Christchurch driver Jaden Ransley drove the race of his life this afternoon to hold out 2017-2018 Toyota 86 Championship leader Jack Milligan in the first race at Hampton Downs in the northern Waikato.

Ransley had taken pole for the ten lap race and made a well-judged start, balancing power with grip to stay slightly ahead of Milligan into the first turn.

He drove a defensive line ahead of hard charger Milligan, establishing a smooth rhythm through the opening lap but then a midfield incident sent top Rookie Jordan Baldwin into the gravel trap, bringing out the safety car. Once Baldwin’s car was recovered and the field faced a restart Ransley controlled the pack perfectly, getting the jump as they came up onto the start-finish straight.

“I got a good break on Jack and it looked like he was having to defend second place, then he came on the attack and I had to change tactics.” From there to the chequered flag Ransley maintained control, never letting Milligan pressure him into a mistake. “I’m really happy to have won this won. It’s the best way to start the weekend.”

Milligan said he enjoyed the battle for the race win “Jaden drove really well, he was fast. I tried everything to set up a pass but in the end second is good, gives me good points toward the title.”

Tom Alexander was third in a dramatic return to form after his car speed faded in the southern rounds.

Michael Scott, who came to Hampton Downs second in the championship, got caught up in the midfield incidents and finished the race seventh, carrying front end panel damage. He did set fastest time of the race, a 1:16.251.

Championship returnee Ben MacDonald was fourth overall ahead of Jacob Smith, who has missed four rounds of the series while undergoing and recovering from back surgery.

The final race weekend of the 2017-2018 Toyota 86 Championship continues on Sunday with the second race at 10:40 am (10 laps, partial reverse grid) and 3:18 pm (15 laps)

Round six, 2017-2018 Toyota 86 Championship, Race 1


1 Jaden Ransley, Christchurch
2 Jack Milligan, Christchurch
3 Tom Alexander, Bombay
4 Ben MacDonald, Auckland
5 Jacob Smith, Auckland
6 Bramwell King, Auckland
7 Michael Scott, Te Puke
8 Connor Adam, Auckland
9 Callum Hedge,  Auckland
10 Matt Griffin, Pukekohe
11 Brock Gilchrist, Auckland
12 Broc Feeney, Australia
13 Sam Wright,  Clevedon

DNF Jordan Baldwin Auckland