As it turned out, it was series young gun Lyons who went on to claim victory – but only after a determined Ross came unstuck on oil dropped by another car as he braked for the infield right hander.
Initially Ross took the spin on the chin, blaming ‘the nut behind the wheel,’ but when he and Lyons swapped notes the truth emerged.
“I was definitely putting him under a lot of pressure, and we had both been getting a bit ragged,” said Lyons, “but as we accelerated out of the hairpin there was a trail of oil and when Steve stood on the brakes the thing (his car) just went left. I was right up underneath him when he started going left so I had to ease out of the brake myself but at least I was able to stay on the track.”
With Ross out of the picture Lyons won as he liked, despite slowing over the last couple of laps as his car’s engine went off song.
“Yes,” he said, “we’re still not sure what is wrong but we cracked a header on the second lap and after a few laps it started to sound a bit sick. Fingers crossed we will be able to find out what the problem is and fix it before the next race.”
With Lyons out in front and series returnee Ian Clements (Lola T332) taking over second place from Ross, race interest switched to the battle for a spot in the top six. Initially the order was Michael Lyons, Clements, Frank Lyons (Gurney-Eagle), Roger Williams (Lola T332), David Abbott (Lola T430) and Michael Whatley (Lola T300).
As he proved to be at the second NZ Festival of Motor Racing – celebrating BMW at Hampton Downs the weekend before, Auckland driver Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) was the big mover, quickly working his way up the order from 11th spot on the grid to eventually catch and pass Whatley and Abbott and cross the finish line in fifth place.
Rotorua driver Brett Willis (Lola T330) ran as high as third in the first lap but spun at the hairpin. Like Ross he was able to rejoin the race only to glance off another car under braking for the same corner only a couple of laps later. Former Lady Wigram Trophy winner Roger Williams (Lola T332) was also running strongly up front in the early laps before slowing and eventually heading to the pits.
Behind the battling Abbott and Whatley Lolas, Whatley’s compatriot Greg Thornton (Chevron B24) was having another competitive showing, leading a mid-field group which consisting of the first of the American visitors, Harin de Silva (Surtees TS8), Russell Greer (Lola T332), Stan Redmond (Lola T332) and a fast recovering Steve Ross.
With the bit well-and-truly between his teeth Ross was on a mission, setting the fastest race lap (despite having to thread through the traffic) on his way back up through the field. By the fifth lap he was in ninth place, by the sixth eighth, by the seventh seventh and by the chequered flag third!
Los Angeles resident de Silva remained the best of the three-man American contingent, eventually crossing the finish line in 10th with compatriot Seb Coppola (Lola T192) getting the better of an entertaining battle with Warwick Mortimer (Surtees TS5) a little further back to finish 16th with Eric Haga in the distinctvie high-wing Lola T190 18th.
Though he is still quite new to the F5000 category de Silva says he is thoroughly enjoying the experience, and took time out to thank local racing school proprietor and instructor Andy Neale for the loan of a Formula Ford single-seater on Thursday.
“Andy let me drive a Formula Ford round here, he said. “I did 30 laps so I knew which corner was a left and which one was a right when I got in my own car.”
de Silva also said that the tight, technical nature of the Powerbuilt Tools Raceway circuit meant earlier moel Class A cars like his were not at as big a disadvantage compared with the later model cars as they might have been at a faster, more flowing circuit like Hampton Downs. Though the older cars don’t have as much aero grip the fact that the corners here are slower means that we can actually keep up with them through the infield.”
Today’s race was the first of three for the MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series contestants with two more tomorrow, a second eight-lapper 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, Smith, Davies, Avon Tyres and Exide. The series continues next weekend at the annual Skope Classic meeting at Christchurch’s Powerbuilt Tools Raceway at Ruapuna Park.