Shepherd leads them home for first season win in Toyota 86s
Reigning Toyota 86 champion Rowan Shepherd took a comfortable win in the first race of the weekend at the Mike Pero Motorsport Park today, holding off a chasing pack of five cars.
Shepherd, who had started on pole position, was able to control the race on his home track, pulling away from the chasing pack when required but always looking comfortably in control.
Behind him a five car train comprising Marco Giltrap and Simon Evans for Giltrap Racing, Justin Allen in the NAPA Autoparts car, Ronan Murphy in his Pirtek-backed car and rookie Hugo Allen for The Heart of Racing locked out the top six.
It wasn’t as easy as it looked for the champion on his way to his first win of the 2022 season, however. “I was able to control it but it got harder as the race progressed and certainly in the last three laps I was very nervous about being able to stay ahead as I was struggling for grip,” he said afterwards.
“We got there though and it’s great to take the win.”
There was plenty of drama on the first lap as the closely matched 21 car grid blasted away from the lights for the eight lap race. Mark Mallard had a wild moment at the notorious Pot Hole corner after contact and the same happened a lap later as he fought for a place in the top ten. Rianna O’Meara Hunt didn’t get away from her ninth place on the grid and was swamped by the midfield dropping her towards the back.
In the first few laps the top four streaked away, but as the race settled Ronan Murphy was able to claw back the deficit and join the battle pack for the lead. He was joined later in the race by Allen to make it a six car battle for top honours.
Behind them a frantic race long battle for the remaining places in the top ten saw Dion Pitt put in a solid performance for seventh place which included a nail biting side by side duel around the first corner with Zac Stichbury.
John Penny – a race winner last weekend at Highlands – made a demon start from 15th on the grid and was fighting it out in the top ten when contact with Clay Osborne left him with a puncture and a trip into pit lane.
Behind Shepherd, Giltrap, Evans, Allen, Murphy, Allan and Pitt, it was Stichbury, McCutcheon and Fynn Osborne who completed the top ten.
The action will continue on Sunday with two races, the first with a grid based on results from today with a reverse top ten starting order and the second feature race with a grid based on points scored over the weekend.