Bailey Sweeny took a consummate victory in the opening TCR Australia race of the weekend at Mount Panorama in Bathurst, as pole-sitter Jay Hanson lost out at the start before crashing near the end.
HMO Customer Racing’s Sweeny – who had already registered his first win of the season when the series visited the circuit back in April – had qualified his Hyundai on the front row of the grid alongside Hanson.
At the start, when Hanson failed to get a good enough start in his Audi, it was Sweeny who leapt into the lead before the first corner.
The 19-year-old would then be able to control the race from that position thereafter, building up an advantage of over a second through the opening half dozen laps.
The race quickly settled down, with few moves in the top cars until the safety car was deployed at the end of lap 12 due to reports of kangaroos being on the circuit.
Two laps behind the safety car followed, before racing resumed on lap 15 of the now-shortened 18-lap sprint.
Hanson was never close enough to Sweeny to challenge for the lead, although the Melbourne Performance Centre driver was clearly trying to keep pace with the leading Hyundai.
It all came to a head on the penultimate lap when Hanson made an unforced error at Turn six and crashed hard into the wall, destroying the front-left corner of his RS3.
Sweeny thus went unchallenged to his second win of the season, with the podium being completed by GRM’s Dylan O’Keeffe and HMO team-mate Nathan Morcom.
Aaron Cameron brought his GRM Peugeot home in fourth, having had a race-long battle with fellow 308 racer Ben Bargwanna.
At the final corner, three laps from the end, Bargwanna appeared to have taken fourth, but Cameron was able to get back by moments later and hold on to the position to the chequered flag.
Michael Caruso brought his Ashley Seward Motorsport Alfa Romeo home in sixth, ahead of Will Brown’s Audi in seventh.
After a career-best qualifying result, Lachlan Mineeff was a season-best-equalling eighth, whilst the top ten was completed by the GRM-run Peugeots of Jordan Cox and guest entry Teddy Clairet.
In qualifying, title contender Cox had an unusual crash with team-mate James Moffat, which had resulted in neither driver posting a time and thus starting from the back of the grid.
By the end of the opening lap, Cox had leapt up to tenth, but on the lap of the restart he slipped to 11th after Luke King passed on the Conrod straight.
It looked as if Cox could lose out on the crucial top ten reverse-grid for race two, until he fought back through on the penultimate lap at Turn 4 with contact on King’s Hyundai.
That gave Cox the place and ultimately ended King’s race, as the Hyundai driver later slowed with a deflated front-left tyre, likely due to the contact.
Josh Buchan was 11th on his first race outing in the new Hyundai Elantra N, although the HMO driver had to fight through the field after stalling at the start from fifth on the grid.
Championship leader Tony D’Alberto could only manage 12th in his Honda, making no gain from his grid place having lost out to Clairet at the start, having endured his worst qualifying result of his TCR career.
It means his points lead has been cut to 35 over Cox ahead of race two, with double points available from the event and Cox now looking to be starting near the front for the next race.
Zac Soutar had been running struggling for pace and running in 17th in his Honda before retiring to the pits with an engine issue which will require an overnight change of unit.
Race two is scheduled to get underway at 09:25 local time on Sunday (22:25 GMT, 23:25 CET on Saturday).
|1||130||Bailey SWEENY||HMO Customer Racing||Hyundai i30 N TCR||18||44:34.9975||2:14.342||2|
|2||8||Dylan O’KEEFFE||Schaeffler GRM||Peugeot 308 TCR||18||1.885||2:14.821||3|
|3||11||Nathan MORCOM||HMO Customer Racing||Hyundai i30 N TCR||18||3.399||2:14.989||4|
|4||18||Aaron CAMERON||Team Valvoline GRM||Peugeot 308 TCR||18||6.978||2:15.700||7|
|5||71||Ben BARGWANNA||Burson Auto Parts Racing||Peugeot 308 TCR||18||7.178||2:15.305||8|
|6||10||Michael CARUSO||Ashley Seward Motorsport||Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR||18||7.991||2:15.593||10|
|7||999||Will BROWN||MPC Team Liqui Moly||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||18||8.518||2:15.536||9|
|8||14||Lachlan MINEEFF||Purple Sector||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||18||9.723||2:15.746||6|
|9||33||Jordan COX||Swyftx GRM||Peugeot 308 TCR||18||11.484||2:15.625||18|
|10||20||Teddy CLAIRET||Peugeot Sport GRM||Peugeot 308 TCR||18||12.520||2:15.920||14|
|11||30||Josh BUCHAN||HMO Customer Racing||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||18||12.881||2:15.405||5|
|12||50||Tony D’ALBERTO||Honda Wall Racing||Honda Civic Type-R FK7 TCR||18||13.646||2:16.430||12|
|13||41||Kody GARLAND||Valvoline Racing GRM||Renault Mégane RS TCR||18||15.361||2:16.529||13|
|14||15||Michael CLEMENTE||Michael Clemente Motorsport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||18||15.763||2:16.481||15|
|15||22||Iain MCDOUGALL||Melbourne Performance Centre||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||18||18.442||2:17.474||17|
|16||34||James MOFFAT||LCMT+ Racing GRM||Renault Mégane RS TCR||18||1:21.520||2:18.080||19|
|R||2||Luke KING||MOUTAI / Zip Pay||Hyundai i30 N TCR||18||DNF||2:15.629||11|
|R||9||Jay HANSON||AWC MPC Racing||Audi RS3 LMS TCR II||16||DNF||2:14.262||1|
|R||110||Zac SOUTAR||Team Soutar Motorsport||Honda Civic Type-R FK7 TCR||9||DNF||2:17.426||16|