Ransley sets stage for title fightback
As the Toyota 86 Championship hits Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon for its penultimate round of the 2018–'19 championship, the points standings look set to be a focus.
Jaden Ransley, who sits second in the standings, has claimed pole for the first race of the weekend. He starts alongside Arran Crighton, who has bounced back from a difficult few rounds to show competitive pace at the Feilding circuit in the CareVets Scholarship car. Ransley was delighted with the car throughout the session.
"We had a great car in that session," he said afterwards. "We came in half way through and put two new tyres on the left side which worked out in our favour as it gave us the second fastest time and pole for the second race when we went back out. No one else went faster from there. Double pole, hopefully we can convert that into the races."
Series leader Jordan Baldwin on the other hand has a tough task on his hands, having qualified in sixth place in a field separated from first to tenth by six tenths of a second (just one second covers the top 14).
Early in the qualifying session, Connor Adam — fresh from competing at last weekend's Leadfoot Festival in Hahei in a '90s Toyota Corolla Super Touring car — was the first driver to set a representative time; a 1:20.016 in the Post Haste backed car.
Given that the grid of young drivers ventured into the 1min 18sec bracket during Friday practice, it was no surprise that Adam's time wouldn't last. Kaleb Ngatoa, Baldwin, Crighton and Ransley all piled on top of Adam's time — Ransley leading halfway into the session with a 1:19.250.
Five minutes into the 20-minute qualifier the top 10 were all in the nineteens. Adam had chipped away at his times, once again hitting the top on a 1:19.165. With 12 minutes to go he was beaten by Ransley's 1:19.078, but by this point the amount of time left in the circuit was getting whittled down to mere tenths.
Halfway through qualifying, Ransley and Adam led Callum Hedge in the other CareVets car, Crighton, Campbell Stewart, Baldwin, Brock Gilchrist in the NEXUS Logistics machine and Peter Vodanovich in eighth for CMC Markets. Vodanovich was lucky to be able to complete the session after a scary high-speed off at Higgins Corner which he was able to recover from without drama.
Ransley and Adam were soon split by Crighton, who bagged a lap only 0.002 off Ransley's top time. The run to the final five minutes of qualifying featured few other improvements and it looked like Ransley's time could stand. Any chance the chasing pack had of beating him was further hindered when Christchurch-based driver improved on his already lofty benchmark with a 1:19.004 in the dying stages. And indeed, his efforts would see the Miles Toyota–backed 86 claim Race 2 pole position as well with the second best time. Crighton, Adam, Hedge, and an impressive Stewart completed the top five, ahead of series leader Baldwin, Gilchrist, Jacob Cranston, Vodanovich, and Ngatoa.
Race one of the Toyota 86 Series at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon takes place this afternoon at 2.24pm, with two more races to follow tomorrow.
2018-2019 Toyota 86 Championship Round 5 - New Zealand Grand Prix, Manfeild. Qualifying
1. Jaden Ransley - Miles Toyota/Kitchen Studio
2. Arran Crighton - CareVets NZ Ltd
3. Connor Adam - Post Haste/Weigh Northland
4. Callum Hedge - CareVets NZ Ltd
5. Campbell Stewart - NZPGS/Hydraulink
6. Jordan Baldwin - Intermach NZ/Carters Tyres
7. Brock Gilchrist - NEXUS Logistics/Giltrap Group
8. Jacob Cranston - Best Bars/Vista Lite
9. Peter Vodanovich - CMC Markets/MacClure's ITM
10. Kaleb Ngatoa - JJ Wallers/Capture Sign
11. Sam Wright - Tony Richards Toyota/Premier
12. Connor Davison - Hampton Downs/Highlands Park
13. Justin Allen - Battery Town/Thunder Adventure
14. Andrew Jackson - North Shore Toyota
15. Leo Bult - North Western Toyota