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Rooney blazes to red hot Taupo pole position

Jackson Rooney capped off a fine day at the Taupo International Motorsport Park – taking pole position in qualifying after dominating the timesheets on the opening day of the final weekend of the Toyota 86 Championship.

Still in with a mathematical chance of winning one of the most coveted titles in New Zealand motorsport, Rooney topped every timesheet during the day and pulled out all the stops to take pole position by just under two tenths of a second from William Exton.

“We haven’t done that much to the car really as far as the day has gone,:” he said afterwards. “It’s just been in me and I’ve spent the day focussing on hitting my marks and just improving where I can. I haven’t really thought about the title but I’ll just stay calm and go out and try and do the best I can in each race and see what happens from there.”

Rooney opened with a phenomenal lap – his 1 minute 43.266 the fastest recorded during the day thus far – and almost four tenths up on Championship leader Tom Bewley’s first hot lap.

Next time around and the man turning heads was William Exton – who put an engine change and a missed second session behind him to clock a stunning 1 minute 43.1550. It didn’t beat Rooney, however, who went even faster to go below 1 minute 43 seconds on his second flying lap.

Ben Stewart showed why he is so highly regarded as an up and coming Kiwi racer too, bettering Exton’s best to go second on his third flying lap in what was turning out – behind Rooney at least – to be a super competitive final qualifying session of the season. He would hold on to that second place on the grid – a fine performance on debut – right until the dying moments when Exton snatched it back with a last gasp effort. The dream start for Stewart, however, didn’t last long as he was disqualified from the session afterwards for a camber infringement.

With Stewart starting from the back, the second row of the grid brought a couple of surprises with Hayden Bakkerus, now a potential threat in any session starting ahead of a new lightweight version of Thomas Mallard, who enjoyed by some margin his best day ever in the championship.

Lockie Bloxsom and Cormac Murphy were next up in fifth and sixth. Both the Aussie and young Murphy – recovering after a mid-week illness – had been on the pace in the first two practice sessions on Friday too.

In seventh and eighth were two of the championship protagonists – leader Tom Bewley and third placed Hunter Robb. Both were scratching their heads a little after the session and both know they have work to do on Saturday with the pendulum – at this stage at least – swinging in favour of Exton.

Ninth – after consistently being in the top ten throughout Friday – was Tayler Bryant. John Penny was top Master Class runner in 10th on his home track.

Further back, Breanna Morris had a decent qually session to go 14th one place behind the fastest of the four women competing, Alice Buckley.

Saturday and the first two races of three over the weekend are the next stop for the 21 drivers in the field this final weekend.

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