Lyons - youngest Monaco F1 racer

Derbyshire motor racing team Hillspeed and 17-year-old racer Michael Lyons made history in Monaco at the weekend, 10th/11th May, after competing in the prestigious Grand Prix Historique – the sixth running of the event which first took place in 1997.Marking Felsted resident Lyons out as the youngest ever driver to pilot a Formula One car at the world-famous Monaco street-circuit in Monte Carlo, the teenager took part in the Automobile Club de Monaco organised race at the wheel of the glorious 1977 Hesketh 308E which he took to podium success at Donington Park in late March.Racing at Monaco in the 15-lap class ‘G’ encounter, comprising 3-litre F1 cars constructed during the period 1975 to 1978, the Hillspeed supported driver lined up 17th on the grid after posting a best time of 1m 43.360 seconds during qualifying.Making a tremendous start, gaining four positions off the line, Lyons climbed into 11th place with less than a third of the race completed. His outstanding progress was unfortunately halted though when a gearbox failure saw the talented British youngster forced to retire at the Swimming Pool complex on the fifth lap.Commenting on the weekend’s action, Hillspeed team principal Richard Ollerenshaw said: “Mick did an exceptional job and it was just a shame he was forced out of the race after such an outstanding start. I’m confident he would have finished inside the top 10 on his Monaco debut without the breakage which is a credit to his superb ability to switch between modern and historic racing.“Sunday’s race was only the fourth time he’d driven a Formula One car and he’s certainly by far the youngest ever driver to race an F1 car at Monaco. There were only a couple of 20 minute sessions before the race so Mick only had a total of about 14 laps in which to learn the track! He did a top job.”Ollerenshaw added: “The retirement occurred due to a breakage of the input shaft and we think this probably happened because of the stress the standing start placed on the car – the historic events usually begin with rolling starts. It’s unfortunate and we’re really disappointed for him but he can still take away a lot of positives from the weekend.”Held a fortnight ahead of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship round at Monaco, which will take place on 24th/25th May, the Grand Prix Historique was Lyons’ debut outing in the principality and also only his fourth ever race in the Hesketh.The Essex racer will return to the cockpit of his contemporary Formula Renault BARC single-seater with the Hillspeed team just under a fortnight from now on Spring Bank Holiday Monday, 26th May, for the fifth round of the 2008 season at Oulton Park.Before then, the team will test at the Cheshire venue this Friday, 16th May, with Lyons’ Formula Renault BARC team-mates Ahmad Al Harthy and Menasheh Idafar in action.