Simon Evans left the second round of the Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship with the series lead, but the 2021 season already looks to have the makings of a classic.
Evans has a slight lead over Ryan Wood, who has won three races as Evans has in the first two rounds – at the NZ Grand Prix meeting and at the second round of the championship over last weekend at the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Festival. Rowan Shepherd, who came away from the weekend with the round win after three fine race performances but no wins, is almost certainly going to be a championship contender as the title fight progresses. So too is Brock Gilchrist who has all the pace of the front three and is just 20 points behind Shepherd.
“It’s definitely looking like it’s going to be a competitive season fought out between the up and coming youngsters and the more experienced racers like Evans, and to a degree, Shepherd,” said category manager Geoff Short. “The three races on the National circuit at the weekend were fascinating.”
In the first Wood won convincingly from pole position, while in the second reverse top ten format battle, Evans came through to win. He also won the third race, a nose to tail duel from start to finish with Shepherd doing enough in second to win the round and Wood in hot pursuit in third.
“Simon still reckons there is more to come from the car and himself so his wins have been all the more impressive as they have also highlighted his considerable skill in retaining a lead under pressure,” added Short.
“But it’s really too close to call and there’s certainly at least four in it at this stage.”
Marco Giltrap is the standout rookie after the first two rounds, benefitting from team mate Evans input but also clearly showing he has plenty of raw pace and some great racecraft. John Penny leads the masters’ class after an impressive return to the category. He was at the sharp end all weekend at Hampton Downs and led Race 2 in style until edged out of the top places. Penny is another who can be expected to challenge for top places, and indeed race wins, as he dials himself back into the Toyota 86 groove.
With drivers of the calibre of Christina Orr-West, Justin Allen, Alexandra Whitley – who also led a race at the weekend – Ronan Murphy and endurance champion Tayler Bryant also in the field, the third round at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon in two weeks should provide another classic encounter. Any of them could step into the championship mix.