Matthew Payne has inched another step closer to the Toyota Racing Series title, claiming a dominant win in Manfeild in race five of the championship.
Payne fronted all 22 laps, and set the fastest lap of the race en route to a commanding 3.6s victory.
Incredibly, Payne had barely turned a lap at Manfield before today, having only three practice sessions yesterday to find his footing.
Kaleb Ngatoa survived a turn one tussle with Conrad Clark to finish behind Payne. The Marton driver had a steady start from the outside of the front row, but a lightning launch by Clark had the 18-year-old pressure the leaders on the dash to the opening sweeper.
Ngatoa was pitched on the high line, but managed to cling on and maintain second – a position he would hold for the rest of the race.
“I got a good start, as did Kaleb. But it was Conrad who got a really good start,” said Payne.
“So, on the rush down to turn one I didn’t really know where to brake. But then those two were fighting a little bit behind me and I was able to push on to the end.”
“The goal was to get ahead of Matthew at the start, and I think I had a good chance to do so,” Ngatoa said.
“I probably could have held it around the outside of him a bit longer. But then we jumped in behind him and that is where we sat all race.
“But towards the end of the race we picked up the pace a bit, so we will see how we go in the afternoon.”
Clark would end up third, unable to progress any further after an impressive opening lap.
The race ran green for its entirety, though a scrap between Billy Frazer and Peter Vodanovich threatened to upset the race’s flow.
Vodanovich had bogged down off the line and had slipped to last by turn one. But he was soom on the mend, pushing hard after Frazer in the race’s final third.
Frazer looked to have the upper hand on Vodanovich along the straights, but the defending Toyota 86 champion was evidently quicker through the technical in-field section.
Some adamant defence coupled by a late lock-up for Vodanovich secured Frazer fourth, with his rival was five-tenths behind in fifth.
Chris Vlok rounded out the field in what has been a testing weekend for the series returnee.
The second race of the weekend, which will have the winner awarded the Dan Higgins Trophy, is set to start from 4.25 pm this afternoon.