HIGGINS TAKES MSC TITLE WHILE LYONS COMPLETES RACE CLEAN SWEEP

By winning the final 12-lap feature 23-year-old British visitor Lyons completed a rare MSC series clean-sweep.

Not only did he win all five races (not to mention lowering his own outright track lap record) at the two New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing meetings at Hampton Downs in the North Island in January, he also won all three races - twice lowering the F5000 category lap record as he did so- at this weekend's Skope Classic meeting at Christchurch's recently re-named Mike Pero Motorsport Park (nee Ruapuna). 

Because he contested all four rounds (to Lyons' three) of the 2013/14 series Aucklander Andy Higgins was always going to have an advantage as far as the overall series title was concerned. 

But it certainly wasn't all plain sailing for Lyons - who completed his record run behind the wheel of his father's Gurney-Eagle FA74 after blowing the engine of his own Lola T400 in practice in Christchurch on Friday. 

Not that it seemed to affect the just-turned 23-year-old.

On Saturday  he lapped under Jay Esterer's existing category circuit record in qualifying, just over a second quicker than defending series champion Steve Ross (McRae GM1), before going on to win the first MSC race of the weekend from Ross, Higgins, Tony Richards (Lola T332) and Russell Greer (Lola T332). 

As he did in both subsequent races, fast starter Ross got the jump on Lyons off the line but each time Lyons reeled the Dunedin man in and used what would become his trademark pass at the right hand Carousel corner in the mid-field to take the lead again.

Ross looked set to fight back late in Saturday's race when the Safety Car was dispatched while Dave Arrowsmith's prone Lotus 70 was being moved and the track did not go green again until the final lap. 

But Lyons put in a flier to hold on to the lead and set a new category lap record............which he promptly lowered again in the second eight lap race of the weekend on Sunday morning. 

That race followed a similar pattern to Saturday's with Ross grabbing the early initiative only to have Lyons quickly reel him in. 

This time Lyons put in his lap record breaking time on the second lap, pulling away to win by just over 11 seconds from Ross with Andy Higgins again third and - this time - Russell Greer fourth. 

Local pace-man Tony Richards had been running third but late in the race he clipped his brother Glenn's Lola T400 as he was lapping it, putting both cars out of the race. 

That just left the feature final, with the status quo remaining, despite the race finishing behind the Safety Car after Andy Higgins' Lola shed its left rear wheel with three laps to go. 

"It was actually the wheel centre that broke," Higgins explained afterwards."I had just turned into the Carousel  when there was this big bang. Better there I suppose than at the end of the main straight, but it was disappointing all the same because we've been really consistent this season and that's the only race we haven't finished." 

Fortunately for the 32-year-old from Auckland the car sustained no other damage and he still had enough of a points buffer to claim the 2013/14 MSC series title from Lyons and Aaron Burson. 

It's the first major series victory for second-generation racer Higgins and one he says he couldn't have even contemplated without the help and support of his father, historic single-seater and Porsche aficionado Paul Higgins, and their race engineer, Nigel Bunny. 

With Higgins out of the final, third place went to class stalwart Russell Greer and it was no surprise when the Blenheim man was presented with the new Stan Redmond Memorial trophy for 'The Most Spirited Drive' by Redmond's former crew chief and engine man Steve Weeber 

"Stan was a great character and any way we can honour him the better," said Greer, who attributes his new-found competitiveness ' to help with his race effort from Christchurch-based category specialist John Crawford and his Motorsport Solutions operation. 

"That's my best result by a long shot," he said afterwards."I've had a few fourths before but never a podium. I didn't even know where it was until this weekend and it's all down to John and his boys. Up until now I've been looking after the car and trying to drive it myself but John's attitude is, 'we'll look after the car, you concentrate of the driving' and it's paying dividends as you can see."   

Behind Greer came Tony Richards, who put in a swashbuckling drive in his repaired car to get from P10 on the grid to fourth at the flag, then Aaron Burson, Class A standout Dave Arrowsmith and Ian Clements (Lola T332) before a gap back to David Banks (who had a spin while dicing with Ian Clements but was able to continue unscathed), Tim Rush in the one-of-a-kind McLaren M22, Peter Burson (McRae GM1) and Glenn  Richards (Lola T400) with race winner Michael Lyons' father Frank bracketing the field after a harmless spin of his own in the Lola T430 loaned to him by local man David Abbott. 

With the MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series over for another season it now time for British visitors like the Lyons family to return home and prepare for the 2014 northern hemisphere racing season. 

But not before Michael and Frank join Kiwi F5000 counterparts Andre and Warwick Mortimer in a BMW M3 at the annual Liqui-Moly 12 Hour endurance race at Bathurst in Australia next weekend. 

"We've planned it as a real Dads 'n Lads affair," said Michael. "It should be a lot of fun." 

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. 

Ends

2013/14 MSC New Zealand F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series Final round Skope Classic Mike Pero Motorsport Park Christchurch Sat-Sun Feb 01-02.
Qualifying
1. Michael Lyons (Gurney-Eagle FA74) 01:17.430
2. Steve Ross (McRae GM1) 01:18.593
3. Tony Richards (Lola T332) 01:19.376
4. Andrew Higgins (Lola T400) 01:19.886 
5. Russell Greer (Lola T332) 01:21.250
6. Ian Clements (Lola T332) 01:21.959     
7. David Banks (Talon MR1) 01:22.048
8. Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) 01:22.734
9. Dave Arrowsmith (Lotus 70) 01:22.744 
10. Glenn Richards (Lola T400) 01:23.607
11. Peter Burson (McRae GM1) 01:24.037
12. Frank Lyons  (Lola T430) 01:24.303
13. Tim Rush (McLaren M22) 01:25.330
14. Judy Lyons (Lola T332) 02:13.701  

Race 1 (Sat 8 laps)
1. Michael Lyons 11:44.076   
2. Steve Ross +02.978  
3. Andrew Higgins +05.899  
4. Tony Richards +07.836  
5. Russell Greer +08.650  
6. Aaron Burson +10.336  
7. David Banks +10.629  
8. Ian Clements +11.132  
9. Frank Lyons +15.609  
10. Glenn Richards +16.245  
11. Tim Rush +16.973  
12. Peter Burson +17.536  
DNF. Dave Arrowsmith, Judy Lyons
Fastest lap (and new class lap record) Michael Lyons (Gurney-Eagle FA74) 01:17.723 

Race 2 (Sun 8 laps)
1. Michael Lyons 10:29.180     
2. Steve Ross +11.456  
3. Andrew Higgins +22.766  
4. Russell Greer +32.891  
5. Dave Arrowsmith +34.293  
6. Aaron Burson +36.654  
7. David Banks +37.176  
8. Ian Clements +38.569  
9. Tim Rush +50.164  
10. Peter Burson +58.806  
11. Judy Lyons +2 laps  
DNF. Tony Richards, Glenn Richards
Fastest lap (and new class lap record) Michael Lyons (Gurney-Eagle FA74) 01:17.588
 
Race 3 (Sun 12 laps) 
1. Michael Lyons 17:03.003
2. Steve Ross +01.880 
3. Russell Greer +02.543
4. Tony Richards +03.121 
5. Aaron Burson +03.678 
6. Dave Arrowsmith +04.213
7. Ian Clements +05.364
8. David Banks +34.965
9. Tim Rush +35.283
10. Peter Burson +40.002
11. Glenn Richards +42.722
12. Frank Lyons +1 lap
DNF. Andrew Higgins, Judy Lyons  
Fastest lap: Michael Lyons (Gurney-Eagle FA74) 01:18.475
 
Provisonal final series placings
1. Andy Higgins
2. Michael Lyons
3. Aaron Burson
 
Calendar
Rnd 1: Nov 8-10 2013 'The Sound' MG Classic Manfeild Feilding
Rnd 2: Jan 17-19 2014 NZFMR Ferrari Festival - 1 Hampton Downs Nth Waikato
Rnd 3:  Jan 24-26 2014 NZFMR Ferrari Festival - 2 Hampton Downs Nth Waikato
Rnd 4: Feb 01-02 2014 Skope Classic Mike Pero Motorsport Park (Ruapuna) Christchurch
 
2013/14 Formula 5000 Australia Cup Series (invitational rounds)
Rnd 1: Aug 31-Sept 01 2013 Muscle Car Masters meeting Sydney Motorsport Park Sydney
Rnd 2: Sept 13-15 2013 Sandown 500 meeting (V8 Supercars) Sandown Melbourne
Rnd 3: Nov 08-10 2013 Sandown Historics meeting Sandown Melbourne
Rnd 4: March 07-09 2014 Phillip Island Classic meeting Phillip Island Melbourn