Wellingtonian Jamie McNee extended his lead in the Toyota Finance 86 Championship with another race win and a podium finish in every race for the one make championship at Taupo’s Ricoh Motorsport Park this weekend.
He is now 125 points clear of new second-place man Callum Quin. Ashley Blewett has moved into third, with Christchurch racer Tom alexander toppled from second in the championship to fourth
An outright race win on the Saturday was a welcome 21st birthday present for McNee, who has now won a race at each of the five rounds of the championship. Arriving in Taupo with a 79 point championship lead McNee was keenly aware he needed to put in a top performance to retain the championship advantage, with 75 points available from each race win.
A graduate of the Toyota Racing Series, McNee said he relied heavily on the skills and experience he picked up in TRS to take his race win from grid position five in the first race on Saturday. He then followed up the win with a second and a third on Sunday to complete a round win.
“It was great to win a race and extend my lead on my birthday too!”
With the single make/single model TR86 racing cars so evenly matched, McNee said the difference between the front-runners came down to car setup and drive ability.
“The racing in the TR86 class was really close again. There was nothing between us on times so I had to work hard for the round win. My car was quick and reliable again which certainly helped.”
Callum Quin, who joined the winners’ circle with victory in the second race, agrees.
“Car setup is critical, especially on a track like Taupo where there’s a variety of corners and a very fast straight. I knew where our car was fast and the others weren’t and had to make the most of every opportunity to create a gap because I knew the others could close up in different parts of the track,” he said afterward.
Quin said his race win in the Telecom/Spotify entry was gratifying.
“You always know it’s coming but having to wait for the chance to get out in front and then make sure of the win is nerve-wracking.”
Quin’s win came after he outpaced Matt Gibson at the race start, then held off Gibson as Jamie McNee surged through in his Motul-backed car from the second row.
“I could get a gap but then Jamie would come charging back so I was on my guard right until the flag,” he said.
Aucklander Andy Waite had a trying weekend, shouldered aside and out of race one by championship front-runner Tom Alexander, but he made up for the Saturday disappointment with the win in race three on Sunday, leading home Alexander with McNee making sure of third.
Two new racers made their TR 86 debut at the weekend: Christchurch schoolboy kart racer Marcus Armstrong and Aucklander John Lovich, who is returning to motor racing after an enforced layoff due to rugby injuries.
Both drivers had steady introductions to the championship, Armstrong securing 133 points and Lovich 123.
The 3.32 km Taupo circuit had never hosted a round of the 86 championship before, which meant drivers had three chances to set and re-set the race lap record for the class. McNee set the record in race one with a 1:43.141 on just the second race lap.
Tom Alexander reset the record the following morning in cooler conditions with a 1:42.295 which was not bettered in the afternoon’s race.
The next and final round of the championship is at north Waikato’s Hampton Downs race circuit in early May, where Jamie McNee will look to cement his lead and take the national championship win. Quin, new third place man Ashley Blewett and Tom Alexander in fourth will all be doing their utmost to overturn the established championship standings in the special four-race event format at that final round.