paul Zazryn, while Greg Thornton was slowly reeling in Michael Whatley.
Neither quite managed to gain another position before the chequered flag came out but at the flag the gap between the two English drivers was just 0.134 of a second, the one between Zazryn and Sala just 0.168.
Having lost valuable set-up time with driveline issues at the two Hampton Downs rounds Sala in particular was enjoying the opportunity to dial driver and car into the track and concentrate on his lap times.
"Yesterday," he said, "we were still learning the track, now we are just fine-tuning the car to get it handling a bit better round here."
Compatriot Paul Zazryn was also proving a quick learner.
"Yes," he said, "I'm loving it here, having a ball. I was actually quite surprised when I got up to fourth but after a couple of laps I felt I was pretty comfortable there. After Greg went past I could see Bryan coming but by that stage it was just a matter of keeping the car straight and on the Island."
Compatriot Aaron Lewis ran in ninth place until mid race when his car went off song and he slipped back down the field to 15th place.
"It's the (fuel) pumps," he explained afterwards."The battery won't run the pumps for long enough so the voltage drops and the fuel pressure goes down to 80 pounds and that's that. Unless I can find a battery with more grunt we'll have the same problem in the final."
Race 2 (Sun 8 laps)1. Steve Ross 10:43.393
2. Clark Proctor +00:14.397
3. Mike Whatley +00:17.957
4. Gregory Thornton +00:18.091
5. Paul Zazryn +00:24.101
6. Bryan Sala +00:24.269
7. Sefton Gibb +00:28.378
8. Alan Dunkley +00:28.633
9. Russell Greer +00:30.174
10. David Abbott +00:36.159
11. Peter Sundberg +00:36.781
12. Stan Redmond +00:37.577
13. Aaron Burson +00:38.211
14. David Banks +00:47.346
15. Aaron Lewis +00:50.229
16. Peter Burson +01:11.323
17. Rod Carroll +01:13.05
18. Bill Hemming +01:13.417
19. Eric Haga +1 Lap
20 31 John Bryant +1 Lap
Fastest lap: Clark Proctor 1:19.394
Race 3 (12 laps Sun)1. Clark Proctor 16:05.983
2. Steve Ross +00:02.109
3. Gregory Thornton +00:29.922
4. Paul Zazryn +00:38.811
5. Bryan Sala +00:39.462
6. Russell Greer +00:42.681
7. Sefton Gibb +00:43.462
8. Peter Sundberg +00:43.750
9. Alan Dunkley + 00:45.848
10. David Abbott +00:48.882
11. Aaron Burson +00:52.522
12. David Banks +00:55.501
13. Peter Burson +1 Lap
14. Bill Hemming +1 Lap
15. Rod Carroll +1 Lap
16. John Bryant +2 Laps
DNF Stan Redmond, Aaron Lewis, Eric Haga Mike Whatley
Fastest lap: Clark Proctor 01:19.875
CalendarRnd 1: Aug 31-Sept 02 2012 Muscle Car Masters meeting Sydney Motorsport Park (Eastern Creek) Sydney (full circuit)
Rnd 2: Oct 26-28 2012 Wigram Revival meeting Powerbuilt Tools Raceway @ Ruapuna Park Christchurch
Rnd 3: Nov 23-25 2012 Tasman Revival meeting Sydney Motorsport Park (Eastern Creek) Sydney (non-points)
Rnd 4: Jan 18-20 2013 NZ Festival of Motor Racing - Denny Hulme meeting x 1 Hampton Downs Auckland
Rnd 5: Jan 25-27 2013 NZ Festival of Motor Racing - Denny Hulme meeting x 2 Hampton Downs Auckland
Rnd 6: Feb 01-03 2013 Skope Classic meeting Powerbuilt Tools Raceway @ Ruapuna Park Christchurch
Rnd 7: Feb 15-17 2013 Classic Speedfest meeting Teretonga Park Invercargill
All pictures courtesy of Fast Company/Alex Mitchell.
Finishing fifth in Saturday's race on his return to the series was Napier man Sefton Gibb (Lola T332).
The start of Saturday's race.
Start of Sunday's Feature Race.
A superb sight.
Sefton Gibb (Lola T332) had a weekend best finish of fifth in the second MSC race on Sunday morning.