In overcast conditions, Chaz Mostert came out on top in qualifying for the second round of the 2021 TCR Australia Series at Phillip Island. The V8 Supercars regular posted a lap time of 01:35.670, which is a new TCR record.
There were some major upsets, however, in the first elimination round of the session. Dylan O’Keeffe, two-time race winner at this track in 2019, was the first driver to be eliminated with a lap time only good enough for eleventh place at the end of phase one.
He and the Garry Rogers Motorsport team had been aiming for the top five, but unfortunately their struggles with understeer in the Renault had carried over from the season opener.
Behind O’Keeffe, Zac Soutar will be reasonably happy with twelfth place in his privately entered Honda, as will Chelsea Angelo in thirteenth who makes her series comeback this weekend.
Brad Shiels was next up in fourteenth as the slowest of the three Hyundai-equipped drivers, while the top fifteen was rounded out by a frustrated James Moffat in the second of the Renaults.
Moffat is running with a brand new Mégane chassis this time out after his original car was written off in an incident with Jason Bargwanna a few weeks ago at Symmons Plains.
The real shock in this part of the session, however, was that championship leader Jordan Cox could only manage sixteenth.
Evidently bemused at his lack of pace, Cox reported that the car had felt good during the session, so his team will be scratching their heads to extract some more pace out of the Alfa Romeo.
Moffat’s Tasmanian crash partner Bargwanna was next up in seventeenth, but at least he can now feel confident in his car’s braking ability. Last time out, all three Peugeot entrants suffered from overheating brake fluid, which GRM believe to have now remedied.
Jay Hanson, Michael Clemente and championship newcomer Lachlan Mineeff rounded out the top twenty, and will therefore be starting from the back in race one.
So, onto phase two where the top ten drivers from the first phase of the session would battle it out for the best grid slots for Saturday’s opening race.
Tony D’Alberto would have to make do with tenth position on this occasion, but in contrast to the speed of the Honda Civic at Symmons Plains, this was a marked improvement. Nevertheless, Wall Racing – one of the top teams in 2019 – will be striving for more as the season progresses.
D’Alberto’s team-mate John Martin was able to do a little bit better however. His lap time of 01:36.491 was good enough for sixth place, so he’ll be right in the mix come race day.
Between the Honda duo, Nathan Morcom and Josh Buchan ended up in seventh and ninth place respectively, while Aaron Cameron’s Peugeot was sandwiched by the HMO Customer Racing drivers in eighth.
The best-performing of the Peugeot drivers was Ben Bargwanna, son of Jason, who after finding his feet at the season opener has shown a real turn of pace behind the wheel of his 308 TCR this afternoon.
Ahead of him, row two will be an Alfa Romeo lock-out, with Lee Holdsworth beating Michael Caruso to third. Overall, this places Holdsworth in a good position to overhaul fellow Alfa driver Cox’s points lead.
Up at the front though, the Noah’s Arc-style positioning of marques continued, as the Melbourne Performance Centre Audi pair looked untouchable.
Luke King was an early pace-setter in his RS3 LMS TCR, but eventually he would have to concede pole position to Mostert by an interval of nearly three tenths of a second.
Race one begins at 14:25 local time (03:25 GMT).