After a difficult start to the season, the GRM Renault squad have finally got something to smile about in the TCR Australia Series, with Dylan O’Keeffe qualifying on pole position for race one at Sydney Motorsport Park.
O’Keeffe and team-mate James Moffat had topped the timesheets in practice, and managed to carry that positive trajectory into qualifying as well, with Moffat ending the session third-fastest.
Splitting the pair in second place was HMO Customer Racing’s Josh Buchan, who had looked very strong throughout the session in his Hyundai i30 N TCR. As did John Martin for Wall Racing, however the Honda driver would eventually have to settle for fourth.
Championship leader Chaz Mostert has been in imperious form recently. Fresh off the back of a victory in the V8 Supercars championship at Symmons Plains, Mostert would have hoped for better than fifth place on the starting grid here this weekend. However, the Melbourne Performance Centre Audi has been somewhat hamstrung by the Balance of Performance measures introduced for this event, so to even qualify fifth is an achievement.
Next up, Nathan Morcom in the second of the HMO Hyundai i30s wound up as the sixth fastest driver in qualifying, just over a tenth of a second quicker than 2019 polesitter, Tony D’Alberto, who would have to settle for seventh this year.
Michael Caruso ended qualifying as the best-placed of the Alfa Romeo drivers in eighth, just ahead of GRM stablemate Aaron Cameron in the Peugeot in ninth. Caruso and Cameron are both sporting special liveries this weekend, as their title sponsor Valvoline is celebrating 155 years in the automotive industry.
The top ten was rounded out by the second Peugeot of Jason Bargwanna, who was victorious in race three at Phillip Island this year.
Outside of the top ten, Lee Holdsworth was the first of the main championship contenders to have lost out, and would have to make do with thirteenth position and a place on the seventh row of the starting grid for race one. In pit lane after the session, Holdsworth had complained of set-up issues with his Alfa Romeo that left it with far too much oversteer for his liking.
Fellow Alfa driver Jordan Cox also had car troubles, but instead of rear balance, Cox was struggling with a lack of engine power. As a result, the sixth-placed man in the championship could qualify no better than sixteenth.
Just ahead of Cox in fifteenth position on race one’s starting grid, Luke King’s difficulties had really showcased the imposed lack of performance in the Audi RS3 this weekend. Heading into the weekend, King finds himself third in the drivers’ championship standings, however he will have to work hard to sustain that position from such a lowly grid slot.
Race one gets underway later on today at 13:25 local time (04:25 BST).