LYONS WINS FIRST MSC F5000 SERIES RACE AFTER ENGINE TROUBLE STOPS SMITH

The last time he was here - in 2012 - Lyons, 23, set a new outright track lap record of 59.840 seconds and won all six MSC F5000 races at the two New Zealand Festival and Motor Racing meetings at Hampton Downs. 

However Kiwi super-vet Smith, 72, had his measure in qualifying, claiming pole position for the first eight-lap MSC NZ F5000 series race of the weekend with a time of 59.445. 

Lyons, who with a best time of 59.514, was the only other driver to break the 1.00.00 minute barrier in the qualifying session, was never far behind early on in the race. 

But just when it looked like he was going to take a serious tilt at Smith's lead, guest driver Guido Belgiorno-Nettis in one of the Formula 1 cars shipped in for this year's Ferrari-themed NZ Festival of Motor Racing event spun, which brought out the yellow flags, then Smith himself spun and ended up stranded in the middle of the track at the next corner. 

That brought out the Safety Car before the race red-flagged so that Smith's prone car could be recovered." 

"Something went wrong in the engine," said a circumspect Smith."It vibrated then it just locked up, it could be the crank, it could be anything."  

Once the Smith car was recovered the race was re-started with Lyons unchallenged to take the win from fellow Lola T400 driver Andrew Higgins and Class A (for older cars) stand-out Michael Whatley. 

 "That's not good news, " Lyons said when told of Smith engine problem. "It's a shame too because it was shaping up to be a good race. I couldn't get anywhere near Ken into Turn 1 but once I was tucked in behind him I was a little bit quicker through the middle-section of the track and I was just getting ready to take the gloves off it and go for it when he stopped."  

Compatriot Michael Whatley was the big mover as far as race places were concerned, the English veteran qualifying sixth, making up two places on the first lap then inheriting third on the last lap when defending series champion Steve Ross (McRae GM1) had a wild ride exiting the final corner. 

 "Happy with third? I'm absolutely delighted, " he said. "I got past the Ferrari in the first lap and was just thinking that I should be sensible and settle for fourth when Steve overcooked it on the last lap."  

The re-start also benefited Brett Willis (Lola T330) who passed former MSC series champ Ian Clements (Lola T332) round the outside of Turn 1 on the last lap and held fourth place to the flag. 

Steve Ross recovered for sixth and Michael Lyons' father Frank claimed a good seventh in his Gurney-Eagle FA74).  

Happy to finally be on the grid and finish their first ever MSC series race, meanwhile, were series newcomers Grant Martin (Talon MR1A) who qualified his new and untested car 13th and finished the first race in 11th position, and fellow Aucklander Glenn Richards (Lola T400) who qualified 15th and finished 13th.  

Missing from the grid today, but hoping be be back out tomorrow, was 2012/13 series race winner Clark Proctor (March 73A), his team running out of time to replace a broken crown wheel and pinion between qualifying and the first race, while able to start the race but still struggling with a gear selection issue was fellow Aucklander David Banks (Talon MR1).  

Today's race was the first of three at the NZFMR meeting with two more tomorrow. 

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, Webdesign and Exide.   

Ends 

2013/14 MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series 
Qualifying
1. Ken Smith (Lola T332) 59.445
2. Michael Lyons (Lola T400) 59.514
3. Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) 1.00.685
4. Steve Ross (McRae GM1) 1.00.844
5. Guido Belgiorno-Nettis (McRae GM1) 1.02.063
6. Michael Whatley (Surtees TS8) 1.02.661
7. Ian Clements (Lola T332) 1.02.763
8. Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) 1.03.245
9. Brett Willis (Lola T330) 1.03.245
10.Greg Thornton (March 75A-1) 1.04.039
11. Sefton Gibb (Lola  T332) 1.04.117
12. Frank Lyons (Gurney-EagleFA74-01) 1.04.595
13. Grant Martin (Talon MR1A) 1.05.173
14. Calven Bonney (Begg 018) 1.05.538
15. Glenn Richards (Lola T400) 1.06.441
16. Peter Burson (McRae GM1) 1.07.334
17. Warwick Mortimer (Surtees TS5) 1.10.490
18. Judy Lyons (Lola T332) 1.27.115
19. Clark Proctor (March 73A) (no time) 

Race 1 (Sat 8 laps)
1. Michael Lyons 8.44.887
2. Andrew Higgins +1.793
3. Michael Whatley +6.652
4. Brett Willis +7.167
5. Ian Clements +7.285
6. Steve Ross +9.273
7. Frank Lyons +11.795
8. Aaron Burson +12.016
9. Sefton Gibb +13.151
10. Greg Thornton +14.339
11. Grant Martin +17.721
12. Calven Bonney +20.263
13. Glenn Richards +21.881
14. Peter Burson +22.839
15. Judy Lyons +1 lap
16. Guido Belgiorno-Nettis + 2 laps
17. David Banks + 7 laps
dnf. Ken Smith, dns Clark Proctor