Gilchrist on top at Taupo after classic final race
With his confidence flying high, Toyota 86 Championship leader Brock Gilchrist came out on top after a race long battle with Clay Osborne in a category classic final race at Taupo International Motorsport Park.
The win further extends Gilchrist’s championship lead with just two more rounds to go in the six round championship.
The 12 lap race was an absolute feast for viewers and spectators, with great racing from the front of the field to the back. Gilchrist and Osborne went toe to toe for the race victory, while behind them there was an equally compelling battle between John Penny and Dion Pitt for the final place on the podium.
Gilchrist fended off a charging Osborne from the moment the lights went out, with Clay making a couple of big efforts deep into the race to defeat his championship rival.
Both enjoyed the battle as much as the fans but it was Gilchrist who stormed home less than three tenths of a second ahead.
“It was a big effort,” said Osborne afterwards. “I was trying my hardest but couldn’t quite do it. From about the fourth lap I was looking to see where I could pass Brock but I took a couple of deep breaths and planned for an attack later in the race. It wasn’t to be this time but I’m sure we’ll have another opportunity at Manfeild.”
Gilchrist remained focussed as he has for most of the season so far, just adding points to his tally and enjoying the racing, commenting afterwards. “I had pressure from Clay and from lap one he was on my bumper. It was cool to beat him but I’m still just taking one race at a time and focussed on getting the good results each time we are on the track.”
If the epic battle for the race win wasn’t enough for the fans, they had another titanic scrap going on behind the top two with Sunday Race 2 winner John Penny using every inch of the road throughout the 12 laps to try and muscle his way past Pitt for the final podium spot.
His best chance came on lap nine when he got alongside on the run to turn seven on the circuit’s infield. They rubbed paint, but Pitt held on, going on to cross the line for third just three tenths ahead of Penny. Third and fourth would be their reward for their own classic battle.
Tom Bewley, for most of the race the fastest guy on the 3.3km circuit, clawed his way into the battle for second and third with just a couple of laps to go but was unable to maintain that momentum and had to settle for fifth.
Another spirited battle in the next group saw Rylan Gray take sixth spot after his own duel with a fired up Christina Orr-West, the vastly experienced Whakatane racer at her absolute best throughout the race.
William Exton made progress through the field to finish eighth while Tayler Bryant was in the thick of the mid field action throughout on his way to ninth. Justin Allen completed the top ten after a difficult weekend for the category veteran.
The penultimate round of the championship takes place at Manfeild – Circuit Chris Amon next month and should be another epic weekend. Expect Osborne to be fired up and raring to go as he tries to make the next step up and beat Gilchrist in a straight fight.