Tayler Bryant and Daniel Gaunt have capped off their Best Bars Toyota 86 endurance title-winning campaign with their third race win of the series.
The duo led home Marco Giltrap and Simon Evans by two seconds in the final race of the championship from Pukekohe Park, with two-time New Zealand Grand Prix winner Gaunt having the honours of crossing the line at the end of the one-hour affair.
Both have now authored a new piece of Toyota 86 history, with this year the first time series organisers had launched the new endurance format.
But it was far from a straightforward victory for the pair, with Bryant struggling to make inroads on the front runners after only managing fourth in qualifying.
Up front, Giltrap had taken an early lead over Alexandra Whitely with former series champion Peter Vodanovich lurking just behind in third.
Itching to get a move on, Vodanovich skilfully worked himself ahead of Whitley and Giltrap before blitzing away in a bid to create a sufficient margin before the pit window.
Having lost the lead and then second, Whitley was engaged in a fight of her own with Ronan Murphy. Battling over the same piece of tarmac, Murphy made a slight misjudgement and the two made contact.
Whitely was able to continue; however, Murphy looked to have sustained damage. While he was able to press on, Murphy’s lap times suggested there was more to the story than bruised bodywork.
Vodanovich then made his stop, swapping roles with co-driver Mark Mallard for the run to the chequered flag. By the time the stop was complete, Mallard was able to resume still in the lead.
A quick pitstop by the MTF Finance crew then saw Bryant able to switch out with Gaunt and jump a handful of their rivals to emerge just a few seconds down the road from Mallard.
Ultimately, there was little resistance from Mallard in the defence for the lead as Gaunt patiently waited for the gap to open itself up before sweeping past with still plenty of time on the clock.
Evans had re-joined the race down in third after his pitstop and immediately set after Mallard and Gaunt.
Able to make a move stick on Mallard, Evans then become mired in the wake of Gaunt who eased home over the remaining few laps to secure a third race victory and the title.
Andre Heimgartner, driving with Whitley, would also catch and past Mallard for third in the last five minutes. The result is a welcome one for the pair after a painful Saturday race where they finished over a lap down.
Billy Frazer and Connor Adam had a muted race in the International Motorsport entry to finish fifth, the same place they had qualified in earlier in the day.
Christina Orr-West and Rowan Shepherd fronted a Dayle ITM Racing 6-7, as Chris van der Drift was unable to recover the ground lost by Murphy in the earlier collision.
Rounding out a somewhat diluted eight-car field was Brock Gilchrist and Alistair Wootten after the latter had his first stint compounded by a mystery technical drama.
With the endurance series now done and dusted, focus turns now to the start of the sprint series in January.
|Murphy/van der Drift