Justin Allen set the fastest time during yesterday’s Toyota 86 Free Practice sessions at Highlands Motorsport Park. However, it was a different spelling of the surname giving him a run for his money.
Allen’s quickest tour, a 1.53.511 set in FP1, was a touch over two-tenths better than rookie Hugo Allan, who topped sessions two, three and four.
It bodes well for the pair heading into the weekend’s three races. Though both don’t want to read too much into what went down over the test day.
“Super happy with the pace in my car, and happy for the team to be doing so well with Justin and I right up the pointy end,” Allan said.
“But qualifying and racing is what will be remembered. It is now a case of transferring our positive results into the more important sessions of the weekend.”
Clay Osborne and Brock Gilchrist were consistent top-five runners most of the day. Karting champion Osborne popped up as high as second-fastest in the final two sessions.
For several drivers in the field, yesterday was their first time racing at the picturesque Highlands circuit.
“Been a big learning curve learning a new track and setting the car up to suit,” Todd Prujean said.
Prujean’s morning was hampered by brake issues. However, the team seemed to resolve any gremlins in time for the day’s last session, where he finished seventh fastest.
“Finally started to make some gains,” he said. “Really happy with how we finished the day and looking forward to tomorrow.”
Despite this season being his second year in the category, Marco Giltrap was in a similar boat to Prujean, having never raced at the Cromwell venue before.
“Had a pretty slow start to the day struggling with setup,” Giltrap said. “But we pushed through and have made some changes putting us P4 in the last practice.
“All prepped and happy with the pace heading into qualifying in the morning.”
Dion Pitt mentioned to us earlier this week learning a brand-new circuit will likely be his biggest hurdle to face this year.
Though that doesn’t look to be the case this weekend. Pitt quickly acclimatised to the new surroundings, finishing all four sessions in the top ten.
“Happy with how I have improved with learning the circuit,” he said. “Times are so close over the field and that is going to make the racing very competitive.”
Defending champion Rowan Shepherd has had what he called “two very rough few days” going back to unofficial Thursday testing.
Shepherd has been struggling with his new car for a while, and despite installing some new components yesterday, he still couldn’t get the car to play nicely.
Solution? An entirely different race car.
Shepherd vaulted into the top-three for the final two sessions after switching to the spare car.
“A relief for all of us,” he said about ending yesterday on a high note.
His title rival from last season, Simon Evans, was, unsurprisingly, putting his name near the top of the leader board.
Evans was inside the top six times in the three sessions he completed yesterday.
The first race of the new season goes ahead this afternoon, with two more races to follow on Sunday.