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Steady Start For Kiwis In Big Bathurst Toyota 86 Finale

It was a steady start for the Kiwi contingent racing in the final round of the 2023 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Australia Toyota 86 Championship as the big Bathurst weekend got underway.

A steady start at Bathurst for Orr-West. Picture Amanda Tollemache

Whakatane’s Christina Orr-West was flying the flag for the New Zealand Championship – and in particular the Masters class – making her first visit to the circuit in over a decade. Aboard the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Australia guest car, a sensible approach in practice saw her 30th from 32 but happy that there was plenty in the tank.

“This place is just as full on as I remember,” she beamed after qualifying. “The only difference is I’m a lot older now and not young and stupid so I wasn’t as ‘gun ho’ with the throttle as I dialled myself in. I wasn’t at the back though and there’s huge improvement still to come.”

Improve Orr-West most certainly did in the first race of the weekend coming home in 25th, happy with her first day’s work at Mount Panorama.

“Definitely I felt like it’s coming back to me and the confidence is growing,” she added afterwards. “The race was much better than practice and qualifying so roll on the next race and we’ll go again and see if we can carry on moving forward.”

Kiwi Ben Stewart – a star of national racing in New Zealand – performed well qualifying a fine 14th and finishing 15th in the race in the second TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Australia entry. 2023 New Zealand series rookie champ Rylan Gray qualified in 15th just behind Stewart but wasn’t classified in the race after a coming together with another car.

Today will see the big field out for the second race around the iconic track.

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