Néstor Girolami took a comfortable win in his first race in TCR Australia at Sandown, with the Wall Racing driver taking victory by over two seconds from champion-elect Will Brown.
WTCR regular Girolami was never troubled for the win, taking a lights-to-flag victory as the rest of the field squabbled behind the Argentine.
On a damp and drying track, HMO Customer Racing’s Will Brown moved from fourth on the grid up to second at the start, but the second Honda of John Martin would take the position on the following lap at the end of the back straight.
The rest of the race then largely came down to a long battle for second, with Martin holding the position for most of the race, until lap 16 when he couldn’t hang on to his car at Turn 1 as he struggled with running wet tyres on a near-dry track.
That allowed Brown into second, with GRM’s Jordan Cox also getting through to third as Martin lost momentum.
Brown and Cox would hold on to the final podium positions for the next three laps, moving Brown closer to the title. Cox secured his first podium in the series after a series of impressive performances in previous events.
Melbourne Performance’s Garth Tander was fourth on his return to the series after two events away, with the Audi driver also passing Martin on lap 16, although Martin immediately fought back only for Tander to seal the pass at Turn 1 on the following lap.
Martin then came under pressure from the second Melbourne Performance Audi of Liam McAdam for the rest of the race, but the Honda driver was able to hold him off to take fifth ahead of McAdam in sixth.
James Moffat brought his GRM Renault home in seventh, ahead of the second Alfa Romeo of Dylan O’Keeffe in eighth. The title contender had struggled to make progress in the race and the title is increasingly out of reach, as he slips to 132 points behind Brown.
Melbourne Performance’s Aaron Cameron and HMO’s Nathan Morcom completed the top ten in their Volkswagen and Hyundai cars respectively.
Kelly Racing’s Andre Heimgartner retired from the race after four laps whilst running in ninth when he suffered from broken suspension on his Holden Astra, whilst Jason Bright retired on lap 15 when he too picked up damaged suspension.
Races two and three get underway on Sunday at 12:15 and 13:20 local time (03:15 and 04:20 BST, 04:15 and 05:20 CEST).
|1||38||Néstor GIROLAMI||Wall Racing||Honda Civic Type R TCR||20||26:00.7271||1:16.129||1|
|2||30||Will BROWN||HMO Customer Racing||Hyundai i30 N TCR||20||2.222||1:15.930||4|
|3||38||Jordan COX||Garry Rogers Motorsport||Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR||20||10.190||1:16.889||6|
|4||4||Garth TANDER||Melbourne Performance||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||20||11.814||1:16.695||11|
|5||24||John MARTIN||Wall Racing||Honda Civic Type R TCR||20||14.956||1:17.160||3|
|6||97||Liam MCADAM||Melbourne Performance||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||20||15.238||1:15.726||12|
|7||34||James MOFFAT||Garry Rogers Motorsport||Renault Mégane RS TCR||20||15.555||1:16.436||10|
|8||9||Dylan O’KEEFFE||Ashley Seward Motorsport||Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR||20||19.680||1:16.227||9|
|9||16||Aaron CAMERON||Melbourne Performance||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||20||20.578||1:16.045||14|
|10||11||Nathan MORCOM||HMO Customer Racing||Hyundai i30 N TCR||20||36.019||1:16.810||15|
|11||33||Chris PITHER||Garry Rogers Motorsport||Renault Mégane RS TCR||20||37.464||1:17.111||17|
|12||100||Russell INGALL||Melbourne Performance||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||20||59.974||1:16.415||13|
|13||37||Bryce FULLWOOD||Kelly Racing||Holden Astra TCR||20||1:08.807||1:17.232||8|
|14||35||Alexandra WHITLEY||Melbourne Performance||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||20||1:12.652||1:18.905||16|
|15||50||Tony D’ALBERTO||Wall Racing||Honda Civic Type R TCR||20||1:15.023||1:19.649||7|
|R||8||Jason BRIGHT||Taskforce / Alliance Autosport||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||14||DNF||1:17.963||5|
|R||777||Andre HEIMGARTNER||Kelly Racing||Holden Astra TCR||4||DNF||1:21.027||2|