Ryan Wood pulled off a spectacular move in the dying stages of the first race of the Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship at Pukekohe to take a half car length win from series leader Rowan Shepherd.
In another magnificent race, Shepherd held on until the final drag race to the flag but was pipped at the post by an inspired Wood. The third title contender for the 2021 championship, Simon Evans, cane home just behind to take the final step on the podium.
On a damp track it was Shepherd who made the best start to lead Wood in the Wholesale cars Direct TR86 away as both Ronan Murphy in the Dayle ITM TR86 and Evans in his Wet & Forget car struggled for grip off the second row.
Evans got the best drive and at the end of the first lap it was Shepherd, from Wood, From Evans, Murphy and Marco Giltrap in the Lexus-backed, with his mirrors full of Brock Gilchrist in the CareVets
In the early stage sit was Wood and Giltrap who looked to have the best pace, with Wood all over the back of Shepherd and Giltrap putting some distance on Gilchrist as he hunted down Murphy ahead. Evans sat in a lonely third place in the early stages.
Further back, Christina Orr-West was keeping Gilchrist in her sights while John Penny and Alexandra Whitley were only a few car lengths behind the yellow Dayle ITM car. Penny, indeed was able to find a way past Orr-West for seventh at the start of lap five.
On a drying track, Shepherd had the hammer down and was able to build a lead of over a second to his championship rivals behind in the first five laps, but Wood and Evans weren’t done and between lap six and eight Wood reduced the gap to a car length and started to look for a way past the leader. Evans’ pace, meanwhile, was coming alive and he went eight tenths of a second quicker than both of the leaders on the eighth lap of 12 to bring himself within a couple of seconds of the top two.
That made it a three way battle between the championship contenders for the final three laps. Wood made an attempt to take the lead at turn four on the 11th lap but Shepherd was able to defend.
Into the final lap and Wood attacked again. Shepherd looked to have held on but on the final corner Wood drew level and was able to slingshot past and take the win as the two raced across the finish line. Evans was right in the fight too on the final lap waiting to pick up the pieces from any contact, and he came home third just a couple of tenths down, taking the race’s fastest lap on the way.
Murphy and Giltrap enjoyed a spirited battle for fourth, which eventually went the way of Marco, while Penny passed Gilchrist for sixth. With brock finishing seventh, Christina Orr-West came home eighth, followed by Alexandra Whitley and Mark Mallard, who went well considering his lack of running on Saturday.