Photo credit: Fast Company/Simone Viljoen.
Series returnee Andy Higgins (Lola T332) made it two wins out of three with an impressive lights-to-flag leading run in the final 10-lap feature race at the second round of this season’s SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series at Feilding’s Circuit Chris Amon Manfeild today.
The 2013/14 series title-holder was back to his dynamic best at the 32nd annual MG Classic meeting at the Manawatu circuit, putting his Stu Lush-owned Lola T332 on pole on Saturday morning before finishing second to impressive series newcomer Michael Collins driving the Alistair Hey-owned McRae GM1 in the first race of the weekend on Saturday then winning both races today.
“That’s better,” the second-generation racer from Auckland said after his impressive feature race win this afternoon. “We’ve been working away on the car since Pukekohe and now I feel I’ve got a car that I can race.”
Proof was in his fastest lap in the final, at 1.02.70, even quicker than his pole time on Saturday (a 1:03.33). The time was set in what ended up a race of two halves, after the Safety Car was dispatched on the third lap so that Grant Martin’s Talon MR1A could be retrieved from the gravel trap at the end of the start/finish straight. When he went off Martin was in a meeting high second place after splitting pole man Andy Higgins and fellow front row starter Michael Collins.
After impressing everyone with his quick, clean racing on series debut at the opening series round at Pukekohe last weekend, 21-year-old Christchurch ace Collins put in another faultless performance this weekend, and was able to claim his first category win on Saturday when leader Higgins was slowed by a gear selection issue on the second to last lap.
Third in the feature final on Sunday was 2016/17 series champion Brett Willis (Lola T330), a strong fourth SAS Autoparts man David Banks in his new Lola T332, and fifth fellow Aucklander Glenn Richards (Lola T400). Richards put in the drive of the race in his Lola T400, after spinning out of 6th place then working his way back up through the field from P11 to cross the line in fifth.
Also impressing was local driver Tim Rush in his return to the series - after three years – in the Rush family’s McLaren M22.
“I couldn’t be happier,” he said afterwards. “From lapping in the 1.09s on Saturday to doing 1.06s in the race today….. it’s been a dream come true.”
Dave Arrowsmith from Christchurch claimed Class A (for earlier model cars) honours again in his unique Ford-powered Lotus 70, crossing the line in seventh place despite losing third gear early on.
Earlier in the day, Michael Collins led the second SAS MSC series race of the weekend from pole before Andy Higgins got a run on him down the infield straight then got past under brakes into and accelerating out of the heavily-banked Higgins corner onto the back straight. Having sorted the gear selection issue which had slowed him in Saturday’s race, Higgins edged away from Collins early on before the latter set the fastest race lap as he closed the gap back down to the point where it was just 0.40 of a second at the flag.
Class A standout Dave Arrowsmith got another great start, and ran as high as fifth before being caught and shuffled back down the order by the later model Lolas of David Banks and Glenn Richards. Russell Greer ran strongly early on before being slowed then eventually pulling into the pits with a clutch issue. The big mover in the morning race was local driver Tim Rush who worked his way up through the field from 11th to 8th at the flag.
Higgins also led the Lion’s share of laps in the Saturday race, until a gear selection issue slowed him and allowed Michael Collins to pass for the lead.
As he did in Sunday’s first race Grant Martin started and finished third, while defending series title-holder Brett Willis worked his way forward after qualifying sixth quickest to finish fourth. Glenn Richards (Lola T400) shared the second row of the grid with Martin, but spun in the opening stages of the race and spent the remaining laps working his way back to 10th place.
Race 2 (Sun) 8 laps
1. Andrew Higgins 8:35.21
2. Michael Collins +0.40
3. Grant Martin +8.36
4. Brett Willis +8.66
5. David Banks +23.95
6. Glenn Richards +24.40
7. Dave Arrowsmith +26.20
8. Tim Rush +39.48
9. Shayne Windelburn +54.87
10. Peter Burson +56.65
11. Tony Roberts +4 laps
dnf Russell Greer (clutch) Karl Zohs (battery)
Race 3 (Sun) 10 laps
1. Andew Higgins 12:48.03
2. Michaal Collins +1.86
3. Brett Willis +7.61
4. David Banks +15.15
5. Glenn Richards +19.39
6. Tim Rush +23.45
7. Dave Arrowsmith +25.87
8. Aaron Burson +27.14
9. Tony Roberts +35.80
10. Karl Zohs + 1 lap
dnf Shayne Windleburn, Grant Martin. dns Russell Greer.