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Former champions dominate Toyota qualifying at Pukekohe Park

Former Toyota 86 championship winners Callum Hedge and Peter Vodanovich dominated proceedings in qualifying at Pukekohe Park today, Hedge ultimately securing pole position by just over a tenth of a second with a blistering lap in the closing stages of the session.

It looked like early pace setter Peter Vodanovich would hang on to a front row starting spot – having been fastest for much of qualifying – but after Hedge bettered his time, Brock Gilchrist just managed to grab the other front row starting position. For Vodanovich, though, it was an impressive return to the track – the non-championship Pukekohe weekend is his first race weekend of 2022.

Hedge – an up and coming star of the Australian motorsport scene in his Porsche – is racing this weekend to raise money and awareness for Muscular Dystrophy and was delighted to grab top spot in qualifying.

“It’s great to be back and I had almost forgotten how much I enjoyed this track, it’s a massive challenge in anything,” he said afterwards. “It’s also great to get the Roll 1k for MDA charity some mileage this weekend and hopefully pole position will put them front and centre too in what is a fun weekend for me.”

First to set a representative time in the session was Whakatane dairy farmer Christina Orr-West – a star of the second practice session. Hedge was next to put in a very quick lap, before that lap was beaten by Vodanovich. Clay Osborne then put his marker down with some impressive early pace in the session. Even in the early stages of qualifying, there was less than a second separating the top 12 in the 20 car field as drivers jockeyed for the best drafting and slipstreaming positions.

At the halfway point through the session it was Vodanovich from Hedge, Gilchrist, Clay Osborne and Zac Stichbury and it wasn’t until the dying seconds that drivers really began to push the margins. It was Hedge who delivered the best performance with his 1.16.7 second lap. Vodanovich couldn’t better his earlier mark and that opened the door of opportunity for Gilchrist – which he took with a faultless lap.

Clay continued his impressive run with fourth on the grid, while Stichbury had to be satisfied with fifth place. Justin Allen – who dominated the category’s previous visit to the circuit earlier this year – took sixth with an impressive Mark Mallard showing late pace to grab seventh in the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing supported TR86.

Orr-West kept up the pace for a top ten starting spot in ninth and local boy and series returnee Tayler Bryant put in another impressive performance to grab tenth fastest time.

With just over a second covering the first 16 cars on the 20 car grid, the action will be intense when the racing gets underway on Saturday.

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