It doesn’t get much closer: championship leader Angus Fogg has taken pole for the first race of the second round of the inaugural Toyota Finance 86 Championship by a fraction of a second.
Going into this weekend at Pukekohe Fogg held a narrow points lead over Wellington’s Jamie McNee and Christchurch driver Tom Alexander.
Now he has gone fastest in official practice and taken pole by just .022 seconds from Tom Alexander, with McNee showing speed early in the session but being gradually edged back as Fogg pushed through to fastest qualifying lap of 1:15.958 on his 13th lap of 14. Fogg and Alexander both broke into the 1:15 lap times and the pole-man’s margin is the closest yet in the championship.
The new series for Toyota’s acclaimed sports coupe hits the track for its second round this weekend at the final round of the BNT V8 Supertourers at Pukekohe Park Raceway and Fogg is looking over his shoulder at a bunch of young racers keen to topple him from his early championship lead. He is doing double duty at Pukekohe, also racing in the main V8 SuperTourer category.
Fogg, Alexander and McNee are racing in the elite category for drivers with extensive top-level championship experience.
Ashley Blewett was fourth fastest and will thus start on the second row of the grid tomorrow in the first race. He set his best time, a 1:16.190, on lap 7 of 14.
Two new additions to the field add further depth to the championship: longtime Toyota supporter and motorsport household name Kenny Smith and Richard Oxton, who comes to the series from the BMW E30 one make series.
Richard is the son of David Oxton, himself a massively talented single-seater and touring car driver who has raced against Smith on many occasions.
The series co-ordinator, Sam MacNeill, says the lap times indicate that racing will be close this weekend. Less than four seconds cover the entire field.
With 75 points on offer to the winner of each race, the championship lead is by no means certain. This weekend, the drivers will also have the opportunity of establishing a new race lap record for the category.
Championship entries include Angus Fogg and Chris Lewis, Jamie McNee, Matt Gibson, Callum Quin, Tom Alexander, Ash Blewett, father and son team Bill and Matthew Williams and Tony Houston. Bill Williams will not be racing at this round due to a wrist injury sustained at round one.
The seven-round televised championship uses the locally-built Toyota TR 86, a racing version of the acclaimed 86 sports coupe. It carries a prize fund of $20,000 to be shared between the overall winner of the championship, category champions and race winners. Only TR 86 cars built in Auckland by Toyota are eligible to race in the series. The TR 86 specification includes an FIA-approved multi-point competition roll cage, adjustable competition suspension, racing brake rotors and calipers and 18-inch Speedline alloy wheels. The cockpit features competition seats, racing harnesses and steering wheel, with data provided to the driver by a Motec colour screen digital dash.
The TR 86 competitors have three races over the course of the weekend, with a pair of ten-lap races on Saturday morning and afternoon and a final 15-lap race on Sunday.