Connor Adam got his Toyota 86 Championship campaign off to the best possible start with a lights-to-flag victory in the first race of the season at Pukekohe Park.
It wasn't an easy victory however, as the Post Haste-backed International Motorsport driver came under intense pressure during the race from both pole position holder Jordan Baldwin and Jaden Ransley.
Adam made the best getaway and led into Turn 1 in a clean start to edge out Baldwin. Despite tricky conditions with the track still damp off line, the first lap was incident free and as the field crossed the line for the first time it as Adam, followed closely by Baldwin, then Ransley, Peter Vodanovich, Kaleb Ngatoa, Jake Klein, Brock Gilchrist, a fast-starting Justin Allen and Mitch Hughes in his first race, with Callum Hedge rounding out the top ten.
CareVets racer Hedge was the man to watch and was quickly into his stride posting super quick laps from tenth on the grid. First on his radar were Hughes and Allen and he made it past both of them on lap three. On lap five he passed Klein and Gilchrist and set off after the lead five in front. This was reduced to a lead group of four when Ngatoa dived up the inside of Vodanovich at the complex. The two touched on the exit of the corner and Vodanovich slithered into the barriers on the wet grass, damaging the rear suspension and forcing his retirement. Ngatoa later received a 30 second penalty which dropped him down to 15th in the final standings.
By half distance Baldwin was piling a huge amount of pressure on Adam, but Connor was able to resist lap after lap. A couple of big efforts by Baldwin didn't quite come off and left him with his own mirrors full of a charging Ransley looking for a way around him for second. Ransley’s attempt came on lap eight when the two went side by side over the Mountain and down the front straight. Baldwin kept his nerve and was able to hold on going into Turn 1 but the net effect was to allow Adam to gain a few car lengths on both and secure enough breathing space to win the race.
"I'm stoked. The team got the car perfect," explained the race winner. "It went off a little towards the end of the race but was strong enough to do the job. So yes, a great start."
Baldwin held on for second, with Ransley third and Hedge a fighting fourth. Ngatoa took fifth and Brock Gilchrist sixth after a solid drive. Guest Australian driver Jake Klein finished seventh in his first New Zealand race while Justin Allen impressed with eighth in his first Toyota 86 race. Andrew Jackson and Mitch Hughes also shone finishing ninth and tenth on their category debuts.
Further back, Arran Crighton did what he could from the back of the grid to finish 14th. With his CareVets machine damaged beyond immediate repair in a qualifying shunt, a spare car was hastily trailered to the track. New tyres were bolted on and he went straight out to race. A feisty first lap and a solid race showed what could have been had he started in his usual machine.
Toyota 86 Championship - Race 1 Result
1. Connor Adam - Post Haste/Weigh Northland
2. Jordan Baldwin - Intermach NZ/Carters Tyres
3. Jaden Ransley - Miles Toyota/Kitchen Studio
4. Callum Hedge - CareVets NZ Ltd
5. Brock Gilchrist - Zic/Giltrap Group
6. Jake Klein - Toyota Racing New Zealand
7. Justin Allen - Battery Town/Thunder Adventure
8. Andrew Jackson - North Shore Toyota
9. Mitch Hughes- Gilpin Cartage Contractors
10. Sam Wright - Tony Richards Toyota/Premier
11. Jacob Cranston - Best Bars/Vista Lite
12. Campbell Stewart - NZPGS/Hydraulink
13. Arran Crighton - CareVets NZ Ltd
14. Connor Davison - Hampton Downs/Highlands Park
15. Kaleb Ngatoa - JJ Wallers/Capture Signs
16. Tony Austin - Genweld
Ret: Peter Vodanovich - CMC Markets/MacClure's ITM
Qualifying report: Baldwin dominates
Missing Friday practice with University exam commitments didn't hinder Toyota 86 Championship racer Jordan Baldwin in qualifying.
The young racer clocked the top two lap times to take pole position for both Race 1 and Race 2 at the first round of the series at the Supercar Championship event at Pukekohe Park.
The 20 minute session was interrupted by two red flag periods, one after young Connor Davison hit the tyres at Turn 2 at the beginning of the session and later when CareVets Scholarship driver Arran Crighton went off at the same point.
With eight minutes of the session remaining Baldwin put in two mega laps in the Intermach car, the only driver to go under the 1.16 mark. Fellow experienced racer Connor Adam was second fastest, with Crighton third fastest.
Baldwin was ecstatic after the session and relieved after a stressful couple of days, commenting: "A double pole after missing testing practice for my exam is way ahead of our expectations. The car was a jet in that session. The team has obviously done an awesome job."
Toyota 86 Championship - Round 1 Qualifying
1. Jordan Baldwin - Intermach NZ/Carters Tyres
2. Connor Adam - Poste Haste/Weigh Northland
3. Arran Crighton - CareVets NZ Ltd
4. Jaden Ransley - Miles Toyota/Kitchen Studio
5. Peter Vodanovich - CMC Markets/MacClure's ITM
6. Kaleb Ngatoa - JJ Wallers/Capture Signs
7. Mitch Hughes- Gilpin Cartage Contractors
8. Brock Gilchrist - Zic/Giltrap Group
9. Jake Klein - Toyota Racing New Zealand
10. Callum Hedge - CareVets NZ Ltd
11. Sam Wright - Tony Richards Toyota/Premier
12. Justin Allen - Battery Town/Thunder Adventure
13. Jacob Cranston - Best Bars/Vista Lite
14. Andrew Jackson - North Shore Toyota
15. Campbell Stewart - NZPGS/Hydraulink
16. Tony Austin - Genweld
17. Connor Davison - Hampton Downs/Highlands Park