The cars they drive may well have been built well before they were both born that doesn’t stop MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series young guns Michael Lyons and Alan Dunkley driving them like they were fresh off the assembly line.
Lyons, 21, from the UK, and Dunkley, 22, from Auckland were the undoubted stars of the third round of this season’s MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series at the first New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing meeting at Hampton Downs last weekend, the former qualifying quickest and winning all four races in his 1975 Lola T400, the latter by far the quickest of the Class A (for older cars) competitors in a high-wing Lola T140 built in 1968.
This weekend the pair are back to contest the fourth round of the 2011/12 MSC series at the second Festival meeting at the Hampton Downs circuit south of Auckland and both see no reason why they can’t take up on Friday (when qualifying takes place) where they left off on Sunday.
“Last year,” Lyons said on Sunday, “it was all a bit last minute. I hadn’t really driven the car much either. This time we did most of the British championship, which I won, and we were better prepared with the car.”
The young British driver, whose parents Frank and Judy Lyons introduced him to and still compete alongside him in F5000 here and back home in the UK, has also benefitted from his first full-season driving a Ferrari 458 in the British GT championship (in which he finished third) and in two rounds of the European GT3 championship in which he picked up a podium.
Alan Dunkley can’t claim quite the same pedigree but like Lyons Jnr he was born into a motor racing family and – in his case – was a former North Island Kart champion before graduating to cars, initially in a Formula; First single-seater and more recently in the Suzuki Swift Cup in which he finished fifth overall in the 2009/10 series.
Like last weekend, competition for Lyons at the front of the field is expected to come from the man who now holds the outright lap record around the 2.8km Hampton Downs circuit, Dunedin earthmoving contractor Steve Ross (McRae GM1).
With usual rivals, defending and three-time series champion Ken Smith (Lola T430) and this season’s Lady Wigram Trophy race winner Jay Esterer (McRae GM1), forced into backup cars for teh remaining MSC series meetigns after their start-line crash at the Manfeild round in November, Ross currently leads the series points standings and was the only drive – bar Smith in the wet and Safety Car-interrupted second race – who was able to really take the battle to Lyons last weekend, proof the new lap record he set as he chased the young British driver to the line in the 15-lap final.
With several regular drivers – plus three visiting Americans – unable to make the first NZ Festival meeting last weekend this weekend’s grid is set to accommodate as many as seven extra cars taking the total number to 30 this weekend.
Amongst the extras are three more Americans, Seb Coppola (Lola T192), Harin DeSilva (Surtees TS8) and Scott Drnek (Lola T400), the trio joining veteran compatriot Eric Haga (Lola T190) who ran last weekend. They in turn look set to be joined by their Canadian counterpart Jay Esterer (whose McRae GM1 was damaged in a engine fire last Friday and who therefore was a reluctant spectator on Saturday and Sunday), Melbourne-based expat Chris Lambden (McRae GM1) and locals David Abbott (Lola T430) and Russell Greer (Lola T332).
Visiting British driver Greg Thornton is also expected back on the grid with a new engine in his Chevron B24, while having driven a Lola T300 last weekend, compatriot Mike Whatley will be back behind the wheel of his Class A Surtees TS8 this time around.
This weekend’s event format remains the same as that of last weekend’s meeting with practice and qualifying on Friday and two races per day for the MSC F5000 series cars on Saturday and Sunday, three over 8 laps and the final – on Sunday afternoon – over 15.
The MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series then heads south for the penultimate round at the annual Skope Classic meeting at Christchurch’s Powerbuilt Tools Raceway at Ruapuna Park over the February 04/05 weekend.
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.
For more information on this weekend’s NZ Festival of Motor Racing – celebrating BMW Motorsport meetings go to www.nzfmr.co.nz.