Chaz Mostert is the new points leader of the TCR Australia Series after taking his second race victory of the weekend at Phillip Island.
After yesterday’s monsoon conditions, the circuit was barely recognisable as it basked in glorious sunshine by the seafront.
But it wasn’t just the weather which had changed for the better today, as after bogging down in race one, Luke King made sure to get a good launch off the line this time around. In fact, King’s initial getaway was even better than that of pole-sitter Mostert.
However, championship leader Lee Holdsworth wasn’t quite so sprightly as the starting lights went out. Instead, he stalled his Alfa Romeo, and plummeted out of contention as a result.
Meanwhile as the leaders charged into turn one, Mostert had clawed his way back ahead of King in the second phase of the getaway, and in fact, King would have to watch his mirrors as Aaron Cameron leapt up into second place having started from sixth on the grid.
Cameron wasn’t finished there either, as by turn three he had also dispensed with Mostert for the race lead.
As Cameron scampered away in the Peugeot, the inter-team battle at Melbourne Performance Centre began, with Mostert and King running side-by-side for half a lap. Eventually, King would complete the pass for second place at turn nine.
As the cars reached the start-finish straight again, Cameron’s Peugeot looked as though it was towing a caravan, such was the pace difference between it and the Audi of King. Undoubtedly helped by the slipstream, King scythed past Cameron for the lead at turn one, and there wasn’t anything that the Valvoline-sponsored driver could do to retaliate.
Mostert then attempted to follow King’s lead at the turn four hairpin, but this time Cameron was able to close the door. Again, Mostert would send his car to the inside line further around the lap at turn ten, but the result was the same.
Not willing to back down that easily however, Mostert lined himself up for a move on the inside line of turn one. But as the pair entered the high-speed bend, the rear of Mostert’s Audi began to slide, requiring quick reflexes to correct.
That sketchy moment halted Mostert’s progress, but then at turn four, Cameron did all the work for him. Having carelessly left the door wide open, Mostert swooped by with relative ease.
The two drivers traded paint however, thus hindering their own corner exit speed which allowed John Martin to enter the fray in his Honda. Cameron looked vulnerable, and ultimately his defence would unravel at turn ten when he completely missed his braking point.
This allowed both Wall Racing Hondas of Martin and Tony D’Alberto to move up into third and fourth position respectively.
Further back, there was more drama for Jordan Cox who led the points standings coming into the weekend. As the midfield pack bunched up, Zac Soutar was pinched between Cox’s Alfa Romeo and Josh Buchan’s Hyundai. This resulted in Cox being pitched across the front of Soutar’s Honda and into the Hyundai, causing race-ending damage for the pair of them.
Onto lap seven and there was a battle commencing between the two struggling Renault drivers for the final place in the top ten. Eventually James Moffat would power around the outside of Dylan O’Keeffe at turn one, but neither will be happy with the pace of their cars so far this season.
The same certainly couldn’t be said for King and Mostert, who had now gapped the rest of the pack.
With his victory in race one still fresh in the memory, Mostert looked to take the lead off of his team-mate through turn six. Despite running side-by-side for the next four corners, Mostert would eventually have to concede as King’s valiant defence paid off.
However, it only seemed a matter of time before the two team-mates would be door-to-door again.
Meanwhile in the battle for third, Cameron’s yo-yo race had started to look positive again as the Peugeot driver had managed to fight his way back into third.
His GRM stablemate Moffat wasn’t having quite such a good time though, as the right side of his Renault’s bonnet had become unpinned, all but ending his race on the spot. This promoted Nathan Morcom into tenth, an improvement of nine positions from his spot on the starting grid.
After a few laps of stalemate, Mostert had readied himself for another attack on King for the lead; this time a daring dive-bomb on the run into turn one. A slight misjudgement meant that two of his Audi’s wheels crept onto the grass, causing the RS3 to violently snap sideways. Luckily though, his lightning-quick reflexes meant that Mostert could regain control and avoid making contact with his team-mate.
It would take him another lap to regroup, but Mostert’s efforts finally paid off at turn four on lap thirteen. Having set the move up at turn two, he ran alongside King through turn three before claiming the inside line into the hairpin.
King’s noble defence of the lead had finally come undone, and as Mostert began to eek out a gap, the 31 year-old appeared to reluctantly concede defeat.
That’s how the order would stay between the two team-mates for the remaining laps until the chequered flag was waved. Mostert hadn’t dominated to anywhere near the extent that he did in race one, but this victory was arguably just as impressive, as his racecraft against King was tested to its very limits.
By the end of the race the two Audis looked as though they were in a class of their own, but behind them there had been plenty of fireworks for the final spot on the podium.
Cameron’s pinball Peugeot had lost out again, and eventually it was Martin who emerged in third place to take his – and Wall Racing’s – first podium of the season.
D’Alberto in the second Honda came home in fourth place, ahead of Jason Bargwanna who had a great run to claim fifth.
Having passed Cameron at the turn four hairpin, privateer Michael Clemente scored a brilliant sixth place finish in his Wurth-sponsored car, while Cameron had to settle for a disappointing seventh.
Soutar was another driver to claim a personal best by finishing in eight place, while Ben Bargwanna crossed the line in ninth. Morcom completed the top ten after quietly working his way up from the back row of the grid.
This was a belter of a race, but the action from Phillip Island isn’t over yet. Race three gets underway at 14:25 local time (03:25 GMT).