Thornton charges to the front to claim victory in first Masters Historic Formula One USA race at Watkins Glen
From fifth on the grid, Greg Thornton put in a fighting performance to claim victory in the first of two Masters Formula One USA races at Watkins Glen. In his Lotus 91, the Briton was up into third after just three laps before he set off after the leading Tyrrell duo of James Hagan and Jamie Constable. Thornton moved past Constable’s Tyrrell 011B on lap 5, but had to wait until the penultimate lap to pounce on Hagan’s 011 that had led the race from pole.
Jonathan Holtzman (Lotus 87B) beat Dan Collins (Lotus 91) to fourth, while in sixth overall Ron Maydon claimed a dominant pre-78 class victory, heading the newer cars of Bud Moeller (Ensign N179) and Lee Mowle (Lotus 78). Maydon’s life was made slightly easier when his two most prominent class rivals Chris Locke (Lotus 77) and Bob Blain (March 751) were both out by lap 1.
Charles Warner (Shadow DN9) was ninth ahead of Doug Mockett (Wolf WR6) while Chris MacAllister’s Ferrari 312T2 took second in the pre-78 class.
From the start, Hagan led away from fellow Tyrrell driver Constable and the three Lotuses, Collins ahead of Holtzman and Thornton. Moeller was sixth, following by pre-78 class leader Maydon, Mowle, Warner and MacAllister, as Blain was forced to start from the back and was down in 12th place. In even more trouble was Chris Locke, whose Lotus 77 got stuck in third gear and was out of the race.
On lap 2, Thornton was up into fourth, and a lap later the Brit swept past countryman Collins for third. Further back, Lee Mowle in the Lotus 78 did the same to fellow Briton Maydon to move up into seventh behind Moeller, while Blain’s March 751 reached no further than lap 1.
At the front, Hagan wasn’t getting away from Constable, the Tyrrells still only half a second apart, with Thornton closing up on the both of them, as the former European Masters Historic Formula One champion dropped Collins and Holtzman. In eighth, Maydon still led the pre-78 class, his main rivals Locke and Blain having both dropped out. This meant that MacAllister’s Ferrari 312T2 was promoted to be the Lec’s two closest challenger for class honours.
After five laps, Hagan had put a full second between himself and Constable, the latter now under pressure from Thornton, who on the next lap sized up the Tyrrell and moved past. Wasting no time, Thornton set off in pursuit of Hagan. However, the Irishman responded and began to open up a gap, increasing it to 2.2 seconds at the end of lap 8. Behind the leading trio, Holtzman began putting Collins under pressure, the two Lotuses having left Moeller’s Ensign behind by some 20 seconds. Mowle, meanwhile, had his eyes firmly set om Moeller’s sixth place.
With under five minutes left, Thornton put in the fastest lap of the race to close the gap to Hagan down to 0.8 seconds, as the two had now left Constable trailing by 8 seconds. And then on lap 11, Thornton did it, passing the Tyrrell on the penultimate tour of Watkins Glen. As the Briton crossed the line in first, the dejected Hagan gave up to finish 2.9 seconds in arrears, with Constable taking the final podium spot, nine seconds further adrift.
Holtzman had meanwhile completed the move on Collins, who crawled across the finish line with eight seconds in hand on Maydon, the latter having passed both Moeller and Mowle for sixth overall and a dominant pre-78 class win.
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