Connor Adam got his Toyota 86 Championship campaign off to the best possible start with a lights-to-flag victory in the first race of the season at Pukekohe Park.
It wasn’t an easy victory however, as the Post Haste-backed International Motorsport driver came under intense pressure during the race from both pole position holder Jordan Baldwin and Jaden Ransley.
Adam made the best getaway and led into Turn 1 in a clean start to edge out Baldwin. Despite tricky conditions with the track still damp off line, the first lap was incident free and as the field crossed the line for the first time it as Adam, followed closely by Baldwin, then Ransley, Peter Vodanovich, Kaleb Ngatoa, Jake Klein, Brock Gilchrist, a fast-starting Justin Allen and Mitch Hughes in his first race, with Callum Hedge rounding out the top ten.
CareVets racer Hedge was the man to watch and was quickly into his stride posting super quick laps from tenth on the grid. First on his radar were Hughes and Allen and he made it past both of them on lap three. On lap five he passed Klein and Gilchrist and set off after the lead five in front. This was reduced to a lead group of four when Ngatoa dived up the inside of Vodanovich at the complex. The two touched on the exit of the corner and Vodanovich slithered into the barriers on the wet grass, damaging the rear suspension and forcing his retirement.
By half distance Baldwin was piling a huge amount of pressure on Adam, but Connor was able to resist the lap after lap. A couple of big efforts by Baldwin didn’t quite come off and left him with his mirrors full of a charging Ransley looking for a way around him for second. Ransley’s attempt came on lap eight when the two went side by side over the Mountain and down the front straight. Baldwin kept his nerve and was able to hold on going into Turn 1 but the net effect was to allow Adam to gain a few car lengths on both and secure enough breathing space to win the race.
“I’m stoked. The team got the car perfect,” explained the race winner. “It went off a little towards the end of the race but was strong enough to do the job. So yes, a great start.”
Baldwin held on for second, with Ransley third and Hedge a fighting fourth. Ngatoa took fifth and Brock Gilchrist took sixth after a solid drive. Guest Australian driver Jake Klein finished seventh in his first New Zealand race while Justin Allen impressed with eighth in his first Toyota 86 race. Andrew Jackson and Mitch Hughes also impressed finishing ninth and tenth on their category debuts.
Further back, Arran Crighton did what he could from the back to finish 14th. With his CareVets machine damaged beyond immediate repair in a qualifying shunt, a spare car was hastily trailered to the track. New tyres were bolted on and he went straight out to race. A feisty first lap and a solid race showed what could have been had he started in his usual machine.
Toyota 86 Championship – Race 1 Result
1. Connor Adam – Post Haste/Weigh Northland
2. Jordan Baldwin – Intermach NZ/Carters Tyres
3. Jaden Ransley – Miles Toyota/Kitchen Studio
4. Callum Hedge – CareVets NZ Ltd
5. Kaleb Ngatoa – JJ Wallers/Capture Signs
6. Brock Gilchrist – Zic/Giltrap Group
7. Jake Klein – Toyota Racing New Zealand
8. Justin Allen – Battery Town/Thunder Adventure
9. Andrew Jackson – North Shore Toyota
10. Mitch Hughes- Gilpin Cartage Contractors
11. Sam Wright – Tony Richards Toyota/Premier
12. Jacob Cranston – Best Bars/Vista Lite
13. Campbell Stewart – NZPGS/Hydraulink
14. Arran Crighton – CareVets NZ Ltd
15. Connor Davison – Hampton Downs/Highlands Park
16. Tony Austin – Genweld