Hillsborough-born racing driver, Richard Lyons turned a short notice call-up by the Australian Ford Performance Racing Team into a podium and an outright win at last weekend’s Armor All Gold Coast 600, races 21/22 of the Australian V8 Supercar Series. Lyons’ opportunity to partner FPR’s Mark Winterbottom, at the temporary road course in Surfers Paradise came about after Will Power was advised to standown as a precaution, after being caught up in the aftermath of Dan Wheldon’s Indy car accident. Lyon’s proved to be an inspired choice as it brought FPR their first outright win of the series. After one test day and Friday practice, qualifying on Saturday was a rain-hampered session with Winterbottom set to improve on his early lap until he pitted, coincidentally just as the rain began to fall and Winterbottom’s times only ended up good enough for 17th and 3rd on the grid.
The team started race 21 with all three international drivers in the car. Lyons gained one place on the opening lap and muscled his way through the field, though made contact with another car on lap 18 and was forced to serve a drive-through penalty two laps later. Lyons stopped one lap later from a recovered 10 place and swapped with Winterbottom. The safety car was deployed on lap 50 to, allowing the field to bunch up. At the restart Winterbottom had fought back from Lyon’s early penalty and was seventh. The safety car made two further appearances, though by this time Winterbottom was up to fourth, just two places behind Davison. Winterbottom charged onto the podium on lap 97, Winterbottom closed on Davison but then had to resist attack from a charging Lyons giving the pair 3rd spot on the podium.
Race 22 on Sunday saw FPR’S Mark Winterbottom and Richard Lyons combine to give the team its first victory of the 2011 V8 Supercar season after taking the chequered flag after the102-lap race. Winterbottom and Lyons combined to defeat 54 other drivers around the concrete jungle that is the Surfers Paradise street circuit. Lyons held Winterbottom’s third place qualifying position throughout the opening laps and eventually handed the Ford Falcon to Winterbottom in the same position it qualified. Winterbottom then spent the next two-thirds of the race hunting down and harassing championship-leader Jamie Whincup until making the definitive pass on lap 94. He eventually went on to claim a comfortable win to earn his 16 career victory and the first for Lyons.
Lyons said “It is hard to believe that my week has turned out how it has. To come and be able to work with a team like FPR, which is such an incredible outfit, is just an honour. The guys have had a few hard races this year, but I could see from the moment I arrived that they were pushing so hard and wanted the win so much so to be a part of it is amazing. I’ve come away with two podiums and it is great to be part of it, so I look forward to enjoying the moment with the team. I’d love the chance to come back and do it again, so I hope this isn’t the last time I’m here in FPR overalls.” The win moves ‘Frosty’ into fourth in the championship and solidifies FPR’s second place in the Team Championship.
Huge thanks to Tony Gregory for the write-up