F5000 title to Willis as Lyons takes Skope feature win

Fast Company

Reigning FIA Historic F1 Pre-78 class champion Michael Lyons (Hesketh 308E) won a combined 12-lap NZ Express International F5000/Historic F1 feature race at the Skope Classic motor racing meeting in Christchurch this afternoon, after catching and eventually finding a way past Formula 5000 class pace-setter and pole man Ken Smith (Lola T332).

Earlier in the day Smith won the first combined field race with Lyons – who with the other Historic F1 class drivers had started behind the F5000 field – unable to close the gap in the 8 laps available.

However, by starting alongside Smith on the front row of the grid Lyons didn’t have to work his way past the other F5000s in the feature, and though 75-year-old super veteran Smith was able to hold the young Brit out for the first half of the race, a persistent Lyons eventually found a gap.

“I thought I could do it, you know, keep him behind me, ” said Smith, “I drove really hard on that first lap to get a gap, but I can’t take anything away from Michael, he was fantastic to drive with and when I saw the nose in there I thought it is now his. He is fantastic to drive with, you could drive wheel to wheel with the kid all day.”

Smith stayed within striking distance and at the flag the gap was only three seconds with former series champ Steve Ross (McRae GM1) a lonely third 34.970 seconds back and another gap to the first of the visiting Australian drivers, Paul Zazryn (Lola T332), then Brett Willis (Lola T330), Sefton Gibb (Lola T330), and Aaron Burson (McRae GM1.

Fifth place was more than enough to ensure Willis retained his lead in the series’ points standings and claimed the 2016/17 SAS Autoparts/ MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series title – from Zazryn with Glenn Richards (Lola T400) third.

“It’s taken awhile but I’m rapt,” Rotorua man Willis said afterwards.”It’s not easy and we’ve had some hard knocks along the way but we have committed every year, and done all the rounds. and this time we pulled it off. Big thanks to everyone who has helped us and to the series sponsors, we couldn’t have done it without them.”

The other trophy awarded on the day, the Stan Redmond Memorial Trophy, went to series’ Class A (for earlier model F5000 cars) winner Frank Karl (McLaren M10B)

The trophy is awarded to the driver who best exemplifies the spirit of sportsmanship and persistence in the face of adversity that series’ original Redmond exhibited and friend and former crew chief Steve Weeber said that Karl was the obvious choice.

“Stan was a good sport, always helping people, and if he had an incident he would always be back at the next round. Frank has had that this year and it’s great to see that sort of enthusiasm in a class like F5000 which is very strong at the moment.”

” I knew I was in line to win the Class A award but I wasn’t expecting this at all,” said Aucklander Karl. “It has made all the effort that I have had to go to after Australia (where an engine fire meant a lot of work to get the car back to race-ready condition) was worth it.”

Because he did not cross the Tasman this year to od the two Australian rounds of the 2016/17 SAS Autoparts MSC series Ken Smith was not in contention for the title this weekend.

He was by far the quickest of the 16-strong SAS Autoparts MSC F5000 competitor though, claiming pole position in qualifying and winning two of the three category races, including the first of the two combined F5000/Historic F1 ones on Sunday morning.

With two of the five Formula 1 cars scratched thanks to engine issues the decision was made to combine the Historic F1 and SAS Autoparts MSC F5000 class fields.

And as happened in the final 12 lap feature, Smith sprinted away from the rolling start and pulled out a lead which Michael Lyons – who started from P13 on the seventh row of the combined grid – was able to eat into but ultimately not bridge in the eight laps available.

Taking full advantage of the clear road in front of him Smith dropped into the 1.18.0s, his Lola T332 remaining the fastest car on track (with a best lap of 1.18.951) until Michael Lyons got clear of Steve Ross and dipped into the low 1.18s himself, with a best time of 1.18.521.

Behind Smith, Steve Ross held a lonely second place until being relieved of it by Michael Lyons on the fourth lap but retained third place to the flag as Brett Willis, Paul Zazryn, Sefton Gibb and Ian Clements ran line astern in fourth-through-seventh places.

Usually David Banks would be part of that group but he too was forced to sit out Sunday’s two races thanks to an oil pressure issue with his Talon MR1). Greg Thornton was also a non-starter, thanks to fuelling issues with his Chevron B24.

Local driver David Arrowsmith managed to hold out Aaron Burson for most of the race only to have Burson finally get past on the final lap, with Glenn Richards tenth, Frank Lyons in the McLaren M26 F1 car 11th, Chris Atkinson 12th and Bill Hemming, Mike Sidgewick and Frank Karl engaged in their own private battle for 13th-through-15th place.

Smith also won the first category race on Saturday, leading from start to finish to cross the finish line almost 18 seconds in front of Steve Ross, David Banks and Brett Willis..

The 2016/17 SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series is organised and run with the support of sponsors SAS Autoparts, MSC, NZ Express Transport, Bonney’s Specialised Bulk Transport, Mobil Lubricants, Pacifica, Avon Tyres, Webdesign and Exide Batteries.

F5000 title to Willis as Lyons takes Skope feature win

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