Tayler Bryant and Daniel Gaunt have executed a brilliant fuel-saving strategy to win the opening race of the Best Bars Toyota 86 endurance series at Hampton Downs.
The two were one of the first drivers to make their compulsory pitstop in the one-hour race. They were able to leapfrog themselves ahead of the Connor Adam/Billy Frazer entry who had dominated early proceedings after the race had to be restarted due to a Lap One red flag.
After a standout qualifying session which earned himself pole position, Casey Sturrock suffered a sudden snap of oversteer at Porsche Dipper, careening himself into the outside tyre wall.
The race was consequently suspended with a shaken Sturrock clambering into the medical car unharmed. Bryant was another drive caught-up in the opening lap tangle, pitched into a spin by Marco Giltrap and damaging his rear bumper.
Aware that one of the race’s favourites was now eliminated, the diluted six-car field took a full-race restart after a lengthy delay.
This time, former series champion Peter Vodanovich sailed off into the lead, picking off newly-promoted polesitter Orr-West into the Golden Homes hairpin.
Adam followed suit a handful of laps later, and he rapidly began to reel in Vodanovich.
The switch for the lead came on the ten-minute mark. Sensing a potential weakness in Vodanovich’s defence, Adam squeezed himself down the inside at Turn 1 to snatch away the race lead.
Adam and Vodanovich extended their opening stints until the last possible moment of the pitstop window to make their driver change.
A quick stop by Vodanovich had Frazer in the car, and the No.9 was able to broaden the advantage between the two, but both emerged from the lane five-seconds adrift of Gaunt.
Knowing he would eventually be compelled to manage his fuel, Gaunt pushed hard to extend the margin to over six-seconds.
Further back, Rowan Shepherd who had taken over from Orr-West in the Dayle ITM entry picked off Mark Mallard for third. The international TCR driver lit up the timing screens as he stormed after the tail of Frazer and Gaunt.
Up front, Gaunt’s pace began to dip as he juggled with his fuel management. The margin to Frazer quickly began to diminish, the latter upwards of four-tenths per lap faster than the race leader.
Yet ultimately, Gaunt was able to cling on to clinch the victory. The final gap between himself and Frazer was just 2.7-seconds.
“Dan drove really well out there,” said Bryant.
“I think the fuel is just about on zero. It was crazy how early he has having to lift into corners.
“But the win is just fantastic, especially after I mucked up the start and was facing backwards. We weren’t really running near the front until the stop.”
Shepherd hung on to third, ahead of Mallard, Brad Jesson and Simon Evans.
Main Image: Tayler Burke