The Toyota Finance 86 Championship takes to the fast straights and banked corners of Manfield circuit near Palmerston North this weekend promising close and exciting racing as championship contenders jostle for position and points in the premier one-make sports coupe category.
Arriving at the penultimate round, the battle for the lead in the Toyota Finance 86 Championship is close. Jamie McNee had posted a strong performance at the early rounds but faced stiff opposition at the southern rounds.
Multiple Toyota Racing Series champion and New Zealand Grand prix winner Nick Cassidy won on debut at the second southern round, held three weeks ago at Teretonga near Invercargill. He had picked up a one-off drive in championship contender Marcus Armstrong’s Auckland City Toyota car while the 14 year old was overseas at a karting event.
Now – with the championship in its final phase – there are no such distractions for the regular drivers.
In the two southern rounds – at Ruapuna near Christchurch and Teretonga near Invercargill - Aucklander Tom Alexander took over the championship lead from defending champion Jamie McNee. Alexander has proven the value of consistency, with two race wins, five second placings and two third placings across the four rounds and twelve races completed to date. He goes into this weekend’s round with an 18 point lead over McNee who has two race wins, three second placings and two thirds. Ash Blewett, third, has amassed 680 points with three race wins, one second placing and four thirds.
With three long straights on the circuit, corner exit speed is paramount to securing a fast lap time at Manfeild.
The 3.03 kilometre Manfeild circuit features cambered (banked) corners and long straights with sweeping turns at each end. It offers a range of passing opportunities and for this reason is a favourite among drivers. Turn two, the left hander that leads drivers into the infield ‘esses’ is the fastest on the track.
The TR86 lap record at Manfeild is 1:18.067, set in 2014 by Tom Alexander.