Deman Takes Masters F1 Opener at Zolder

To the delight of his home crowd, Loic Deman was untouchable today in the first of two FIA Masters Historic Formula One races at Zolder. 
 
Starting from pole, the Belgian’s Tyrrell 010 was never headed in the 17-lap race as Deman built a gap of six seconds over Michael Lyons (Hesketh 308E) before easing off to a winning margin of 3.7 seconds. Greg Thornton was close third in his Lotus 91. Lyons was the first of the pre-78 cars across the line, heading Nick Padmore’s Lotus 77, which came fourth overall.
 
While Deman converted his pole position into a comfortable lead into the first corner, Michael Lyons dived past Thornton for second place as they scrabbled into the first corner. Frenchman Alain Plasch (Fittipaldi F5A) made a stormer of a start to climb from ninth to fifth, while Padmore got the jump on Simon Fish (Ensign N180) and Christophe d’Ansembourg (Williams FW07C) for fourth place.
 
Deman and Lyons had pulled clear off Thornton and Padmore, who were in an intra-Lotus battle for third place. By lap seven, Deman led Lyons by 3.5 seconds, with Thornton a further three seconds adrift. Padmore in fourth was gradually falling back from Thornton.
 
In his non-ground-effect car, however, Lyons was running into brake trouble in the stop-and-start chicanes, and on lap nine decided to give his brakes a break after a big slide, losing 2.5 seconds to Deman and dropping into the clutches of Thornton. The Lotus driver couldn’t make a real impression on Lyons, however, who resumed his charge with five laps to go. Deman had it all well under control, though, and cruised to an unchallenged win, heading Lyons, Thornton and Padmore.
 
“It wasn’t too difficult,” said Deman. “I tried to make a good start and then push to build a gap. I wanted to try to keep it at five seconds over Michael. The car was really good but you have to look after your brakes here but they were still OK at the end so I am really pleased.”
 
Pre-78 winner Lyons admitted that Deman was unstoppable. “Loic is always super-strong on lap one, especially here as he knows the circuit so well. I made a big dive to get past Greg but the ground effect really works so well through turns three and four and in a non-ground effect car, we just lose time. I haven’t raced here since 2012 either but I think if we sort the brakes for tomorrow, I can give Loic a real go for the win.”
 
There was lots of fun behind with Christophe d’Ansembourg (Williams FW07C) and Steve Hartley (Arrows A4) battling hard for fifth, the two swapping places twice after they had both done with a quick-starting Alain Plasch. Katsu Kubota (Lotus 72) also passed Plasch for seventh, and had the Stewart class to his own after John Delane retired on lap one with a car that was impossible to steer with the steering bushes too tight. James Hagan (Ensign MN177) drove a lonely race to ninth ahead of Lauda class winner Ian Simmonds (Tyrrell 012) Frits van Eerd did well to haul his debuting ex-Ronnie Peterson March 761 to 12th after brake dramas in qualifying.
 
Mike Wrigley (mechanical dramas on lap four) and Simon Fish (in the gravel trap on lap five with a broken front right corner) were early retirements, while Frenchmen Vincent Rivet (March 811) and Pierre-Alain France (Ligier JS11/15) stopped right at the end, as did Daniel Rollinger’s Williams FX3B. Marc Devis started from the pit lane to coax a badly misfiring Maki to 15th place.