Championship leader Ash Blewett has rebounded from a crash in testing to dominate qualifying and then win the Toyota Finance 86 Championship today at Taupo’s Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park.
Blewett, dominant from the opening round in late 2015, damaged his car yesterday when he struck brake problems on the sixth lap of the final session and went off into the tyre wall.
Some hard work overnight had the TR 86 race car ready for qualifying this morning, and Blewett wasted no time re-establishing his dominance, qualifying on pole for today’s race and the final race of the weekend tomorrow afternoon.
His qualifying lap time of 1:40.481 was well inside the race lap record of 1:42.258 he set here in September 2014.
On the grid, it was Blewett who got the best start and led the field away, with the CareVets cars of Ryan Yardley and Michael Scott in hot pursuit and a group of four cars side by side into turn one battling for fourth.
Blewett simply cleared out from the field over that lap, building himself a 1.4 second advantage as the cars braked into the chicane at the end of the circuit’s long ‘back’ straight.
“I never thought about the testing session brake issue again, it was a strange one-off and we couldn’t find a cause so I just went out and raced,” he said.
Callum Quin and John Penny, second and third in the championship, had effectively given away any chance of catching Blewett when they qualified eighth and ninth, and Quin almost wrecked his car at the end of that first lap, sliding wide on the entry to the start-finish straight and hitting the tyre wall.
He managed to keep the car pointed out onto the track and rejoined down two seconds, with bodywork rubbing on the right front tyre.
In the closing moments of the race Michael Scott, who had seemed assured of third place, slipped wide at the same spot but was able to gather up the car before it hit the wall. The incident enabled rookie Jacob Smith to pounce, and the young Glendowie driver made no mistake, surging past to be third overall behind rookie class rival Ryan Yardley.
Untroubled at the front, though, was new champion Ash Blewett, who made sure of his title with a finish line gap to Ryan Yardley of 2.52 seconds.
Yardley had the consolation of holding second and slightly opening up the gap to Smith – and the Christchurch driver also posted fastest lap of the race, setting a new lap record of 1:41.401.
With Blewett securing the title, attention now turns to the battle between Quin and Penny for second overall, and to the rookie battle between Yardley and Smith. Tomorrow morning’s race is an eight lap partial reverse grid, with race one winner Ash Blewett drawing the number six marble to place himself sixth on the grid. Reid Harker, currently third in the rookie title stakes, is on pole.
Race two starts at 10 am; the final race of the weekend takes place at 2.00 pm tomorrow afternoon.
The 2015-2016 Toyota Finance 86 Championship is exclusive to locally-built TR 86 race versions of Toyota’s acclaimed 86 sports coupe which can be leased or purchased from Toyota Racing New Zealand. The championship is televised on TV3 and SKY, with series and race weekend information available on the Toyota Racing website, Facebook page and Twitter account.