Evans strikes first with Highlands win
Pole position holder Simon Evans was unstoppable in the first race of the Toyota 86 Championship today, racing away from Justin Allen to win at Highlands Motorsport Park.
Evans was untroubled throughout the race in his Wet & Forget car, building a lead of almost two seconds at half way. He carried on edging away and ultimately took the chequered flag with around four seconds in hand over second placed Allen in the NAPA Autoparts car.
It was one of the most dominant Toyota 86 race wins in recent seasons and Evans was delighted to win, especially on dad Owen’s birthday. “It was really good. The start was great and I was committed to going side by side and ensuring I had the lead. It wasn’t easy but once I was ahead, I just concentrated on keeping it clean and not making any mistakes. Thankfully, that was enough to edge away and win.”
Allen – aside from a moment of drama when rookie Dion Pitt had a failed attempt at a pass – had a lonely run in second. Pitt, super-impressive in his first race in the category, bagged the last spot on the podium despite losing time when trying to take Allen for second.
“I ran wide and all of a sudden the guys behind were there,” said Dion afterwards. “I just about managed to keep them behind so I’m stoked. Simon’s quick but we’ll keep working at it and see where we get to.”
Pitt did well to stay ahead of the fierce battle for fourth, which became third when he fell back into the train that comprised Marco Giltrap in the Lexus supported Giltrap Racing entry, Clay Osborne in his Power & Earth car and Friday pace setter Hugo Allan in his Heart of Racing entry. This group was nose to tail for the majority of the race.
Behind them, Rowan Shepherd put in a champion’s drive to climb from 11th on the grid to an impressive seventh place at the flag after a disappointing qualifying run in the morning.
Behind him Matthew McCutcheon impressed in his debut TR86 race to bag a top ten result with eighth, while Ronan Murphy also drove well to improve from his starting position to ninth. John Penny, the oldest racer in the category, rounded out the top ten with a solid drive to take the Masters Trophy class victory. Further back Christina Orr-West, Rianna O’Meara-Hunt and Chelsea Herbert ran together for much of the race and all ultimately finished in the top 15.
Sunday morning brings a reverse top ten grid, with Evans and Allen starting from the fifth row with Penny on pole position and Murphy on the front row alongside him.
“I’m going to have to make some brave but wise calls,” added the race winner. “I need to move forward but a DNF will really hurt my chances, as a DNF will for anyone else in the championship.”