Wall Racing’s Tony D’Alberto scored his first win of the season in the opening race at Sandown, making a superb start from fourth on the grid to claim a lights-to-flag victory.
Although D’Alberto had qualified his Honda in fourth earlier in the day, just under two tenths from pole-sitter Bailey Sweeny, the reigning champion got the best start of anyone to lead into the first corner.
Sweeny had tried to defend the inside aggressively from the first-generation Audi of Lachlan Mineeff going into the first corner, but it was D’Alberto who emerged in the lead, having cooly stuck to his line on the outside of the corner.
Sweeny dropped to fourth at the first turn, with Aaron Cameron getting his Peugeot from fifth on the grid up to second, whilst Mineeff held third.
Lap four saw a brief three-lap safety car intervention as the Peugeot of Clay Richards had to be retrieved due to suffering from an overheating issue.
When the race resumed, D’Alberto held his advantage, although by the chequered flag it was just one second as Cameron kept the Honda racer honest for the duration of the race.
2019 champion Will Brown completed the podium, having come from tenth on the grid. Brown was up to seventh by the end of the opening lap, and the Audi driver gained a further two places on the next tour – as Ben Bargwanna tried to pass Sweeny into the first corner, the pair went wide and gifted Brown two easy places.
Fifth became fourth when Mineeff dropped three places on the first lap of the restart, and Brown then gained the final podium place past Zac Soutar two laps later when he dived down the inside at the Turn 6 Esses.
There were no further changes in the top half of the field thereafter, with Cameron claiming a third successive second-place finish, whilst Brown’s result was his fourth podium visit in a row.
Soutar brought his independent Audi home in fourth, with Sweeny having to settle for fifth after his poor start earlier in the race – the HMO Customer Racing driver also having been warned for unsportsmanlike driving in the race. Nonetheless, the result moves Sweeny back to the lead of the drivers’ championship standings.
Mineeff was sixth, ahead of the Peugeot of Bargwanna in seventh, with the HMO Hyundai Elantra of erstwhile points leader Josh Buchan in eighth.
The top ten was completed by the Peugeot of Jordan Cox and the Lynk & Co of Tom Oliphant.
Michael Clemente had been running in tenth in his CUPRA when he retired to the pits after ten laps with a suspected driveshaft issue.
Whilst D’Alberto’s win moves him up to fourth in the drivers’ standings, 66 points from the top, it is now Sweeny who leads the table with 506 points, ahead of Buchan (491) and Cameron (473).
Race two is scheduled to take place at 12:40 local time (03:40 BST, 04:40 CEST) on Sunday.
|1||1||Tony D’ALBERTO||Honda Wall Racing||Honda Civic Type-R FK7 TCR||19||26:57.6890||1:15.161||4|
|2||18||Aaron CAMERON||Team Valvoline GRM||Peugeot 308 TCR||19||1.061||1:15.200||5|
|3||9||Will BROWN||MPC Team Liqui Moly||Audi RS3 LMS TCR II||19||1.342||1:14.698||10|
|4||110||Zac SOUTAR||Team Soutar Motorsport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR II||19||2.253||1:14.902||3|
|5||130||Bailey SWEENY||HMO Customer Racing||Hyundai i30 N TCR||19||6.091||1:15.143||1|
|6||14||Lachlan MINEEFF||Forza Brakes Motorsport||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||19||6.491||1:15.243||2|
|7||71||Ben BARGWANNA||Burson Auto Parts Racing||Peugeot 308 TCR||19||6.992||1:15.178||8|
|8||30||Josh BUCHAN||HMO Customer Racing||Hyundai Elantra N TCR||19||10.753||1:15.694||6|
|9||33||Jordan COX||Schaeffler GRM||Peugeot 308 TCR||19||10.946||1:15.641||11|
|10||115||Tom OLIPHANT||Ashley Seward Motorsport||Lynk & Co 03 TCR||19||12.563||1:15.678||12|
|11||22||Iain MCDOUGALL||Melbourne Performance Centre||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||19||15.935||1:15.911||13|
|12||41||Kody GARLAND||Valvoline Racing GRM||Peugeot 308 TCR||19||20.921||1:15.645||9|
|R||15||Michael CLEMENTE||Michael Clemente Motorsport||CUPRA Leon Competición TCR||10||DNF||1:15.613||7|
|R||4||Clay RICHARDS||Hangcha Forklifts||Peugeot 308 TCR||1||DNF||N/A||14|