Chaz Mostert has taken his third race win of the 2021 TCR Australia series, but it was not the simple lights-to-flag victory he would have hoped for after topping qualifying.
The cars were held for a very long time on the starting grid, but that didn’t seem to distract Aaron Cameron who made one of his trademark demon launches off the starting grid. The Valvoline-sponsored Peugeot driver had flown well clear of pole-sitter Mostert even before they reached turn one, but it certainly could have been worse for the championship leader who did enough to hold onto second place at the start.
Further back, series newcomer Duvashen Padayachee had a nightmare start, stalling his car on the grid after the long hold which led to the yellow caution flags being waved like crazy at the back of the grid.
Up at the front meanwhile, Cameron charged off into the distance, but the most impressive opening lap came from further down the order. Jason Bargwanna had started this race from nineteenth position on the grid after being caught out by a premature end to qualifying, but by the end of lap one, the veteran had gained eight places and was up into eleventh.
The driver who caused that early end to qualifying – Jordan Cox – also made a blinding start to the race. Cox had gone fourth-quickest in qualifying, but because his escapades into the gravel trap had led to that previous session being halted prematurely, he was turfed to the very back of the grid as a penalty. That meant he had plenty of ground to make up, and by the end of lap one, he had gained five positions.
Cox clearly had no intention of settling for seventeenth though, so on lap two he found a way past Zac Soutar at Forrest’s Elbow, and Chelsea Angelo at The Chase.
Just behind, Josh Buchan was keen to follow through the doors opened by Cox, but as the cars headed onto lap three he was perhaps slightly too eager to get by Angelo. A forceful move on the inside line at turn one resulted in contact with Angelo’s Volkswagen, impeding her corner exit speed and thus leaving her vulnerable to the onrushing pack behind.
Up ahead though, Cox had no interest in what was going on in his rear view mirror. Instead, he had the Audi of Liam McAdam and the Peugeot of Ben Bargwanna in his sights.
Cox had risen to stardom a few years ago for his audacious overtakes at this very circuit, at certain corners where few racers would dare to venture offline. On lap three, we witnessed something of an homage to those antics, as Cox managed to pull off a wonderful double overtake on McAdam and Bargwanna through the McPhillamy Park and Skyline corner sequence.
A little further up the order, Dylan O’Keeffe was flying the flag well for Renault. The GRM squad had struggled to extract performance out of their two Megane RS TCRs this year, but on this occasion O’Keeffe was running well in the top ten.
Heading onto lap four, O’Keeffe mirrored Buchan’s overtake on Angelo when passing Luke King for eighth place, but unlike Buchan, managed to avoid contact. It wasn’t long before the Renault had closed up to the back of John Martin’s Honda for seventh, but sadly the fun and games were about to come to an end. A few laps later, a sudden mechanical issue hamstrung O’Keeffe’s Megane, resulting in retirement from the race having climbed as far up the order as sixth.
But while tragedy was striking the GRM squad for the umpteenth time already this season, there was a battle for the lead breaking out at the front.
At the halfway stage, Mostert had left Garth Tander in his dust and clocked the fastest lap of the race on lap five. As a result, Cameron’s healthy race lead had been whittled down to just a single car length.
After feigning to go for an overtake on the inside line of Hell Corner and Quarry Bend, it only seemed like a matter of time before Mostert would overcome Cameron’s defence. However, he pushed the car slightly too hard through The Cutting and made contact with the harsh concrete wall. Miraculously, Mostert seemed to avoid damaging his Audi to any great extent, but his error had given Cameron some breathing room once again.
That respite didn’t last long however, as by the end of lap seven, Mostert had latched back onto the rear of the Peugeot. Heading into the final corner of the lap, Cameron chose not to defend, which left the door wide open for Mostert to dive to the inside line. The cars ran side-by-side along the start-finish straight, but as the track curved left at turn one, it was advantage to Mostert.
Cameron wasn’t about to concede the race lead without a fight though, and the Peugeot even looked quicker through the twisty mountain section of the track, compared to Mostert’s Audi.
But, after slightly messing up his line through The Esses, Cameron fell back and Mostert rushed off into the distance along Conrod Straight, even with 60kg of success ballast onboard.
With that, Mostert took victory but Cameron could take solace from second place – his best race finish of the year.
Tander marked his return to the TCR Australia Series with a podium finish in third, while youngster Jay Hanson kept his car out of the unforgiving walls to take an impressive fourth.
Lee Holdsworth came across the line in fifth ahead of Martin in sixth, while Brad Shiels had a good battle with King and Cox behind.
In the end it was Shiels who came away with seventh position, six tenths of a second in front of King in eighth. Cox’s masterful charge up the order came to an end in ninth, but that still represented thirteen overtakes over the course of ten laps around Mount Panorama. The top ten was rounded out by Wall Racing’s Tony D’Alberto.