Rainmaster: Ash Blewett has taken victory in wet conditions today at Hampton Downs to extend his lead in the 2015-2016 Toyota Finance 86 Championship.
As the field assembled, light rain began to fall. The 15-strong grid were all using their slick tyres for dry conditions and at the race start all drivers struggled for grip. Pole man Blewett was briefly overhauled by an aggressive-starting John Penny, but the two went side by side into the first turn and Blewett emerged in the lead.
“The rain came in while we were on the grid, so there was no way to know what was going to happen in turn one. We were all on tip-toes through that first corner, and John was pretty determined,” Blewett said afterward.
"John Penny gave me a good hard challenge off the line and into the first corner, but he also gave me plenty of racing room as I came up to take the lead. It was good clean racing."
Behind the leading pair, the field was closely bunched. Michael Scott had been on the front row at the start, but gave racing room to Penny and Blewett as they tussled for the lead. As they exited the first turn, Reid Harker made contact with Scott’s car and the Te Puke driver spun through 360 degrees.
“It was a big hit and all I could do was hang on once the car started to spin out. I watched the rest of the field swarm past before I could get going,” said Scott afterward.
With Penny safely behind him. Blewett was able to extend his lead.
"The wet track as fairly predictable and I was able to carefully put down some fast laps to get a margin over the field. It was definitely trickier once I was clear of the pack because I had to judge how conditions were and had nobody to match my pace against.”
The corner leading up onto the front straight was the area he was most nervous of.
"I have seen some massive crashes at that turn in other categories because the water tends to sit on the surface there, but right through the race it seemed okay. If anything there was less water there today than I have seen in the past."
Ash says the blind turn-in to turn one - a downhill right hander - was offering consistent grip.
"The car really hooked up and handled the conditions really well. This is actually the first time I've raced a TR 86 on slicks in the wet!"
John Penny was second, 15 seconds adrift and holding out Callum Quin in third. A sensational drive from Mathew Hamilton brought him home fourth ahead of Reid Harker, with another stand-out drive bringing Caleb Cross home sixth.
Michael Scott set fastest lap of the race, a 1:23.740.
With four wins from four races, Blewett says he will be watching closely as racing resumes with a partial reverse grid race tomorrow morning. He is as always aware that the championship is about consistency in pace and performance.
"It's all about time in the car, about understanding what the car will do for you in a situation like this and what you need to do to be fast and of course the championship is about being consistent."