2013/14 MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series Rnd 4 (Final)

Skope Classic meeting
Mike Pero Motorsport Park (Ruapuna)
Jan 31-Feb 02 2014

He might have been behind the wheel of a different car - his father Frank's Gurney-Eagle FA74 - but the result was still the same for series young gun Michael Lyons on the first day of competition at the final round of the 2013/14 MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series at Christchurch's Mike Pero Motorsport Park (Ruapuna) today.

After blowing the engine in his own Lola T400 in practice on Friday the 23-year-old stepped into his father's Gurney-Eagle and with little more than a new seat and some minor suspension tweaks qualified it on pole and set a new category track lap record (at 1:17.723 almost half a second under the previous record set by visiting Canadian driver Jay Esterer in a McRae GM1 in 2011) on his way to victory in the first Mobil 1-backed 8-lap MSC series race at the annual Skope Classic meeting.

The victory extends Lyons Jnr's winning 2013/14 MSC series streak to seven and means he now holds the F5000 category lap record at two New Zealand circuits, Hampton Downs in the North Island and Mike Pero Motorsport Park (nee Ruapuna) in the South.

"The initial thougnt when Dad offered me his car was to say no, because I had already damaged one, "said Lyons Jnr, "but then David Abbott was kind enough to offer Dad his car (a Lola T430) so I thought, I might as well (drive the Gurney-Eagle).

"The good thing with the Eagle is that it is such an easy car to to drive. We had to take Dad's seat out so I could fit in it but the boys made me up one of my own overnight and apart from that, a bit of bar (antiroll) bar and a few tweaks to the suspension here and there everything else is as Dad raced it at Hampton Downs."
Lyons was second away at the start but once in the lead eased away from a front-running foursome which included series champion-elect Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) and third quickest qualifier, Tony Richards (Lola T332).

Enjoying one of his strongest runs just behind Richards was fellow Lola T332 driver Russell Greer with a gap back to a a three-way mid-field battle-pack consisting of Aaron Burson (McRae GM1), David Banks (Talon MR1) and Ian Clements (Lola T332).

Keeping pace behind them, meanwhile, were Frank Lyons in his borrowed Lola T430, Tony Richards' brother Glenn in only his third meeting behind the wheel of his Lola T400, and Tim Rush (McLaren M22) and Peter Burson (McRae GM1).

Local man Ian Clements had a close shave in qualifying, running off the track at high speed and grazing the tyre wall when bolts in a rear brake caliper broke, and - though the the time he had already set was good enough for P6 on the grid - started the race on P9 thanks to a new rule which penalises drivers who disrupt a qualifying session.

Another Christchurch-based driver, Dave Arrowsmith, was part of the mid-field group early on in his Class A Lotus 70, running in eighth spot until the fourth lap when he speared off the track and brought out the Safety Car.

That bunched up the field for the next two laps with the track only going green again for the final lap.

Determined not to lose his hard-won lead Michael Lyons not only timed the re-start just right, it was on the final lap that he set his new lap record...and afterwards reckoned he might go even quicker tomorrow!"

"We did in qualifying (his pole time was a 1:17.403) so yes I think I can get down to that time in a race," he said. Today's race was preceded by a minute's silence in honour of the late Stan Redmond.

It was a case of Michael Lyons (Gurney-Eagle FA74) winning the battles but Andy Higgins (Lola T400) the war at the final round of the 2013/14 MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series at Christchurch's Mike Pero Motorsport Park (nee Ruapuna) over the (Feb 01-02) weekend.

By winning the final Mobil 1-backed 12-lap MSC class feature race at the annual Skope Classic historic motor racing meeting 23-year-old British visitor Lyons completed a rare MSC series clean-sweep.

He won all five MSC series races and lowered his own outright track lap record at the two New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing meetings at Hampton Downs in the North Island in January then all three - and on his way twice lowering the F5000 category lap record - at Mike Pero Motorsport Park (nee Ruapuna) this weekend.

Because he contested all four rounds (to Lyons' three) of the 2013/14 MSC series Aucklander Higgins was always going to have an advantage as far as the overall series title was concerned. But it certainly wasn't all plain sailing for Lyons - who completed his eight-race winning streak behind the wheel of his father's Gurney-Eagle FA74 after blowing the engine of his own Lola T400 in practice in Christchurch on Friday.

Not that it seemed to affect him.

On Saturday Lyons lapped under Jay Esterer's existing category lap record in qualifying, just over a second quicker than defending series champion Steve Ross (McRae GM1), then went on to win the first MSC race of the weekend from Ross, Higgins, Tony Richards (Lola T332) and Russell Greer (Lola T332).

As he did in both subsequent races, fast starter Ross got the jump on Lyons off the line but each time Lyons reeled the Dunedin man in and used what would become his trademark pass (at the right hand Carousel corner) for a lead it only once looked like he would relinquish.

That was in the Saturday race when the Safety Car was dispatched while Dave Arrowsmith's prone Lotus 70 was being moved and the track did not go green again until the final lap.

Aware of how quick on the draw Steve Ross is Lyons put in a flier on that lap and was rewarded with a new category lap record.....which he promptly lowered again in the second eight lap race of the weekend on Sunday morning!

That race followed a similar pattern to Saturday's with Ross grabbing the early initiative only to have Lyons reel him in.

This time Lyons put in his lap record breaking time on the second lap, passing then pulling away to win by just over 11 seconds from Ross with Andy Higgins again third and - this time - Russell Greer fourth.

Tony Richards had been running third but late in the race he clipped his brother Glenn's Lola T400 as he was lapping it, putting both cars out of the race.

That just left the feature final, with the status quo remaining, despite the race finishing behind the Safety Car after Andy Higgins' Lola shed its left rear wheel with three laps to go.

"It was actually the wheel centre that broke," he explained afterwards. "I had just turned into the Carousel when there was this big bang. Better there I suppose than at the end of the main straight, but it was disappointing all the same because we've been really consistent this season and that's the only race we haven't finished." Fortunately for the 32-year-old from Auckland the car sustained no other damage and he still had enough of a points buffer to claim the 2013/14 MSC series title.

It's the first major series victory for second-generation racer Higgins and one he says he couldn't have even contemplated without the help and support of his father, historic single-seater and Porsche aficionado Paul Higgins, and their race engineer, Nigel Bunny. Not to mention the mentoring, support and friendship he has received over the the years from local racing great Ken Smith.

With Higgins out of the final, third place went to class stalwart Russell Greer and it was no surprise when the Blenheim man was presented with the new Stan Redmond Memorial trophy for 'The Most Spirited Drive' by Redmond's former crew chief and engine man Steve Weeber "Stan was a great character and any way we can honour him the better," said Greer, who attributes a new-found 'spring in his race step' to help with his race effort from Christchurch-based category specialist John Crawford and his Motorsport Solutions operation.

"That's my best result by a long shot," he said afterwards. "I've had a few fourths before but never a podium. I didn't even know where it was until this weekend and it's all down to John and his boys. Up until now I've been looking after the car and trying to drive it myself but John's attitude is, 'we'll look after the car, you concentrate of the driving and it's paying dividends as you can see."

Behind Greer came Tony Richards, who put in a swashbuckling drive in his repaired car to get from P10 on the grid to fourth at the flag, then Aaron Burson, Class A standout Dave Arrowsmith and Ian Clements, before a gap back to David Banks (who had a spin while dicing with Ian Clements but was able to continue unscathed), Tim Rush in the one-of-a-kind McLaren M22, Peter Burson (McRae GM1) and Glenn Richards (Lola T400) with race winner Michael Lyons' father Frank bracketing the field after a harmless spin of his own in the Lola T430 loaned to him by local man David Abbott.

With the MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series over for another season it now time for British visitors like the Lyons family return home and prepare for the 2014 northern hemisphere racing season.

But not before Michael and Frank join Kiwi F5000 counterparts Andre and Warwick Mortimer in a BMW M3 at the annual Liqui-Moly 12 Hour endurance race at Bathurst in Australia next weekend. "We're planning it as a real Dads' n Lads affair," said Michael. "It should be a lot of fun."

The MSC NZ 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, Webdesign and Exide.

1. Michael Lyons (Gurney-Eagle FA74) 01:17.430
2. Steve Ross (McRae GM1) 01:18.593
3. Tony Richards (Lola T332) 01:19.376
4. Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) 01:19.886
5. Russell Greer (Lola T332) 01:21.250
6. Ian Clements (Lola T332) 01:21.959
7. David Banks (Talon MR1) 01:22.048
8. Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) 01:22.734
9. Dave Arrowsmith (Lotus 70) 01:22.744
10. Glenn Richards (Lola T400) 01:23.607
11. Peter Burson (McRae GM1) 01:24.037
12. Frank Lyons (Lola T430) 01:24.303
13. Tim Rush (McLaren M22) 01:25.330
14. Judy Lyons (Lola T332) 02:13.701

Race 1 (Sat 8 laps)
1. Michael Lyons 11:44.076
2. Steve Ross +02.978
3. Andrew Higgins +05.899
4. Tony Richards +07.836
5. Russell Greer +08.650
6. Aaron Burson +10.336
7. David Banks +10.629
8. Ian Clements +11.132
9. Frank Lyons +15.609
10. Glenn Richards +16.245
11. Tim Rush +16.973
12. Peter Burson +17.536
DNF. Dave Arrowsmith, Judy Lyons

Fastest lap (and new class lap record) Michael Lyons (Gurney-Eagle FA74) 01:17.723

Race 2 (Sun 8 laps)
1. Michael Lyons 10:29.180
2. Steve Ross +11.456
3. Andrew Higgins +22.766
4. Russell Greer +32.891
5. Dave Arrowsmith +34.293
6. Aaron Burson +36.654
7. David Banks +37.176
8. Ian Clements +38.569
9. Tim Rush +50.164
10. Peter Burson +58.806
11. Judy Lyons +2 laps
DNF. Tony Richards, Glenn Richards

Fastest lap (and new class lap record) Michael Lyons (Gurney-Eagle FA74) 01:17.588

Race 3 (Sun 15 laps)
1. Michael Lyons 17:03.003
2. Steve Ross +01.880
3. Russell Greer +02.543
4. Tony Richards +03.121
5. Aaron Burson +03.678
6. Dave Arrowsmith +04.213
7. Ian Clements +05.364
8. David Banks +34.965
9. Tim Rush +35.283
10. Peter Burson +40.002
11. Glenn Richards +42.722
12. Frank Lyons +1 lap
DNF. Andrew Higgins, Judy Lyons
Fastest lap: Michael Lyons (Gurney-Eagle FA74) 01:18.475

Provisonal final series placings
1. Andy Higgins
2. Michael Lyons
3. Aaron Burson

Rnd 1: Nov 8-10 2013 'The Sound' MG Classic Manfeild Feilding
Rnd 2: Jan 17-19 2014 NZFMR Ferrari Festival - 1 Hampton Downs Nth Waikato
Rnd 3: Jan 24-26 2014 NZFMR Ferrari Festival - 2 Hampton Downs Nth Waikato
Rnd 4: Feb 01-02 2014 Skope Classic Mike Pero Motorsport Park (Ruapuna) Christchurch

2013/14 Formula 5000 Australia Cup Series (invitational rounds)
Rnd 1: Aug 31-Sept 01 2013 Muscle Car Masters meeting Sydney Motorsport Park Sydney
Rnd 2: Sept 13-15 2013 Sandown 500 meeting (V8 Supercars) Sandown Melbourne
Rnd 3: Nov 08-10 2013 Sandown Historics meeting Sandown Melbourne
Rnd 4: March 07-09 2014 Phillip Island Classic meeting Phillip Island Melbourne

Championship winner Andrew Higgins (T400) leads the T332 of Russell Greer.

Paul Higgins, Andy Higgins and Nigel Bunny.

Brett Willis in his LolaT332.

Leading the mid-field pack is Russell Greer (Lola T332 #14) from Aaron Burson (McRae GM1 #29) and David Banks (Talon MR1).