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Bewley dominant in Toyota 86 feature race

Tom Bewley saved his best to last with a dominant drive in the third and final race of the first weekend of the 2023-24 Toyota 86 Championship at Taupo International Motorsport Park.

Bewley didn’t make the greatest of starts from pole position and Jackson Rooney, sharing the front row with him, got away much cleaner and took the lead into turn one. A confident Bewley, however, pushed hard and exited the corner level before sneaking ahead into the mid-field complex. He never looked back.

There was plenty of drama behind, with Rooney slipping to third and then chasing Hunter Robb in a great battle before a small mistake trying to pass Hunter into turn two sent Robb into a spin and down the order and Rooney into pitlane for a drive through penalty a few laps later.

While Bewley sailed away into the distance to a huge 20 second win at the flag, a great battle for second was ultimately won – at least on the road – by Hayden Bakkerus, who improved with every session over the weekend. William Exton held his nerve in the battle for a solid third.

Two race wins, a round win and the early leader in the points table, it was a dream result for Bewley in his second season of the championship.

“I saw Jackson go right on turn one, so I took the outside option and made it work,” said Bewley afterwards. “I got a little tap from him in the action and thought I might have a bit of damage, but it was fine.

“I kept concentrating and saving the car. I am absolutely stoked to get the race wins and the round.”

Behind the epic battle for the final two places on the podium it was dominant Master Class winner John Penny who took yet another top five overall result after a fine drive once again rolling back the years and showing his experience and skill.

Tayler Bryant was in the action throughout with fifth in the race while Cormac Murphy had a great run after a frustrating first weekend to grab sixth. Hunter Robb recovered to take seventh and ultimately second for the round and rookie honours.

Lockie Bloxsom could count himself a little unlucky after his best drive of the weekend when a podium place looked possible and towards the end even probable. Contact with Bakkerus in the final corner though sent him into a spin and down to eighth with Hayden facing a post-race investigation and possible penalty. Christina Orr-West was top of the four women in the field in ninth and second in the Master Class, with Will Morton staying out of trouble to grab one of his best results in the championship with tenth.

There’s now a nine week gap before the championship resumes for the second round at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon. Bewley, Exton, Robb and Rooney look like the early runners this season, but Manfeild at the end of January will be a very different challenge to a wet Taupo.

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