"What a race! Big Daddy's back!" An elated John Penny is celebrating winning in the wet at what is arguably his home circuit, the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park at Taupo.
Penny became the third winner in four races in the 2016-2017 Toyota 86 Championship after a race-long duel with old V8-category foe Matt Lockwood. The battle saw the race lead change a half dozen times, both sliding off the track and rejoining, before Lockwood had the mother of all spins on the last lap and Penny swept through to victory.
“That was the best duel I’ve had in ages. Matt’s a great racer and we have run hard against each other in the NZV8s for years so we both knew what we needed to do – and he was determined to score the win,” Penny said afterward.
Reid Harker was slow off the line at the race start, holding position in the centre of the track to defend against Michael Scott – but neither saw Penny surge through from third to grab the inside line into turn one. All three powered through the corner with just millimetres between them and Penny got the best launch onto the straight.
Matt Lockwood was likewise on the attack, scything past Scott and Harker. Within a lap Penny and Lockwood had control and had begun a race-long fight for the lead. In their frenzied battle for the lead, both racers slid off the track again and again until at one point it seemed that Penny had spun out of contention.
“Conditions got steadily worse through the race, the track was streaming wet but we were very evenly matched. When I spun I thought it was all over but I was able to claw my way back onto the track and carry on.”
The Penny-Lockwood battle was only resolved as the field started the final lap, with Lockwood finally losing his battle with the conditions and spinning off the track, leaving Penny clear to win ahead of and pole man Reid Harker, who said he’d had a difficult race.
“The car wasn’t set up right for the wet and I had no grip off the line at the start so I got swamped. I fought back all through those eight laps so I’m happy to have got home and banked more points,” he said afterward.
Lockwood’s finish placing belied the intensity of the duel with Penny.
“I really enjoyed that, it was fantastic. I’m actually hoping for more rain now!”
CareVets driver Ryan Yardley, second overall, takes the championship lead on 246 points, just two clear of Harker on 244 with Michael Scott now third on 222.
The Toyota 86 Championship returns to the track for the second race of the weekend
tomorrow at 10.48 for a ten lap partial reverse grid race; the weekend concludes with a 12 lap race at 3:44 pm over 12 laps.