Christchurch racer Tom Alexander (pictured) put his single-seater experience to good use at Pukekohe this weekend to take a 24 point lead in the inaugural Toyota Finance 86 Championship, one race win and two podium position finishes enough to edge ahead of first-round leader Angus Fogg.
Fogg’s strong performance at the first round keeps him in the title chase, second on points, but two off-track excursions in today’s third race at Pukekohe cost him valuable points.
Fogg had pole for today’s race and held out Tom Alexander at the start, but just as it seemed he would run away with a win and thus maintain his championship lead, he went off the track and rejoined almost last. He had gone into the ‘esses’ at Pukekohe too fast and slid wide at the following corner, the entrance to the back straight.
Though the excursion was a matter of seconds long, it was enough for the close-packed field to sweep past. He recovered and took fastest lap in the Gulf Foods TR 86 with a 1:15.159, setting a new TR 86 lap record for the circuit. Just in front of him Richard Oxton was finding his pace, second fastest early in the race and breaking into the 1:15 lap times in his first outing in the TR 86 race cars – and his first run on slick tyres.
The winner of today’s 15 lap race was Jamie McNee, like Alexander an experienced single-seater racer. McNee put in a strong early race to grab the lead and became part of a three-car ‘draft’, joined by Ash Blewett and Tom Alexander. Making the most of the aerodynamic ‘tow’ effect created by the three cars travelling nose to tail, the leaders cleared out from fourth-placed Callum Quin.
McNee’s winning margin reflected the close nature of the fight for the lead: after 15 laps of the bumpy 2.95 km circuit he was just 1.8 seconds ahead of Blewett, who had traded places during the race with Tom Alexander – the latter happy enough with third in the race, second for the weekend and the championship lead.
Ken Smith survived two minor ‘offs’ to close in on the Masters category points leader, Tony Houston.
Ash Blewett won the weekend, with consistency paying off for Callum Quin who was third for the weekend and is now fourth in the championship.