Can anyone stop the Gilchrist steamroller?
Brock Gilchrist will look to tighten his grip on the 2023 Toyota 86 Championship when the series revs up for round four this weekend around the challenging twists and turns of the Taupo International Motorsport Park.
In a big weekend for the championship, the grid will increase in size to 20 cars with the addition of two more drivers, one of which comes from one of New Zealand’s motorsport dynasties.
Gilchrist is enjoying a dominant season in the tenth year of the championship and -remarkably – won all three races at the previous round, at the New Zealand Grand Prix meeting last month.
The Matakana youngster is looking to make it three more in the bag at a track he knows well and enjoys.
“I can’t wait to get back out there and racing,” said Gilchrist, who currently holds a 65 point lead over second placed Clay Osborne in the championship standings.
“I always look forward to Taupo too, it’s an awesome track. It’s been quite the ride in the championship so far and I’m just looking to continue where we left off, with the same focus from me and the team. We’ll go with the intention of trying to get as many points as we possibly can from each race.”
So who can stop the march of the 19 year old to this season’s title? So far, try as they might neither Clay Osborne, Justin Allen, or Dion Pitt have managed to stem the tide, despite all having their own moments of brilliance as well as plenty of pace.
Rylan Gray is ready to move upwards from front runner and podium finisher to race winner so he could be a player this weekend in the South Waikato, as could veteran John Penny, Highlands race winner Tom Bewley and the ever-improving William Exton.
Or perhaps the surprise of the weekend might come from one of the new young guns joining the championship trail. Brooklyn Horan – son of rally driver Raana Horan is a fascinating addition to this weekend’s field, as is Clay Richards.
Richards is the latest young racer from the Richards motorsport dynasty, which of course started with the great Jim Richards then passed to Steven Richards. Both of course, have remarkable and enduring records in the sport as two of its greatest exponents in this part of the world.
Richards raced in both the Australian Formula Ford Championship and in the Australian Toyota 86 Champion ship in 2022, taking podiums in both and a race win in the 86 championship. It will be fascinating to see how he takes to the New Zealand championship.
Christina Orr-West is another to have shown great form this season, and will be desperate to re-find the form she had at the pre-season Supercars event. That kind of form would make her a regular podium finisher, if not a race winner.
Tayler Bryant could be a dark horse this weekend too. The Pukekohe racer has been on a sharp improvement curve this season and has been claiming some good results of late to go with the speed he now consistently shows in practice. One win might just unlock a surge in form.
It all begins with Friday practice at the Taupo track, before qualifying and the first race on Saturday and two further races on Sunday.