Apt winner of Taupo race
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An historic McLaren Formula 1 car has notched up an appropriate victory at the Taupo motor race circuit that adopted the title of Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park last year.
In the Sunday afternoon match-up between 1970s era Formula 1 and Formula 5000 single-seaters, it was young British driver Michael Lyons who claimed the feature-race honours driving an ex-James Hunt McLaren M26 from 1976.
Lyons wouldn't have been driving the McLaren if the campaign of his family team had gone to plan. He began the weekend driving a Hesketh 308E -- in which he had established a lap record for the Hampton Downs International circuit the previous weekend -- but a water pump problem side-lined the car during Saturday's F1 preliminary race.
He swapped into the McLaren - usually driven by his father Frank -- and, although not quite able to match the pace he'd shown at the wheel of the Hesketh in qualifying, he was unbeaten in Sunday's two F1 heats and the Race of Champions Revival race.
The mechanical fragility of the 40-year-old cars did take a little of the shine away from the Taupo Historic Grand Prix weekend, trimming the F1 contingent to three runners by Sunday afternoon and producing a 17-car grid when the thoroughbred F1 cars joined their stock block V8 rivals for the Race of Champions Revival.
From the start of the Race of Champions, Lyons and F5000 front-runner Ken Smith (1976 Lola T332) swapped places early on but it was 3.0-litre Cosworth DFV power that won, despite Lyons having some third gear issues.
Lyons led Smith to the chequered flag by 3.8secs while Auckland's Clark Proctor (1973 March 73A) was third and the F1 cars of British drivers James Hagan (1974 Hesketh 308) and Andrew Beaumont (1974 Lotus 76) completed the top five. Auckland's Glenn Richards was the next best of the F5000 cars in his 1975 Lola T400.
The Formula 5000 races, that were part of the SAS Autoparts/MSC Tasman Revival Series, began with Smith leading home Proctor and the 1971 Matich A50/51 of Australian Bryan Sala on Saturday afternoon.
A first-corner bump between Smith and Proctor left Smith's Lola with a damaged front wing for race two. He was able to battle on but it was British racer Mark Dwyer (Lola T330) who took the win from Proctor and Smith, the trio separated by 0.55s at the finish.
Smith again had an early dice with Proctor in race three but edged away to win with Rotorua's Brett Willis (1973 Lola T330) taking third place.