The 2018–’19 Toyota 86 Championship is set to go down to the wire at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park next month, after another tantalising result in the final race at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon this afternoon.
CareVets Scholarship driver Callum Hedge took a clear-cut victory to close the points margin to series leader Jaden Ransley. But the Miles Toyota driver pushed Hedge all the way to finish second ensuring he lost only the minimal amount of points lost to Hedge.
Ransley and Hedge have spent much of this season rubbing panels and fighting over the same piece of tarmac and off the start they were once again inseparable. They ran side-by-side through turns one and two, with Hedge eventually prevailing on the run to turn four with Jacob Cranston, Kaleb Ngatoa and Arran Crighton in tow.
After being a race leader early in the day, Crighton was the driver under threat in race three. After getting taken at the last corner by Peter Vodanovich at the end of lap one, he fell into a big multi-car battle-pack headed by Intermach NZ’s Jordan Baldwin, Connor Adam, and Campbell Stewart. One by one, Crighton was picked off by each of his rivals.
The race for first was far from a foregone conclusion. Hedge’s lead appeared stuck at around half a second and as the laps ticked over a motivated and impressive Ngatoa was closing in threatening to make it a three-car race for the win.
Hedge, however, continued to look in control of the situation even when the gap was barely more than a few car-lengths. Further down, Crighton led a four-car train – scrambling over ninth — that included Brock Gilchrist, Sam Wright, and Andrew Jackson all lining up behind. Lap 10 saw it all come unstuck for Crighton and Wright, after the latter went wide at turn one after contact with Gilchrist only to be collected and spun by the innocent Crighton.
The fight for first thankfully avoided any chaos. Ransley’s charge faded slightly in the latter laps and, in the end, Hedge took victory by 1.1 seconds. A further three places back was JJ Wallers’ driver Ngatoa, collecting his first Toyota 86 Championship podium finish in the process. Vodanovich and Cranston completed the top five.
The series now heads North for its grand finale at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park. Three races will take place across March 9–10, with Ransley, Hedge, and Baldwin the three central championship contenders.
2018-2019 Toyota 86 Championship Round 5 – New Zealand Grand Prix, Manfeild. Race 3
1. Callum Hedge – CareVets NZ Ltd
2. Jaden Ransley – Miles Toyota/Kitchen Studio
3. Kaleb Ngatoa – JJ Wallers/Capture Sign
4. Peter Vodanovich – CMC Markets/MacClure’s ITM
5. Jacob Cranston – Best Bars/Vista Lite
6. Connor Adam – Battery Town/Thunder Adventure
7. Jordan Baldwin – Intermach NZ/Carters Tyres
8. Justin Allen – Battery Town/Thunder Adventure
9. Brock Gilchrist – NEXUS Logistics/Giltrap Group
10. Campbell Stewart – NZPGS/Hydraulink
11. Andrew Jackson – North Shore Toyota
12. Connor Davison – Hampton Downs/Highlands Park
13. Leo Bult – North Western Toyota
14. Arran Crighton – CareVets NZ Ltd
15. Sam Wright – Tony Richards Toyota