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Ben Bargwanna claims spoils in opening race of the season at Sandown

Ben Bargwanna claimed a comfortable victory in the opening TCR Australia race of the season at Sandown, fighting his way into the lead on the opening lap and then keeping Josh Buchan at bay thereafter for the win.

Reigning champion Buchan had earlier claimed the opening pole position of the season by qualifying his HMO Customer Racing Hyundai less than a tenth of a second ahead of Zac Soutar’s Audi.

At the start of the race, Soutar looked to take the lead into the first corner, but after he went too deep it allowed Bargwanna’s Peugeot into second.

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Bargwanna then dived for the lead at the final corner, as Buchan had to settle for second.

As the early part of the race progressed, Buchan was able to keep close to the leading Peugeot, with third-placed Aaron Cameron gradually drifting away from the lead battle.

However, in the final half of the race, Bargwanna pulled over four seconds clear of Buchan, taking a comfortable win and his second-ever victory in the championship.

Cameron had looked set to complete the podium, but just three laps from the end his Peugeot slowed, which allowed Wall Racing’s Tony D’Alberto to claim the final podium place.

D’Alberto had got past Soutar on the second lap of the race, staying ahead of the Audi for the rest of the distance, with Soutar ultimately having to settle for fourth after a scruffy opening lap.

Perhaps the drive of the race came from Jordan Cox, who started from last due to a drive issue in qualifying which prevented him posting a time. Making up ten places over the course of the race, Cox was up to tenth by lap seven and then steadily picked off those ahead of him to claim fifth.

Brad Harris was sixth in his new Honda, ahead of series rookie Ryan Casha in seventh in the second of the GRM Valvoline-liveried Peugeots.

Carl Cox Motorsport’s Clay Richards was eighth, having been involved in a tight battle in the closing laps with Ashley Seward Motorsport’s Dylan O’Keeffe, Wall Raving’s John Martin and HMO’s Tom Oliphant.

On lap 13, Oliphant had briefly taken ninth, before being passed back by both Richards and O’Keeffe. The group were battling hard to be in the top ten to ensure they benefitted from the grid reversal for Sunday’s second race.

In the end, it was series returnee Martin who took tenth, giving the Honda driver pole for race two, with 11th-placed Oliphant just missing out after Martin passed him on the penultimate lap.

Iain McDougall was the only retirement of the race. Series newcomer, Indonesian Glenn Nirwan, had an eventful race, twice going off the circuit to ultimately finish a lap down.

Races two and three take place on Sunday.

Race results

1 71 Ben BARGWANNA Hangcha Racing Peugeot 308 TCR 21 26:39.6037 1:15.645 3
2 1 Josh BUCHAN HMO Customer Racing Hyundai i30 N TCR 21 5.942 1:15.644 1
3 2 Tony D’ALBERTO Honda Wall Racing Honda Civic Type-R FL5 TCR 21 12.209 1:15.934 5
4 110 Zac SOUTAR Tufflift Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR II 21 13.245 1:16.028 2
5 33 Jordan COX Schaeffler GRM Peugeot 308 TCR 21 16.585 1:16.220 15
6 74 Brad HARRIS Exclusive Switchboards Honda Civic Type-R FL5 TCR 21 18.721 1:16.022 8
7 79 Ryan CASHA Team Valvoline GRM Peugeot 308 TCR 21 19.175 1:16.112 4
8 4 Clay RICHARDS Carl Cox Motorsport Team MPC CUPRA Leon Competición TCR 21 21.018 1:16.278 7
9 11 Dylan O’KEEFFE Autoglym / Ashley Seward Motorsport Lynk & Co 03 TCR 21 21.870 1:16.183 10
10 76 John MARTIN Exclusive Switchboards Honda Civic Type-R FK7 TCR 21 27.315 1:16.470 11
11 15 Tom OLIPHANT HMO Customer Racing Hyundai i30 N TCR 21 29.059 1:16.484 12
12 99 Marcus LADELLE Beyond Constructions 99 Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS TCR II 21 38.727 1:16.842 13
13 18 Aaron CAMERON Team Valvoline GRM Peugeot 308 TCR 21 48.460 1:15.777 6
14 29 Glenn NIRWAN Tufflift Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR II 20 + 1 LAP 1:17.556 14
R 22 Iain MCDOUGALL Challenge Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS TCR 5 DNF 1:17.864 9
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