SERIES' PACE-SETTER LYONS RETURNS TO WHERE IT ALL STARTED

"That's right," says the 23-year-old from Felsted in Essex who heads south for the final round of this season's MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series at the Skope Classic this weekend after dominating the two most recent rounds at the Hampton Downs circuit south of Auckland. 

"The first time I drove a racing car was at Ruapuna. I was out here with my parents and when we found out that you could drive a (racing) car here at a much younger age than in the UK they shouted me a lesson with Andy Neale." 

It was money well spent, because since the last time he was here (in 2012 when he won his first MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series races) Lyons has been one of the front-runners in the FIA's new Historic Formula 1 class, finished sixth in class in the International GT Open sportscar series behind the wheel of a semi-works Ferrari 458, and lapped the field to win the F5000 feature at last year's big Silverstone Classic meeting in the UK.  

Meanwhile, in the absence of local class stalwart Ken Smith (Lola T332), who blew an engine at the first NZ Festival of Motor Racing meeting at Hampton Downs three weeks ago, Lyons has again dominated the MSC series races, including lowering his own outright track lap record at the first meeting,  and completing a five-race clean sweep at the second - despite breaking then running over a header pipe in the final.  

Heading into this weekend's series finale in Christchurch Lyons again heads a strong field of stock-block 5-litre engined Formula 5000 single seaters with competition expected to come from series champion-elect Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) from Auckland.   

Though the field will be without usual local standouts Ken Smith (Lola T332) and Clark Proctor (March 73A), it will be supplemented this weekend by Russell Greer (Lola T332) from Blenheim, Tim Rush (McLaren M22) from Feilding and David Arrowsmith (Lotus 70) from Christchurch.  

Former series champ Ian Clements (Lola T332) is also back, as are brothers Tony (Lola T332 from Christchurch) and Glenn (Lola T400 from Auckland) Richards, as well as Auckland father and son Peter and Aaron Burson (both McRae GM1) and their running mate David Banks (Talon MR1).   

Michael Lyons' parents, Frank and Judy, also continue to compete in the MSC series, Frank in a Gurney-Eagle FA74, Judy a Lola T332, and if emergency gearbox and engine work being done in Auckland this week is completed in time they will be joined by compatriot Greg Thornton (March 75A).  

A special feature of this weekend's meeting will be the awarding of a new trophy in memory of class stalwart Stan Redmond who died as a result of injuries sustained in an accident at the final round of the 2012/13 MSC series at Invercargill's Teretonga Park last February. 

As well as being both a competitor and strong supporter of the MSC Tasman Cup Revival Series here and across the Tasman, Redmond made several trips to the UK to race and the Trophy has been put up by a group of drivers and family members from there in consultation with the Redmond family in Christchurch and the New Zealand Formula 5000 Association. 

It will be presented - by Redmond's long-time crew chief and engine man Steve Weeber -  to the driver who puts on 'The Most Spirited Drive' from an MSC series competitor over the weekend.   

Ends 

FEATURE CAR  

SURTEES TS5  

Having spent most of his life racing one thing or the other, Warwick Mortimer reckons it was inevitable he'd one day own and race a Formula 5000 single-seater in the MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series.  

"They were the cars that inspired us as young fellows, " says the Matakana-based businessman, now 62. "I've always wanted one."  

The car Mortimer bought four years ago now is one of the earliest and rarest still running, a Surtees TS5, chassis number 002, one of two cars originally built by former world motorcycle and car champion John Surtees for a US team owned by actor James Garner.  

When Garner was finished with them the cars were returned to Surtees in the UK where Mortimer's car was re-powered with a Ford engine for a client in South Africa - which is where the car spent much of its life.  

Initially it was used by the likes of top local driver Jackie Pretorious in the local F5000 series, before being on-sold to an enthusiast with plans to use it on the drag strip.  

According to an account on oldracingcars.com, however, on spinning and damaging the car's rear suspension on his first run down the strip the hapless enthusiast sold the engine and consigned the rest of the car to his barn...where it stayed until expat Anthony Smith was able to finally prise it off him 27 years later to ship to the UK for a nut-and-bolt rebuild to original (in this case Chev-engined) spec. 

Mortimer was in the UK when Smith put the completed car back on the market and it wasn't long before the distinctive Surtees  was in a container and off across the ocean again to its new home. 

"I was talking to Frank (Lyons) at Silverstone and I asked him what he thought about it," relates Warwick. "He said it was mint, that it was a good starting point for getting into the series and that I better go down and look at it...so I did and when I asked my wife whether I should buy it and she said yes, I did!"  

Since then Mortimer has raced the Surtees here, in Australia and the UK, enjoying every minute...his only complaint the tight confines of the original cockpit.  

Having reveled in the room in Mark Dwyer's later model T400 Lola when he drove it last year Warwick says that he will eventually buy another, more accommodating car. But that doesn't mean you'll see a 'For Sale' sign on the TS5 anytime soon.  

"Yes I want a bigger car but no I don't want to sell the Surtees, " he says emphatically.

Why not?

" It's such a pretty car and it's got such an interesting history."  

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.