Dion Pitt completed a remarkable turnaround from a disastrous Saturday at Teretonga Park to take the win in the feature race – his second victory of the day – and secure an unlikely round victory in the Toyota 86 Championship.
Brock Gilchrist crossed the line first but fell foul of the rule book for a defensive move on Clay Osborne during the four-way battle for the race win and copped a five-second penalty, dropping him down to sixth place.
With points scored over the course of the weekend determining the grid for the final race, it was Osborne starting on pole position with Gilchrist alongside on the front row. Gilchrist made the best getaway to lead, and from the first corner on, he had to fight hard to stay ahead. Behind them, Dion Pitt and Justin Allen would join the party to produce a race-long battle.
The critical moment in the four-way scrap came just before halfway when Osborne made an attempt at a pass on the leader going into the final corner. The two then raced up the straight side by side. Osborne managed to get his nose ahead but not enough to claim the ideal line into turn one. Gilchrist held his line, and Osborne was forced wide and dropped to fourth. The later penalty, though, was for defence by Gilchrist at the final corner, where he was adjudged to have left Clay insufficient room.
The race concluded with Gilchrist a car length or two ahead of Pitt, who, on outright pace, had not been able to mount the same challenge to the leader as Osborne had. It was all academic in the end, as Pitt took the win, Allen second and Osborne third.
It was a lonely race for Rylan Gray and William Exton behind them. Gray had been in another tight battle in the lower half of the top ten but had managed to break free from that and showed considerable skill, passing Exton for what eventually became a fourth place.
Tayler Bryant was another in the thick of that second battle pack and came home seventh, albeit around nine seconds behind Exton. Fynn Osborne chased him home in eighth, while Christina Orr-West did well to come home ninth after a wild moment across the grass when she half spun defending sixth place on lap seven. Tim
Leach made up for the disappointment of the morning race with a solid performance in his first season of racing to bring his car home in tenth.
Further back John Penny and Tom Bewley both featured in the early action but fell away from the pace after gear selection problems.
Teams and drivers now take a two-week break before reassembling at Hampton Downs for the big weekend of their championship – the 67th New Zealand Grand Prix meeting.
2023 Toyota 86 Championship Round Two – Race Three results:
2023 Toyota 86 Championship – Points after 2 0f 6 rounds:
Main image: Bruce Jenkins | Words: Supplied