Motorsport: Tougher grid raises the ante

By Eric Thompson

Michael Lyons made it four wins from four starts at the third round of the MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series. Photo / Greg Bowker
Michael Lyons made it four wins from four starts at the third round of the MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series. Photo / Greg Bowker

The cars may be the stars of the MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series, but a couple of young guns are showing more seasoned campaigners the way around lately.

The cars were originally raced before Michael Lyons, 21, and Alan Dunkley, 22, were born and now the pair are fizzing them around the track like they're just off the production line.

The two youngest competitors in the field were the stars at the championship's latest round at Hampton Downs last weekend as part of the New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing.

Lyons was in the groove straight off, setting the fastest qualifying lap and then going on to win all four races in his Lola T400. Dunkley also impressed in his Class A car (for older machines), a high-wing Lola T140, built in 1968, by being the fastest.

The pair are in action again at Hampton Downs this weekend for the fourth round of the series, at the second festival meeting, and both see no reason why they can't carry on from where they left off last Sunday.

"Last year it was all a bit last-minute," said Lyons. "I hadn't really driven the car much either. This time we did most of the British championship, which I won, and we were better prepared with the car."

Lyons has benefited from his first full season driving a Ferrari 458 in the British GT championship (where he finished third) and in two rounds of the European GT3 championship, where again he managed a podium place.

Dunkley is a former North Island kart champion who moved up to Formula First single-seaters and has more recently been racing in the Suzuki Swift Cup, in which he finished fifth in the 2009/10 series.

The youngsters won't find it any easier this weekend. The man who set a new lap record in his McRae GM1, Steve Ross, will want to get one back over Lyons, and he'll be joined by defending and three-time series champion Ken Smith (in a Lola T430) and this season's Lady Wigram Trophy race winner, Jay Esterer (McRae GM1).

With several regular drivers and three visiting Americans unable to make the first festival meeting, this weekend's grid will accommodate seven extra cars, taking the total to 30.

The Americans, Seb Coppola (Lola T192), Harin DeSilva (Surtees TS8) and Scott Drnek (Lola T400), are joining veteran compatriot Eric Haga (Lola T190).

Melbourne-based expat Chris Lambden (McRae GM1) and locals David Abbott (Lola T430) and Russell Greer (Lola T332) will be on the grid, as well as visiting British driver Greg Thornton, with a new engine in his Chevron B24. Having driven a Lola T300 last weekend, compatriot Mike Whatley will be back behind the wheel of his Class A Surtees TS8.

The MSC F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series then heads south for the penultimate round at the Skope Classic meeting at Christchurch's Ruapuna Park on February 4-5.

- NZ Herald

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