Best Bars Toyota 86 points leader Rowan Shepherd says sticking to his game plan this weekend at Pukekohe is key to keeping his title hopes alive.
Shepherd claimed a hat trick of wins at the latest round in Manfeild, usurping Simon Evans for the lead of the championship.
The series rookie hadn’t won a race this season until his trip to the Feilding circuit, saying it took the opening two rounds to find a solid race set-up.
“The first time in the car was a real learning curve,” Shepherd told Velocity News.
“We initially struggled to find a set-up over the first two rounds. But we have now found an ideal base set-up, which we build on at each round.”
Holding a slim points lead over Evans, Shepherd is aware that a minor slip-up over the remaining two rounds could ruin his championship ambitions.
Series sophomore Ryan Wood has also been mixing it with the Evans and Shepherd for race wins. The 17-year-old has been what Shepherd labels “the benchmark” driver, given his strong form through every session.
However, Shepherd hopes a return to Pukekohe, a circuit he likes, this weekend will see him hold onto the provisional points lead.
“We have to stick to a game plan of winning races and staying in the top-two every race if we are to win the title; something we really want to do,” he said.
“This season hasn’t been easy. I knew Simon would be quick straight out of the box, and Ryan has been very impressive. He has been one to benchmark each weekend because he has been constantly fast in every practice and qualifying.
“But Pukekohe is a track that suits my driving style. I am a fan of how aggressive you can be at the circuit. I love to push hard over the first sequence of corners to give me a good run onto the back straight.
“I won’t be doing Friday practice, only the two sessions on Saturday to get used to the car and track. From there, we need to be at the front for every race. I am looking forward to it.”
The Toyota 86 series is set to conclude at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in April, and Shepherd is already looking ahead to what the rest of the racing year looks like.
“I would love to do either the North or South Island endurance series. Ideally, I would like to do both.
“I’m just keeping my options open and waiting for an opportunity to arise.
“It looks like there could be a Porsche drive for me this season. There is also a chance to drive a TCR. But everything is still up in the air.”
This weekend’s event at Pukekohe will see the Toyota 86 field have two practice sessions and qualifying on Saturday. Three races will then follow on Sunday, with the first scheduled to start at 9.45 am.