ESTERER ADDS NAME TO LADY WIGRAM TROPHY

Canadian Jay Esterer (McRae GM1) has added his name to New Zealand motor racing's revered Lady Wigram Trophy after dominating the opening round of the 2011/12 MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series at Christchurch's Powerbuilt Tools Raceway over the weekend.

 Though he had to concede quicker lap times in qualifying on Saturday morning to top local drivers Steve Ross (McRae GM1) and Ken Smith (Lola T332), the 48-year-old from Edmonton in western Canada won all three MSC F5000 series races, the two eight lap sprint ones on Saturday from Smith and Ross (Race 1) and Smith and fellow Lola T332 driver Roger Williams (the second) and the 15-lap Lady Wigram Trophy feature from Smith and top local driver Tony Richards (Lola T332).

 As it turned out Smith didn't make it to the grid to defend his 2010 Lady Wigram Trophy title win (his fourth in the 50+ year history of the race) when his crew led by race engineer Barry Miller ran out of time to replace an input shaft which failed as Smith returned to the pits after chasing Esterer home in the second race.

 Having up until that point enjoyed a fairytale debut in the ex Danny Ongais T332 Lola which Miller rebuilt for him,Smith said he felt more sorry for his crew chief, who continued to work on the car as Esterer and Ross fought out the Lady Wigram Trophy race on the track.

 "It's a big job in itself, "said Smith, "then when thespare we had didn't fit we had to get in there with the grinder to make it fit. In the end we probably only needed another half an hour but, you know, that's life, there's no use getting all worked up about it. I'm more sorry for Barry (Miller) than I am for myself. I've had let-downs like this before so I can handle them, but, you know, Barry has spent the past 18 months restoring the car to the condition you see it today and I know he's gutted that we couldn't get it back on the track in time."

Despite Smith's absence Esterer had to work hard to keep fellow McRae driver Steve Ross at bay in the Lady Wigram Trophy feature, the Canadian grabbing the early advantage but Ross clawing it back in the latter stages to eventually cross the finish line justover half a second behind with Tony Richards (Lola T332) third a further 10 seconds back and series young gun Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) fourth.

Having come close three years ago Esterer said winning this year's Lady Wigram Trophy race was extra sweet.

"It's fantastic," he said. The first time I did this event I thought I might be in with a chance butthere was a downpour and I didn' have any wet weather tyres with me.This year I made sure I had the right tyres (wet as well as dry) with me and it all worked out."


Behind Esterer and Smith third was initially held by former Lady Wigram Trophy race winner Roger Williams but the Auckland manspun on the second lap. Former series champion Ian Clements also went off the track as he (successfully) managed to avoid Williams' car, leaving Tony Richards in a lonely third between Ross and Andrew Higgins.

Having lost three places on the first lap Aucklander Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) was the big mover in the middle of the pack, spending the best part of the race catching then trying to find a way past Brett Willis (Lola T330) and Sefton Gibb (Lola T332) to eventually cross the finish line back in fifth place.

 "I just put my head day and picked them off one by one and I'm very, very happy, " he said. "A good way to finish the weekend."

 Rotorua man Willis continued to claim sixth place in front of Blenheim driver Russell Greer (Lola T332) but Gibb pulled off the track with just two laps to go. Local man Stan Redmond (Lola T332) and Aaron Burson's father Peter (McRae GM1) also retired leaving Aucklander John MacKinlay (March 73 1/A) eighth and series newcomers David Arrowsmith (first Class A category driver home in his Lotus 70) and David Banks (Talon MR1) ninth and tenth respectively.

 Banks was particularly happy with his debut weekend in the MSC category.

 "I had a great time," he said, "It was fantastic. Dicing with David like that in the end was unbelievable."

 Race 2 (8 laps)

The weekend's second race, on Sunday morning, was another Esterer benefit, the Canadian making a decisive dive under poleman Ross and fellow front row starter Smith into the first corner and dictating thepace from that point.

 Ross ran second early on only to spin to avoid Esterer as the pair braked for the final corner. That left Smith second from Richards, Williams, Gibb, Aaron Burson and Russell Greer with Ross re-joining the race after most of the field had filed by. Having missed qualifying and Saturday's first weekend race with an electrical problem, series young gun Andrew Higgins made up several places from a back row start only to follow Ross' example and spin to avoid a car he was trying to pass, in his case Russell Greer's Lola T332.

 Also spinning early on were Tony Richards (Lola T332) andJohn MacKinlay (March 73 1/A) , the former able to continue to eventually cross the finish line in 11th place, the latter forced to sit and watch the rest of the race from the sidelines with his March 73 1/A stranded on the inside of the track between the hairpin and the first in-field right-hander.

 Also in the wars were visiting British driver Greg Thornton (Chevron B24), who pitted with a carburettor problem, and local man Stan Redmond (Lola T332) who managed to complete five of the eight laps before being forced to pit with what he intiially thought wassimply apuncture butwhich alsoturned out to be a loose right rear wheel.

 Behind Esterer, Smith and Roger Williams, Sefton Gibb circulated in fourth place with Aaron Burson filling his mirrorsthen a gap back to Ian Clements, Russell Greer, Brett Willis and Peter Burson. However two laps after spinning at the sweeper Ross had made up two places and by the time the last lap board was put out he had made up a third, crossing the finish line a lap later in sixth, almost two seconds ahead of seventh placed Ian Clements, and less than half a second behind fifth placed Aaron Burson.

 Completing the field were Peter Burson, David Banks and Dave Arrowsmith with all but Smith's car returning to the pits under their own steam. Though he set the quickest race lap - 1.19.429 - and crossed the finish line just 0.424 of a second behind race winner Esterer, Smith only got as far as the hairpin on the slow down lap before his car's input shaft cried enough.

 Race 1 (8 laps)

Esterer's winning runbegan in the weekend's first race on Saturday afternoonwhen he overtook poleman Steve Rossas the pair crossed the start-finish line to start the second lapthen resisted constant pressure from Ken Smith to take the chequered flag seven laps later.

 Ross qualified quickestand led the 17-strong fieldoff the first of what turned out to be two rolling startsonly tospin and let Esterer and Smith past. Though Ross was able to continue the race was immediately red flaggedafter Melbourne-based expat Chris Lambden (McRae GM1) ran over the back of Aucklander Aaron Burson's similar car as the field scrambled to miss Ross and his spinning McRae.

 Like Ross, Burson was able to continue, but Lambden's car suffered left hand suspension damage and returned to the pits on the back of a salvage truck.

 Once Esterer was in front after the re-start Smith was never more than two or three car lengths behind in second, with Ross third several car lengths back, Tony Richards a similar distance back in fourth and

Smith's fellowformer Lady William trophy winner Roger Williams fifth.

Behind Williams and fellow Lola driversSefton Gibb (T332), Brett Willis (T330) and Russell Greer (T332), there was a race-long scrap for ninth place which involved four cars, Stan Redmond's Lola T332, visiting British driver Greg Thornton's Chevron B24, Aaron Burson's McRae GM1 and former MSC series champion Ian Clements' Lola T332, the nod eventually going to Burson after he and Clements managed to get round Redmond on the last lap.

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 in the North Island next weekend with another headlining slot, this time at the 40th annual MG Classic meeting at Manfield.