Blewett and Alexander charge to the front in Toyota Finance 86 Championship
Toyota Finance 86 Championship leader Angus Fogg might have taken pole position going into the second round at Pukekohe but the first day of racing has belonged to the young guns: Ashley Blewett battled through to win the first race and Tom Alexander has won race two, putting a gap of 2.5 seconds on the field over ten laps.
Going into the second round this weekend at Pukekohe Fogg held a narrow points lead over Wellington’s Jamie McNee and Christchurch driver Tom Alexander.
Alexander was on the front row of the grid for the first race alongside pole man Angus , but a bad start dropped him down to sixth overall. He began a race-long battle back up to third at the finish.
Ashley Blewett meanwhile hunted down Angus Fogg and put him under pressure for several laps before taking the lead when Fogg missed a gear in the left-right turn that leads onto the Pukekohe ‘mountain’. Fogg and Alexander have both said the cars draft well, and Fogg was making the most of the characteristic as he fought to regain third place.
Blewett then accelerated away, creating a gap of .6 seconds by race end. Fogg made sure of second, Fogg third another .2 seconds behind.
Jamie McNee went out with a throttle problem, while Masters class leader Tony Houston crashed out of the race and did not finish after touching the apex kerb at the fast right-hander leading away from the Stables corner. That handed Ken Smith the class win and Smith – who joined the championship this weekend and is racing the ETEC Motorsport Tyre Plus car – edged closer to the Masters category lead.
The second race was a partial reverse grid, with the number of positions reversed decided by a marble draw. As race one winner, Ashley Blewett did the draw and pulled marble number four, with demoted him to the second row of the grid. Callum Quin would start from pole, but Tom Alexander alongside him got the better start and was quickly into the lead. Quin said afterward he is still finding the fastest lines in the TR 86 after moving up from the less powerful BMW E30s, and like most of the field found the bumpy surface challenging.
Behind him Ashley Blewett came through to third in an aggressive but clean move, then went through to second and set off after Alexander who had established a lead of 2.5 seconds from the halfway point and maintained his advantage.
The leader wasn’t having the race all his own way, however: Blewett was constantly in his rear view mirrors and behind the leading pair the pressure from Callum Quin only faded when McNee and Fogg closed in on the Telecom car and forced Quin to defend his position.
The three were side by side, three wide into the hairpin, jostling for the podium positions while Alexander pushed his lead out to almost three seconds.
“I had a good margin over Ashley but knew I had to stay clear of those three or they would be all over me, so I was being very careful to keep a good margin on them,” he said afterward.
At the chequered flag Blewett had managed to cut down Alexander’s lead, finishing just 1.904 seconds behind – but had not been able to challenge for the lead.
“I’m very happy with how it’s gone today – a race win and a second puts useful points on the board and the racing’s been good, close and clean. Tomorrow will be very interesting,” he said afterward.
Ashley Blewett, second overall, was first home in the Amateur class. In the Masters class, Kenny Smith ran away to a second category win after Tony Houston’s car failed to start the race.
Tom Alexander, with a third placing and a race win, has provisionally taken a championship lead of six points – the same gap Angus Fogg enjoyed at the start of this round.
Alexander also set and holds the TR 86 race lap record for the circuit, a 1:15.690 set in the morning’s race. In the midst of the battle for the third podium position Angus Fogg set fastest lap in race two, a 1:15.984.
Race three, over 15 laps, starts on Sunday at 12.55 pm NZDST.