Brock Gilchrist storms to Toyota 86 race and round victory
Brock Gilchrist stormed to his second race win of the weekend at Highlands Motorsport Park today to win the round and end his weekend with the series lead in the Toyota 86 Championship.
Any challenge from Dion Pitt in second and race two winner Tom Bewley evaporated late into the race as Brock pushed on while Pitt faded slightly and Bewley was forced to retire after contact with Clay Osborne broke his front suspension. The Matakana racer, still only 18 but one of the most experienced racers in the championship, was thrilled with his weekend’s work.
“I’m over the moon, I knew it was going to be tough but I’ve been feeling great in the car all weekend and I just got stuck into it and got on with it,” he said afterwards.
“I know I have the lead but it just feels like the previous years and I’m going to take it weekend by weekend and race by race. It’s a moment like this though when I’m really very grateful to everyone who has helped and come forward to get me on the grid for the 2023 championship.”
With Gilchrist and race two winner rookie Tom Bewley on the front row thanks to the points they had scored over the weekend, all eyes were on the race down to the first corner as the lights went out. It went right to the wire but the more experienced Gilchrist sat it out and emerged from the chicane ahead. Christina Orr-West was a notable fast starter too, vaulting her way up to a fighting fourth as the field surged through the first lap.
Bewley looked to have the pace to challenge but ran wide on the second lap allowing Osborne just enough space to get through and as far as challenges for the lead went, that was the end of it as far as Gilchrist was concerned and he moved away by a few tenths every lap as the battle for the remaining top places unfolded.
Any hopes of a comeback for Bewley were dashed on lap three when he slightly overcooked a move on Osborne. The resulting contact broke his front suspension and he limped to the pits to retire while Osborne lost enough momentum to allow a charging Pitt through. Those two would be in close company for the remainder of the race.
For much of the race the focus was on a very tight midfield battle as Allen tried to find a way past Orr-West for fourth and vital points. Lap after lap they fought it out, Allen at one point so committed to pass over the bridge that the car was practically sideways. He held it though and fought back, but Orr-West’s defence was fair and robust and there was no way by for Allen.
At the flag it was a jubilant Gilchrist with his second win of the weekend, from a happy Dion Pitt in second, Clay Osborne in third, Orr-West in fourth, Allen in fifth, an ever-improving William Exton top rookie in sixth, Rylan Gray a solid seventh after his best race of the weekend with John Penny a frustrated eighth after falling back from fifth with a slow puncture, Tayler Bryant in ninth and Fynn Osborne in tenth.
The drivers and teams now head two hours east to Invercargill and the fearsome and very different Teretonga Raceway for the second round of the championship.