Thornton Marches Home in Masters USA F1 Opener

The challenging 2.54-mile Road Atlanta circuit played host to the opening Masters USA races of the season last weekend (April 24to to 26th), with a fascinating mix of 1970s and 80s F1 cars doing battle. Visiting European Masters series racers Greg Thornton, Tommy Dreelan, Andrew Beaumont, (making his first US racing trip with Classic Team Lotus) and James Hagan squared up against the home-grown opposition. Cal Meeker was a welcome Masters USA newcomer in his Williams FW08 and Ron Maydon was out for the first time in his newly acquired ex-Riccardo Patrese Arrows FA1, new to the American series.

Saturday’s race was led by pole-man Greg Thornton (March 761), but he was chased hard by James Hagan’s ex-Michele Alboreto Tyrrell 011. Canadian Keith Frieser (Shadow DN1) and John McKenna (Parnelli) had a great battle throughout, McKenna making his decisive move with a lap to go, taking third place at the flag.  Ron Maydon’s race ended early on with a spin at Turn 3, although he managed to rejoin the track and coast to the safety of the pit lane.  The first-ever 3 litre F1 Masters race at Road Atlanta made a great spectacle and as Thornton, Hagan and Frieser headed for the podium, Cal Meeker (Williams FW08C) bagged fourth, closely followed by Andrew Beaumont (Lotus 76/1), Bob Blain (March 751), Dreelan (March 761), and John Delane’s Tyrrell 002.

Race two, held in 78-degree temperatures, was dominated by Greg Thornton who charged away from Hagan, Frieser, McKenna and Meeker. Despite fading rear brakes, Thornton never looked threatened, but the battles behind him continued through the race with Frieser’s Shadow hanging on to second ahead of Hagan’s Tyrrell. Bob Blain retired his March with brake dramas and Ron Maydon’s Arrows overheated, while John McKenna was forced to stop his Parnelli after fourth gear went missing!