Thornton Wins Eventful Masters Historic Formula One Saturday Race

Greg Thornton, walked away from a scrappy wheel to wheel field that included two blown engines and a lost rear wing to win the Masters Historic Formula One race here at the Rolex Monterey Reunion at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Driving his ex-Elio de Angelis Lotus 91/5, Thornton checked out early and maintained a flag to flag to flag win.

Foggy, cool temps in the morning gave way to mild temps and sunny afternoon skies in Monterey making for perfect spectator weather. As in qualifying, Thornton said the track remained slippery, albeit improved grip over qualifying. What made the race winner uneasy during this particular ses-sion was the restart.

During the first lap of the race, The Ensign MN179 of Bud Moeller and the March 821of Chris Farrell both blew their Ford Cosworth DFV motors, leaving oil on the racing line. The race was stopped so WeatherTech Raceway Safety crews could clean the track. Stewards allowed for the full 20-minute session, despite the delay to the day’s race schedule.

“The problem with a restart is the rules contradict,” observed Thornton. “When you are doing an original start, you are not allowed to overtake until Turn 4. On a restart you can overtake on the line. So, I just needed to make sure I could keep the crowd behind me.” Thornton had no problem in doing just that as he extended his lead to five seconds within two laps.

The dice for second between Ireland’s James Hagan in a Tyrrell 11 and Local San Francisco resident, Martin Lauber in a March 741 was a wheel to wheel sprint that went throughout the remain-der of the race — Hagan prevailed in the end. “I am very good at making my car wide when I have to. I just had to beat (Lauber) at his home track!” At one point the two crossed the start-finish side by side. According to Hagan, “I was on the inside and there was no way he could get around me on the outside. I feel ecstatic. It’s great to race close with somebody and feel safe.”

On lap 5, the Tyrrell 10 of Ethan Shippert lost its rear wing in Turn 3. A local yellow flew as safety crews cleared the track of the debris. Thornton commented, “The problem with leading is you are the first one to come up on these things.” What’s worse, the leader lost his tachometer. “I called to (engineer Chris Dinnage) and told him my tacho would go to zero every time I change gears. He says ‘we’ll you know when to change gears — listen to it’ (laughs).”

Porsche factory driver, Patrick Long, was not allowed by the Stuttgart Automaker from further participation driving the 1983 Williams FW08C, with car owner Erich Joiner. However, Joiner took the wheel and marched through the filed from last on the grid, setting fast lap for the race, to fourth. Getting through another wheel to wheel battle between Chris Bender’s Arrows A6, Danny Baker’s McLaren M23 and Steve Hartley’s Arrows A4, was an additional challenge. A blanket could have been tossed over the four as they crossed the line at the checker.

Overall the race was quite a spectacle and the fans seemed to enjoy the ongoing battles. “Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves,” commented Masters Founder & Owner and LEC CRP1 driver, Ron Maydon.