Josh Buchan has scored two victories from two starts so far this weekend at Sydney Motorsport Park, in what is turning out to be the most successful event of his TCR Australia Series career to date.
The first of Sunday’s races was initially delayed by about twenty minutes however, as fog loomed around the circuit, creating visibility concerns.
When it eventually lifted, Buchan made a good start off the line from pole, but the same couldn’t be said for his fellow front-row starter James Moffat. If the GRM Renault crew didn’t have any bad luck, then they’d have no luck at all, and on this occasion another top three result slipped from their grasp when Moffat came close to stalling as the race began.
The former V8 Supercars racer did manage to get going, but by which point second place had turned into ninth.
Just behind, there was more drama, as contact between Jay Hanson and John Martin sent Hanson into a spin at turn one. Miraculously, the rest of the onrushing pack avoided him, but there was now a mountain to climb if he was to work his way back up the order. Martin didn’t escape unscathed either, with his Honda picking up steering damage that he would then have to battle throughout the remainder of the race.
Once everything settled down after the first lap, it was Buchan who led with a healthy gap back to Chaz Mostert in second place. Following the heavyweight Audi, Tony D’Alberto had worked his way up into third place for the Wall Racing Honda team. Aaron Cameron and Michael Caruso rounded out the top five at this stage in their pair of Valvoline-sponsored cars.
Heading onto lap three however, Cameron suddenly began to look vulnerable. Caruso was naturally the first to capitalise. After getting alongside Cameron’s Peugeot through turn one, Caruso went on to make the overtake stick on the inside line of turn two, elevating him up to fourth position.
Nathan Morcom was quick to follow Caruso through, but not without taking a hit from Cameron as the two cars’ corner entries converged for turn three.
There was more strife to come for Cameron though, whose Peugeot looked a shadow of the car it was last time out at Bathurst. Further around the same lap, the Renault duo of Moffat and Dylan O’Keeffe slid by for sixth and seventh places through turns six, seven and eight.
The rot wouldn’t stop there for Cameron either, as on the following lap he dropped back behind Luke King at turn one, and then Lee Holdsworth at turn two. At this point the second-placed man in the drivers’ championship standings was becoming something of a roadblock, and it wasn’t long before disaster struck.
As the midfield charged up behind him, Zac Soutar attempted to snatch tenth place. But, in doing so, Soutar received contact from another car as the group concertinaed together. This knocked his Honda’s suspension way out of alignment, resulting in an early end to the privateer’s race.
Meanwhile, Ben Bargwanna was able to get by Cameron more successfully at turn seven on lap five, marking a total of eleven places gained from his starting position in what had been a monstrous opening handful of laps for the Burson Auto Parts driver.
Further up the order, the battle for the final spot on the podium was beginning to heat up. By lap six, Caruso had closed onto the rear of D’Alberto’s Honda. Then, on lap seven, the Alfa Romeo driver cleanly swept past on the inside line at turn one to take third position away.
Morcom was also not far behind, and once again, was able to place his Hyundai into the gap made by Caruso at turn two. This demoted D’Alberto to fifth.
At this stage of the race, D’Alberto’s pace appeared to be dropping away in comparison to the cars around him, and sure enough Moffat would go on to make his way past four laps later. Moffat’s recovery drive after bogging down at the start of the race had been rather impressive up to this point, and after having gotten past his team-mate O’Keeffe a few laps earlier, he now found himself back in the top five.
Once again though, D’Alberto found himself hung out to dry at turn two, and so Moffat was followed through by not only the other Renault of O’Keeffe, but by the Audi of King and the Alfa Romeo of Holdsworth as well. In just two corners, D’Alberto had gone from fifth to ninth.
Overall, it was turning into a bit of a race to forget for Wall Racing, as their second car driven by Martin was forced into pit-lane as a legacy of that earlier contact with Hanson.
Out in front though, Buchan made it look easy and went on to take victory by 2.1 seconds over Mostert in second place. Caruso rounded out the podium in third position, and with that claimed his best ever result in the TCR Australia Series.
Fourth place went to Buchan’s team-mate Morcom, while Moffat managed to salvage a top five finish. The second Renault of O’Keeffe wound up in sixth, and had a fairly comfortable two-second gap over King who crossed the line in seventh. The margin to the eighth placed car wasn’t quite so comfortable however, as Holdsworth finished just two tenths of a second further back.
Bargwanna amassed a huge twelve overtakes in this race to claim ninth from the back of the grid, leaving D’Alberto to cling onto tenth ahead of Cameron in his equally ailing car.
Elsewhere, Jordan Cox’s misfortune continued. One of the stars of the series suffered a driveshaft failure during the warm-up lap, promptly ending his race before it had even begun.
The spirits will no doubt be much higher in the HMO Customer Racing garage though, as Buchan will now have a shot at pulling off a clean-sweep of race victories later today in race three.
The final race of the weekend at Sydney Motorsport Park gets underway shortly at 13:25 local time (04:25 BST).