Three wins for Shepherd ignites Toyota 86 title defence
Reigning champion Rowan Shepherd has ignited his defence of the Toyota 86 Championship title with a third win for the weekend at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park.
Starting off pole position with a dry track but rain in the air, the Christchurch racer had to play second fiddle to Simon Evans initially. After six laps of hard duelling he eventually found his way by and never looked back, cruising away to a two second win to secure the round and slash Evans lead by 20 points at the halfway point of the championship.
“It’s a dream weekend for us,” said the delighted Christchurch racer on the podium. “We had a pretty average start to the championship but we’ve been gathering pace and this will put us right back in contention and that’s awesome.
“The car was faultless and was awesome all weekend so it basically came down to me not to make a mistake. I just worked hard to stay focussed and let the car do the work. Anything can happen in this championship so we’ll just keep doing what we are doing and look forward to the next round at Pukekohe Park.”
Evans tried his best to retain second and mitigate the points loss to Shepherd for the round, but slowed in the second half and with two laps to go fell prey first to a flying Dion Pitt and then Heart of Racing star rookie Hugo Allan. After the race a disappointed Simon reported braking issues on the Giltrap Racing TR86 but he still managed to come home fourth on the road behind Pitt in second and Allan in third – his second podium of the weekend.
The news was to get worse for the championship leader, however. In a post-race twist both Pitt and Allan were penalised for making contact with each other and each was given two second penalties each. Evans himself was given a two second penalty for a jumped start. This dropped the three of them behind Justin Allen who was elevated to second on the results.
The battle at the front of the field and further back for the remaining top ten places proved to be as good as any of recent seasons in the TR86 category with multiple changes of position and door to door racing for the entire 12 lap race.
Behind the fight for the lead in the early laps, a separate battle for third was also raging and further back still there was another almighty tussle for the remaining places in the top ten with Matthew McCutcheon, Brock Gilchrist, John Penny and Allen putting on a fine show for the limited fans at the track and the live stream viewers.
At the flag it was the NAPA Autoparts car of Allen that prevailed to win the battle and it proved well worthwhile when it became a third place finish following the penalties.