The third round of the 2019 TCR Australia championship provided more of the excitement that the series promised with three different winners from the three races and lots of action-packed drama.
The field continues to grow through the season with a total of 19 cars on the grid for day one and another great mix of young talent and experienced drivers. Former Supercars champ and twice Bathurst winner, Russell Ingall was a welcome addition to the field in an Audi RS3 and Garth and Leanne Tander, also in Audi RS3s, returned after an incident-packed introduction to the series at the last round at Phillip Island.
Heading into the weekend Will Brown (Hyundai 130N) was on top of the leaderboard, closely followed by Dylan O’Keeffe (Alfa Romeo Giulietta) and Tony D’Álberto (Honda Civic Type R).
Friday’s practice sessions were wet and windy, which led to many off-track excursions as drivers continued to learn more about the two-litre turbo cars and their idiosyncrasies.
Jordan Cox in the Honda Civic Type R prepared by Wall Racing made the best of the conditions and topped the times ahead of Dylan O’Keeffe (Alfa Romeo Giuletta) and Nathan Morcom (Hyundai 130N). The session was marred by a crash that saw Bill Brown aquaplane into the rear of James Moffat, resulting in severe damage to Moffat’s Renault Megane.
Practice session two saw different drivers move into the top times, with Tony D’Alberto (Honda) the fastest, ahead of Jason Bright (Volkswagen Golf GTi) and John Martin (Honda). There was just 37/100ths of a second between the first six cars, once again demonstrating how close the various marques are in performance.
Qualifying continued to throw up more surprises when James Moffat in the repaired Renault Megane took pole with an impressive drive in the closing stage of the session, the GRM team having gambled with a switch to dry tyres on the front while leaving the wets on the rear.
Tony D’Alberto and Dylan O’Keeffe recorded the next best times as the track began to dry out with a defined dry line. Russell Ingall also did a tyre swap that brought him up to 12th place – a good showing for someone totally unfamiliar with a TCR car. Series leader, Will Brown was a disappointing 16th.
The field faced the prospect of another wet track as they gridded up for race one, but all elected to start on slicks. Fortunately, the light rain stopped just before the race started, but it didn’t take long for the safety car to be deployed, as a number of cars left the circuit before one lap had been completed.
Tony D’Alberto spun off after taking the lead from James Moffat and Jordan Cox then hit Moffat in attempting a pass. In all, five drivers led the race at some point, but Garth Tander demonstrated his experience in taking the lead twice, the second time giving him and Audi a maiden victory over Bill Brown who made a remarkable recovery from 16th on the grid, while John Martin brought his Honda home in third.
Sunday’s weather was an improvement, although the cold wind prevailed. Brown got the best of the start and established a gap on the field by the end of lap one, only to have the field come back to him when the safety car made another appearance while Whitley’s stalled car was retrieved.
On the restart, Brown quickly re-established a good lead, but a second safety car period put paid to that and he was left to do all the hard work again. He went on to a convincing win, giving him his fourth victory in the series from eight starts. Garth Tander continued his impressive run to come home second ahead of James Moffat.
Chris Pither was unfortunate to miss out on a second place when he locked the rears on the Renault and speared off-track into the concrete wall. In what was a drama-filled race, six cars were sidelined and did not finish.
After the incident-filled race two, the final race of the round was relatively trouble-free, with Garth Tander establishing a strong lead before surrendering to John Martin at the half-way point. Martin went on to be unchallenged and take a first win for himself, Wall Racing and Honda.
Despite coming home fifth in race three and missing out on a podium for the first time over the nine races to date, Will Brown continues to lead the series ahead of James Moffat and Tony D’Alberto.
Current championship points
Will Brown 356 points
James Moffat 231 points
Tony D’Alberto 227 points
Round four of the TCR Australia championship is at Queensland Raceway on 2-4 August.