Townsville takes its toll on Toyota 86 Racing Series
The Toyota 86 Racing Series is the perfect category for passionate up and coming aspiring race drivers but this weekend as the 86s took to the tight Townsville street circuit as part of the Watpac Townsville 400 Supercars event, it was experience that won the day.
Veteran campaigner 43-year-old Dylan Thomas took his first chequered flag in the series in the first race of the weekend, with series leader Tim Brook claiming victory in Saturday's late afternoon Race 5 and again in Race 6 on Sunday morning.
With 33 cars on the grid, it is always tight racing and this weekend, there was plenty of action - and contact - as drivers battled hard for every available championship point.
Speaking after Race 4, Dylan Thomas said he was rapt with his first ever race win in the series despite being a consistent contender and taking third overall for the 2017 season.
"I'm feeling very good," Thomas said.
"We've always been just about there, so it's nice to finally get across the line.
"This category is close and the top 20 guys are all podium guys. The quality of the field is second to none and if you take Supercars out, this is the only category where the top 20 are separated by less than a second.
"You don't have to do too much wrong to be nine tenths of a second off the pace and I don't think a lot of people understand how hard it is to find that little bit," he said.
That much was evident as an action packed weekend of wheel-to-wheel 86 racing unfolded with the eight top places in qualifying beating the previous lap record at Townsville and Thomas claiming pole with a new record of 1 minute 29.1884 seconds.
Thomas led Race 4 from start to finish crossing the line less than half a second ahead of Brook with invited pro-driver Steve Owen in the Toyota GAZOO Racing Australia 86 finishing in third.
While the race order of the top three remained unchanged, behind them, there were big battles for position resulting in two separate safety car interventions after Emily Duggan and Jaiden Maggs both ended up hard into the concrete barriers in separate incidents.
Starting again on pole, Thomas led Race 5 on Saturday afternoon - the 50th race in the Toyota 86 Racing Series that first kicked off in 2016 - ahead of Brook, Owen, Luke van Herwaarde, Declan Fraser and George Gutierrez, who made up the first three rows of the grid.
Fraser slipped past van Herwaarde and gained a spot on lap one and by lap four Brook squeezed past Thomas to take the lead. Contact between Alec Morse and Richard Peasey saw the former stranded in the middle of the track and the safety car was out again on lap five.
Racing resumed on lap eight with Brook leading from Thomas, Owen, Fraser and van Herwaarde with 2018 series runner up Luke King making his way through the field to sixth position, having originally qualified in 11th place.
Over the next four laps, the hard charging action was in the big middle battle pack that resulted in a heavy shunt between Jaylyn Robotham and Ben Grice with both cars suffering damage and ending up dragging their exhaust systems with sparks flying through to the finish.
The top three remained clear of the trouble and King kept advancing slipping past van Herwaarde and Fraser to finish fourth behind Brook, Thomas and Owen.
After a night of repairs, 30 cars lined up on the grid for Sunday's final race with Brook leading from start to finish to take the chequered flag after 11 laps with a time of 16 minutes and 40.6333 seconds.
Brook won with a comfortable gap of nearly 1.2 seconds but close behind, Owen, Thomas and an ever-improving King battled it out for the podium with King eventually taking second and Owen again taking third place.
Again throughout the race, in the mid-field, the battle raged with some particularly hard driving by Grice and John Iafolla that saw them gain 13 and nine places respectively to finish just outside the top ten.
With two top podium spots in Townsville, Tim Brook leads the series with a comfortable margin of 108 points as the series next heads to Bathurst in October for round three.
Race 4 results:
1. Dylan Thomas
2. Tim Brook
3. Steve Owen
Race 5 results:
1. Tim Brook
2. Dylan Thomas
3. Steve Owen
Race 6 results:
1. Tim Brook
2. Luke King
3. Steve Owen
2019 Toyota 86 Racing Series leaderboard:
|5th||Luke van Herwaarde||362|
*All results are provisional
THE TOYOTA 86 RACING SERIES
The Toyota 86 Racing Series is designed to provide an entry point and training ground for up-and-coming drivers, offering a prize pool of $150,000.
Top-three place rewards for the year are $50,000, $30,000 and $15,000. The coveted Kaizen Award for continuous improvement now includes prizes valued up to $35,000 including a fully funded trip to compete in an overseas round of the 86 racing series.
Open to variants of Toyota's cult-classic sports car, the series is part of the support program at selected rounds of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.
2019 Toyota 86 Racing Series Calendar
April 12-14: Phillip Island, Victoria
July 5-7: Townsville, Queensland
October 10-13: Bathurst, NSW
November 8-10: Sandown, Victoria
November 22-24: Newcastle, NSW
For regular updates and more information go to https://toyota.com.au/86/racing-series.