Pitt triumphs in three-way thriller at Manfeild
Dion Pitt came out on top after a fantastic battle in the feature race at the penultimate round of the 2023 Toyota 86 Championship at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon this afternoon.
A crash for Ayrton Hodson on the eleventh lap of fourteen meant the race finished under the Safety Car but Pitt had already done enough to see off fierce challenges from both weekend pace setter Clay Osborne and championship leader Brock Gilchrist.
Osborne’s second place won him the Manfeild round and narrowed the gap to the championship leader, but Gilchrist will still head into the final weekend with a 76 point advantage.
Pitt’s race win was an outstanding one and cemented his place in the top three of the 2023 championship with one round to go. The three-way battle between the top three in the championship was the best of the season so far and Pitt had to pull off the pass of the season – overtaking both Osborne and Gilchrist down the inside of turn one – to win it.
“When you have momentum on the other guys like that it works,” said a beaming Pitt afterwards. “They were too busy looking at each other and didn’t see me coming so it kind of worked out pretty well!
“It feels great, especially after the first race this morning and getting caught up in the first lap drama then having to fight back from last place to even be in a decent grid position for this final race.
“It looks like I’m a really good comeback driver, not sure if I like that but if I get a race win, I’ll take that every time.”
With the grid formed from results over the weekend it was Osborne on pole position from a resurgent Gilchrist alongside him, the championship leader having successfully put a challenging Saturday well behind him. And it was Brock who nailed the race start best, sling-shotting past Osborne and immediately taking the best line into the first corner.
Over the next two laps he was able to build a lead of a few car lengths but after that the battle pack closed in rapidly, with Osborne and Pitt leading the charge.
The great battle between the three leaders thrilled the crowd over the rest of the race but there was plenty of action behind as well with a fast train of the lead eight cars also including a flying Thomas Mallard who had his car hooked up like never before as he enjoyed his time in the leading group.
It was all just warming up for a thrilling final three laps right across the top ten when heavy contact on Hodson from Will Morton sent the Katikati driver backwards into the tyres at the final turn to end a miserable weekend when he had once again showed great pace.
There was no time for a restart and as the cars cruised behind the Safety Car and past the chequered flag, it was Pitt, from Osborne, Gilchrist, Justin Allen – who was right in the thick of the action throughout as well, Masters class winner John Penny, Christina Orr-West and Rookie winner Rylan Gray in seventh.
The impressive Mallard clocked his best finish in the championship so far in eighth ahead of Tom Bewley in ninth with Harry Townshend making it into the top ten once again.
Once again, the Toyota 86 Championship will go down to the final round and Gilchrist is the man they must beat. There’s no doubt the Matakana driver will, however, just stick to the formula that has served him so well this season – taking every session and every race one at a time.