Championship contenders limber up for big finale

A McCutcheon (940 x 450)

Friday's practice day for the big season finale this weekend in the Toyota 86 Championship passed without incident as all of the major contenders got their eye in during three practice sessions at the Hampton Downs track.

No fewer than seven drivers are still in with a mathematical shout of the championship heading into Saturday though that number will be narrowed down to the final protagonists after Saturday's first race of three over the weekend.

Current championship leader and reigning champion Rowan Shepherd, Giltrap Racing duo Simon Evans and Marco Giltrap, Justin Allen, and rookies Hugo Allan, Matthew McCutcheon and Dion Pitt are those seven and practice passed without a hitch for them, setting up a great two days of action to decide the championship winner.

McCutcheon (pictured), who with one win this season is well in contention for rookie honours in this year's championship, enjoyed a solid day at the track, topping the morning's wet first practice before finishing 10th and 12th fastest in the later afternoon sessions.

In the afternoon sessions it was the young guns who were so impressive at the last round at Taupo who stole the show. Brock Gilchrist, Hugo Allan, Ronan Murphy and Zac Stichbury set the pace before Justin Allen showed his pace to clock P2. Top championship contenders Evans and Shepherd were comfortably in the top ten as well.

By the end of the 20 minute session it was Allan for The Heart of Racing again showing his potential with a very fast lap in the low 1 minute 17s, followed by Allen, Murphy, Gilchrist and Evans.

In the final session Allan was again on top this time dipping into the 1 minute 16s bracket. He was joined by the Giltrap Racing duo as they showed their outright pace with Evans and Giltrap in second and third respectively with 1m 16s laps. Justin Allen clocked the fifth fastest time with Shepherd seventh.

The big weekend begins with qualifying on Saturday morning with the first race on Saturday afternoon based on those qualifying times. Sunday morning's race features a grid based on a reverse of the top ten finishers in Saturday's opener. Sunday afternoon's final race of the season will have a grid based on points scored in the first two races.