Hedge and Orr-West star in final TR86 battle at Pukekohe Park
Former champion Callum Hedge and Pukekohe veteran Christina Orr-West put on a fantastic show as the Toyota 86 category ran its last race at the iconic Pukekohe Park circuit, and it was Hedge who ultimately prevailed to take the final TR86 win at the track.
With a grid formed on points scored in the two previous races on Saturday, it was Hedge on pole position and as the lights went out he made the perfect getaway to lead into the first turn.
Only Orr-West had an answer for his pace and having battled to second place in the opening laps, set about catching Hedge with a barnstormer of a drive. Only a tiny error at the hairpin with a lap to go robbed her of a shot at the lead, but it was smiles all around after a fantastic weekend of racing.
“It’s a great way to finish off the weekend at a place that is very special indeed to me,” said Hedge afterwards. “I’ve always loved the challenges here and we’ve had a great weekend fundraising and enjoying our racing. I don’t really have the words to describe how I felt coming over that mountain for the final time.”
Orr-West, who came through from the second row, was delighted with second after a solid weekend on the pace at a track where she has completed literally thousands of laps
“I thought I had fluffed my start but Dion (Pitt) was the perfect gentleman going into the turn two and I managed to get out ahead,” she explained.
“After that I just went as hard as I could and did everything I could to catch Callum under braking for the chicane. It was on-the-limit stuff and I managed to reduce the gap to him significantly.
“I started to think maybe I had a chance slipstreaming past him but I made a small mistake under braking near the end and just couldn’t get close to him again in the time left. I’m pleased to get second though, especially at the circuit’s final meeting. An amazing experience.”
The Toyota 86 Championship has produced some epic multi-car battles at Pukekohe over its 10 year history and today was no different with an intense duel for the minor placings. A rejuvenated Justin Allen finally found the pace around the track everyone knows he has and battled throughout with Saturday winners Dion Pitt and Brock Gilchrist, who scythed his way through the pack to join the leading bunch in impressive style.
As the chequered flag fell for the final time it was Hedge, Orr-West then Gilchrist who took the final step on the podium after a blistering drive. Allen had his best result of the weekend with fourth and Pitt had another solid race for fifth.
Zac Stichbury had pace but made a couple of small errors to come home sixth while veteran John Penny – another with countless laps around the Pukekohe circuit – put his experience to good news to make up several places and finish seventh. Connor Adam brought his old car home in eighth, an impressive Tom Bewley was ninth and another former champion Peter Vodanovich came from 15th on the grid to take tenth.
With the Pukekohe event being a non-championship round, those lining up a shot at the 2023 championship have a few months to get themselves and their cars ready. It all begins again at Highlands in January but for now – thanks for the memories Pukekohe.