First win for Bryant and Gaunt in TR86 enduros
A brave strategy on fuel helped young gun Tayler Bryant and the vastly experienced Dan Gaunt to an impressive debut win for the MTF Finance team in the first of the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing TR86 mini enduros at Hampton Downs.
Pole position sitter Brock Gilchrist had the worst possible start in the first race sliding off and hitting the tyre barrier hard at the downhill Turn 9 sweeper. That was enough to put him out of the race while Bryant had tagged the barrier avoiding the incident and had to return to the pits for a quick check over.
Thankfully he was able to rejoin as the field got underway again and it was champion Peter Vodanovich in Mark Mallard's white Creme Insurance car who blitzed away to an early lead chased by Connor Adam and an impressive Christina Orr-West, who had topped one of the two morning qualifying sessions.
Adam was flying and at the ten minute mark managed to sneak by on the front straight heading into Turn 1, but Vodanovich wasn't done and the two resumed an epic battle much the same as their last time out in the final round of the Best Bars sprint series.
Vodanovich this time played the stalker and hounded Adam lap after lap, sometimes a few car lengths off him and sometimes right in his rear view mirror. Orr-West meanwhile kept in touch with the leaders and maintained a lead over the recovering Bryant, Marco Giltrap and Brad Jesson.
The pit stops for driver changes and a splash of fuel produced a change in the order, however.
Adam and Vodanovich were the last to pit and by the time they emerged it was the Bryant/Daniel Gaunt car, now with Gaunt at the wheel that had completed a remarkable recovery from the back to assume a five second lead with 20 minutes to go having taken a gamble on fuel for the second half of the race.
Although new to the car, Gaunt put in a series of fast laps and increased the gap to second placed Billy Frazer and third placed Mark Mallard to five and 11 seconds respectively.
Orr-West handed over to Rowan Shepherd and they assumed fourth place, but with third a realistic possibility and their rival only a few tenths ahead on the track. Shepherd duly made the pass on Mallard on lap 35 with just over 10 minutes to go.
Attention in the last ten minutes then turned to the front runners as Gaunt's pace slowed as he saved fuel. Over four laps his margin shrunk from just under six seconds to just over four. With three laps to go it was down to three seconds but Gaunt had done enough to secure his - and young team mate Bryant's - first win in Toyota 86 racing and a debut win for the new MTF Finance car.