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Sweeny dominates opening race after pole-sitter Brown misses start

HMO Customer Racing’s Bailey Sweeny took victory in the opening TCR Australia race of the season at Symmons Plains Raceway, with pole-sitter Will Brown failing to start the race due to a driveshaft issue.

Earlier in the day, Brown had put his second-generation Audi RS3 LMS on pole position by over a tenth of a second from Sweeny, the 2019 champion proving to be the fastest driver in both parts of the qualifying session.

However, just after posting his best lap, Brown’s car broke an output shaft, a fate which also befell the only other Gen II RS3 of Zac Soutar in the same session.

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With a lack of spare parts for the component, both Brown and Soutar are set to be out of action for the rest of the weekend unless an alternative fix can quickly be found.

“The out-put shaft has broken off as we just don’t have any parts,” explained pole-sitter Brown. “They’ve been on order for six months trying to get the new components, so at this stage it’s putting us out for the weekend, and we won’t be able to compete.

“We’re trying to see if we can weld it up or something else and get out there, but it’s pretty disappointing.”

With Brown missing from pole, Sweeny assumed the de facto pole position and was initially challenged for the lead by the Peugeot of Aaron Cameron.

However, Sweeny held the inside line into the first corner to keep his lead, as Cameron dropped to fifth with an attempt around the outside.

Sweeny – who won two races in his début season in 2022 – was never headed in the 30-lap race, getting his season off to a perfect start in his Hyundai i30 N machinery.

In a sedate race for the now 11-car field, the podium position were decided by the end of the first tour, with reigning champion Tony D’Alberto moving his Wall Racing Honda into second and GRM’s Kody Garland gaining two places to secure third, and with it his maiden podium in the series.

Burson Auto Parts Racing’s Ben Bargwanna ended the opening lap in fourth, where he remained thereafter, taking the chequered flag ahead of GRM’s Cameron in fifth, who never recovered the ground he lost at the first corner.

Jordan Cox made it four Peugeots in a row with sixth, battling hard in the latter stages of the race with the HMO Hyundai Elantra of Josh Buchan, who had been penalised in qualifying for a turbo boost irregularity and thus started from the back of the grid.

Buchan was in tenth by the second lap, and on lap 21 he was briefly sixth in a close battle which Cox ultimately won, leaving Buchan to finish in seventh.

Former BTCC regular Tom Oliphant brought his Ashley Seward Motorsport-run Alfa Romeo home in eighth in his début race in the series,

The top ten was completed by the independent Audis of Lachlan Mineeff and Michael Clemente, with Iain McDougall the only other finisher in the race in 11th in his first-generation RS3.

Races two and three are scheduled to take place on Sunday, with the action resuming at 13:30 local time AEDT (GMT +11 hours).

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