Robb bounces back with winning drive in Christchurch
A great race at the third round of the Toyota 86 Championship saw championship leader Hunter Robb take more valuable points with a narrow victory over William Exton at the Euromarque Motorsport Park.
Exton had set the pace throughout the build-up to the weekend, and took an impressive pole position on Saturday morning. A slow getaway, however, left him with it all to do in the race. He fought his way through, pushing Robb all the way to the flag, but it wasn’t enough and it was Robb who took the chequered flag to secure more points in the battle for the championship.
“It was a good race,” said Robb afterwards. “I made a couple of mistakes under pressure at the end there but I learned a few things from that. It’s great to be at the front.”
Hot and dusty conditions in Christchurch welcomed the 22 car field to the grid and at the start it was Justin Allen who made a great start to take the lead down the long straight to the first turn. It was Robb who slotted in behind with pole position holder Exton, Jackson Rooney, Jaden Ransley and Tom Bewley just behind.
At the start of lap two Robb made a great pass on Allen to take the lead and that left Allen with a fired up Exton in his mirrors. Rooney remained close behind, while Ransley in fifth had Bewley and a fast-starting Lockie Bloxsom on his tail.
As the race settled Rooney started to pick up his pace and within a couple of laps was stalking Exton who in turn was pressuring Allen. Bewley was also on the move and passed Ransley before a second great move on Rooney at the end of lap three. That battle slowed Rooney and Ransley was quick to pounce, pushing Jackson down to fifth. Exton, meanwhile, had made a pass on Allen for second in a busy opening few laps.
At the front Robb had established a lead of a few car lengths by the mid-way point and just about had control of a very close race behind him. By then the man on the move was Bewley, who was again showing great race craft to recover from his poor start. He closed down Allen and the two battled hard for the remaining laps.
At the front Exton had closed on Robb but the championship leader resisted massive pressure on the last couple of laps – and the last few corners particularly – to take the win and extend his championship lead.
Allen, too, resisted huge pressure and a fine drive saw him come home to take the final place on the podium. The flying Bewley had to be satisfied with fourth. Ransley came home fifth – showing all of the spirt of his previous Toyota 86 career – while Rooney was sixth, Bloxsom seventh, Hayden Bakkerus eighth, Cormac Murphy ninth and top Masters class runner John Penny in tenth.
Sunday brings the remaining two races of the weekend for the Toyota 86 field. Sunday morning’s reverse grid format race gets underway in the morning and the third battle – the weekend’s feature race – takes place in the afternoon.