Allen shows early pace at Highlands opener

Allen Highlands (940 x 450)

The Toyota 86 Championship roared into life for its tenth season today at Highlands Motorsport Park and it was a case of old and new faces catching the eye with fast lap times during the day's three practice sessions ahead of the first championship weekend of 2023.

The first session of the season got underway in fine weather and it was Dion Pitt who showed his early season form first with fastest lap. Pitt edged Justin Allen with a lap late in the session as the two frontrunners from last season made their mark. Set in the cooler conditions of the morning session, Dion's 1 minute 53.50 second lap edged Allen by a scant one hundredth of a second.

Close behind in third and fourth for the session were Brock Gilchrist and Clay Osborne, the latter consistently quick through the session and continuing the form he showed at the non-championship Pukekohe round at the Supercars event last September.

Rookie Tom Bewley showed he is settling into the championship nicely with fifth fastest time with returnee Tayler Bryant, older Osborne brother Fynn, Australian Rylan Gray, rookie Harry Townshend and veteran Christina Orr-West rounding out the top ten.

Session 2 saw the same names at the top of the timesheets, but it was Allen who was fastest with a 1 minute 53.4 second lap. It was extremely close across the top runners with the first five - Allen, then Bewley, Clay Osborne, Pitt and Gilchrist were all within three tenths of each other, indicating it's going to be close again at the top of the order in a Toyota 86 Championship. Allen's lap would prove to be the fastest of the day.

In the third session it was Allen again who headed the timesheet with a 1 minute 53.7 second lap, just two one hundredths of a second quicker than Brock Gilchrist and a tenth or so ahead of Osborne.

Tom Bewley and Dion Pitt maintained their impressive morning performances to round out the top five while John Penny made steady improvements from his morning run with sixth place. Australian Rylan Gray was seventh quickest with Harry Townshend, William Exton and Fynn Osborne in eighth, ninth and tenth places respectively.

Qualifying takes place on Saturday morning with the first race of the championship on Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning's race will be a reverse grid of the top ten finishers from Saturday's battle with the grid for the final feature race based on points scored in the first two races.