A year on from his enormous crash at Teretonga Park, Jaden Ransley has made an emphatic return to the Invercargill circuit by taking pole position for this weekend's opening Toyota 86 Championship race. The result wasn't particularly surprising after the Miles Toyota driver swept yesterday's practice sessions.
His nearest rival for this afternoon's opener will be Jordan Baldwin, who qualified four tenths adrift in his Intermach Toyota. Series leader Callum Hedge will start fifth.
“We originally went out on slicks but then there was a downpour so we had to change to wets,” said Ransley. “After that the car felt awesome. We showed we have great pace but we're going to have to work hard to hold off Jordan behind me.”
Invercargill's weather continued to be a mixed bag for the 20-minute session. Blue skies yesterday were followed by clouds today. Early showers had eased, only to crank back into life as the 15-car Toyota 86 Championship field rolled out for qualifying.
Along with being a pre-session favourite for qualifying, Hedge and his CareVets Toyota 86 were also among the notable side-stories — having successfully replaced an engine overnight. He led the session in its early minutes, as the first driver to break into the 1min 15sec bracket. The time stood for six minutes until both Ransley and Jordan Baldwin slid into the top two spots.
Ransley was the first to break under the fifteens — doing so with a 1:14.903 — although few goes later he had shaved a further second off his benchmark via a 1:13.975. By the session's halfway point he led Baldwin, the impressive Justin Allen in the Battery Town car, Hedge, and Kaleb Ngatoa in his JJ Wallers racer. As insurance, Ransley carved another half a second off his top time with a strong 1:13.411 (which eventually proved to be unbeatable).
Conditions appeared to worsen in the latter half of qualifying, meaning there were limited opportunities to improve times. Nonetheless the likes of Jacob Cranston, Ngatoa, and Highlands race winner Peter Vodanovich in the CMC Markets car managed to improve in the treacherous weather.
There were few changes in the closing minutes, which left Ransley, Baldwin and Allen to claim the top three positions. One of the few drivers to move up late was Brock Gilchrist — jumping up the grid to fourth to slot just ahead of Hedge. Race one of the Toyota 86 Championship at Teretonga Park is scheduled to start at 2.45pm.
2018-2019 Toyota 86 Championship - Round 3 Teretonga Qualifying
1 Jaden Ransley - Miles Toyota/Kitchen Studio
2 Jordan Baldwin - Intermach NZ/Carters Tyres
3 Justin Allen - Battery Town/Thunder Adventure
4 Brock Gilchrist - NEXUS Logistics/Giltrap Group
5 Callum Hedge - CareVets NZ Ltd
6 Jacob Cranston - Best Bars/Vista Lite
7 Peter Vodanovich - CMC Markets/MacClure's ITM
8 Arran Crighton - CareVets NZ Ltd
9 Connor Adam - Post Haste/Weigh Northland
10 Kaleb Ngatoa - JJ Wallers/Capture Signs
11 Campbell Stewart - NZPGS/Hydraulink
12 Connor Davison - Hampton Downs/Highlands Park
13 Sam Wright - Tony Richards Toyota/Premier
14 Andrew Jackson - North Shore Toyota
15 Mitch Hughes - Gilpin Cartage Contractors