Ransley declared Race 2 winner
Jaden Ransley was the post-race winner of the second Toyota 86 Championship race at Highlands Park after on-the-road winner Callum Hedge was given a five second penalty for contact in their race long battle for the win.
All race long, Hedge battled with the same sparring partner he had Saturday — Jaden Ransley. With an increasingly damp circuit thrown in, it made for one of the most exciting races of the Toyota 86 Championship season. Among the other notable performances was Justin Allen. The series rookie claimed his first top-five finish of the season after getting stuck into numerous battles throughout the top ten and outlasting former race winners to finish behind Jordan Baldwin (third) and Peter Vodanovich (fourth).
The race two grid was defined by all of the second-fastest times set in Saturday's qualifying session. This meant that all of race one's usual suspects started at the front with Hedge leading Ransley on the front row. Those two continued their sparring from the opening lap as Arron Crighton followed.
Peter Vodanovich tried to pressure Crighton over the bridge towards the end of the lap, only to find himself vulnerable to an aggressive and physical attack from Jordan Baldwin at the last corner — a move that saw Baldwin grab the position after briefly swapping paint.
While the action was unfolding, conditions worsened. What began as a dry race was getting wetter by the minute as rain started to come down. Lap three saw Hedge make his first mistake of the weekend at the hairpin in the forest. He got sideways mid-corner, wrestling the car straight without running wide. This allowed Ransley to get past. But it didn't last long. Just a few corners later Hedge performed a move on Ransley similar to the one that Baldwin had done on Vodanovich on the first lap; successfully jamming his car up the inside to take back first place, with contact sending two of Ransley's wheels into the dirt. This caught the stewards eyes and ultimately left Hedge with a five second penalty that pushed him down to fourth in the final standings.
As the track continued to get increasingly greasy, the cars started to squirm about more on the Highlands surface. Under pressure, Hedge and Ransley's dicing had brought Crighton, Baldwin, Vodanovich, Connor Adam, and Justin Allen into the mix (Vodanovich passing Crighton in the confined train). After his early passing, Adam was seemingly under the most pressure. He was copping the blowtorch from the ever-improving Justin Allen.
He got past Adam on lap five just before the bridge, moving him into sixth. Soon he was all over the back of the fifth-placed Crighton. And on the following lap he leaped inside the CareVets car at turn 14. A brief sideways moment on corner exit saw Crighton get back past on the straight, only for Allen to get back by at the end of lap seven. The battle though, had left them well adrift of the front-runners.
With two laps to go, things were warming up at the front as well. Hedge and Ransley were once again all by themselves, with Ransley trying to fill all of the Saturday race winner's mirrors at once. The final lap saw their exceptional battle peak and they made contact just before going under the bridge. Hedge's defence was clinical, as Ransley's effort continued all the way around the 4.1-kilometre circuit.
More contact was made into the closing complex, with Ransley having a huge sideways moment out of the penultimate corner. Hedge's efforts, however, would not secure him anywhere near enough of a lead to retain the win after the penlaty was imposed later on.
Baldwin and Vodanovich would finish second and third with Hedge fourth, ahead of Allen in fifth — the best result of the season thus far for the Battery Town 86 driver. Crighton, Adam, Davison, Cranston, and Gilchrist completed the top 10 from one of the standout races of the season so far. The third and final race of the weekend for the Toyota 86 Championship is scheduled for 3.25pm.
Race 2 result – Round 3 Highlands Motorsport Park
1. Jaden Ransley - Miles Toyota/Kitchen Studio
2. Jordan Baldwin - Intermach NZ/Carters Tyres
3. Peter Vodanovich - CMC Markets/MacClure's ITM
4. Callum Hedge - CareVets NZ Ltd (includes 5 second penalty)
5. Justin Allen - Battery Town/Thunder Adventure
6. Arran Crighton - CareVets NZ Ltd
7. Connor Adam - Post Haste/Weigh Northland
8. Connor Davison - Hampton Downs/Highlands Park
9. Jacob Cranston - Best Bars/Vista Lite
10. Brock Gilchrist - NEXUS Logistics/Giltrap Group
11. Campbell Stewart - NZPGS/Hydraulink
12. Leo Bult - North Shore Toyota
13. Sam Wright - Tony Richards Toyota/Premier
14. Mitch Hughes - Gilpin Cartage Contractors
15. Kaleb Ngatoa - JJ Wallers/Capture Signs