Ryan Wood and Simon Evans continued their winning ways in the 2021 Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship, the duo taking out all three of today’s races at Hampton Downs.
But it was a consistent performance by Rowan Shepherd that had the Christchurch racer come away from round two with the round win.
After surging to pole position in the morning’s qualifying session, Wood commanded the opening 12-lap affair, leading home Shepherd by 6.382s.
Shepherd had to work for his second-place finish. Falling behind Brock Gilchrist into turn one, Shepherd pushed hard, reclaiming the position on lap six with a timely move at Turn 8.
But he was unable to reel in a runaway Wood. The youngster only claimed his maiden race win in the series last weekend, but he looked in top form today and was the only driver capable of lapping in the 1.16s bracket.
Gilchrist was left to fend off Marco Giltrap for the final podium result. The two were closely pursued by Simon Evans who made up for a rusty start to finish fifth.
Ronan Murphy was sixth while a heroic effort by the sister Dayle ITM car of Christina Orr-West came home 11th despite racing with a cracked rib following a collision in round one.
The second race of the day had the top-ten race one reversed, putting the fastest drivers towards the back of the field.
A turn one crash involving Justin Allen and Mark Mallard resulted in the weekend’s first safety car intervention. Both would return to pitlane under their own steam, with Allen retiring from the race with damage to his rear bodywork.
Once the race did resume, it was Evans who dictated the pace of the field.
Shepherd was a big mover through the midpack, scything his way from ninth on the grid to eventually sit second only to Evans.
Despite some electric laps over the closing stages, Shepherd would fall agonisingly shy of victory. Evans’ bold display of defence was enough for the multiple touring car champion to hold on for his second race win of the year.
Gilchrist added to his race one podium with a steady drive to finish third. Penny and Giltrap rounded out the top-five.
Alexandra Whitely briefly led the race but was pitched into a spin at Turn 9, dropping her back to 12th, where she would finish as the last diver on the lead lap.
Evans would go lights to flag in the day’s final 15-lap feature race, earning his second win of the round and his third of the season.
Once again, the Wet and Forget Racing driver was compelled to pull out all the defensive stops as Shepherd wrapped up a podium clean sweep with yet another second place.
Less than a second covered the top-five in the opening laps, with Wood, Gilchrist and Giltrap lurking behind.
It stayed like that before race control deployed the safety car on lap six when Mallard made an error in the first sector. Fortunately, he could return to the track, and the race was restarted shortly after that.
A blistering restart by Evans gave him a handy advantage. Still, Shepherd and Wood would quickly respond with purple lap times, resuming the battle for the lead.
Searching in vain for a way past, Shepherd would ultimately accept P2, crossing the line one-tenth behind Evans.
Gilchrist and Giltrap were fourth and fifth, with the winner of the Masters Class John Penny holding off Murphy for sixth.
The next round of the championship will be at Manfeild over February 12-14.