The title fight in the Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship intensified at Highlands Motorsport Park, however, it’s still Jaden Ransley who leads.
Having taken victory in Race 1 and Race 2, Peter Vodanovich lined up in pole position for the final race of the weekend. Alongside him was Ransley who had been runner-up in both outings.
It was an even start between the front-row starters. Vodanovich, however, had the inside line. Despite that, Ransley tried to go alongside into the Bus Stop Chicane. In the end, Vodanovich held out and Ransley tucked in behind.
Behind them, Connor Adam came under pressure from Jaylyn Robotham. Within a few turns, the top two had edged away.
The race was soon neutralised by the Safety Car after Brock Gilchrist stopped just metres after the start/finish line. Gilchrist managed to get off the line but a driveline issue stopped him from continuing. It was a tough end to the weekend having suffered damage earlier in proceedings.
The race quickly resumed with Vodanovich at the front of the field Ransley was glued to the rear bumper of the race leader with Robotham suitable close in third.
Adam was slow away in third and soon came under pressure from Campbell Stewart. After laps of sustained pressure, Adam lost out not only to Stewart but Mazda Racing Series graduate Justin Allen.
There was nearly drama with 10 laps to go when Connor Davison went wide out of the Turn 14 hairpin and suffered a tank slapper over an unsighted grass berm.
At the front of the field, the leading trio traded blows. Ransley looked threatening throughout as he nudged the rear of Vodanovich in the esses. Robotham in third couldn’t make any headway through.
Lap after lap the second-placed Ransley looked likely to find a way through. With only a handful of laps to go Ransley dive-bombed forcefully into Turn 17 just after the bridge. The pair made wheel-to-wheel contact and Ransley folded his right-wing mirror in.
Vodanovich had the outside line, which gave him the inside line for the Reverse Indy hairpin. However, the up and under gave Ransley the inside into the final sweeping left-hander.
Ransley duly took the lead but was pressured by Vodanovich. He ran out of laps to find his way back through with the race falling two laps short due to time certainty.
Further behind, a late-race pass from Stewart saw him claim fourth place ahead of Allen and Adam. Ryan Wood was seventh, Richard Peasey eighth, Brayden Phillip ninth and James Wilkins the last of the top 10 runners.
The Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship moves to Teretonga Park for Round 3 over 23-25 January.