Bailey Sweeny adds another Bathurst victory in dramatic TCR opener
Young gun Bailey Sweeny has taken victory in the opening race of the Supercheap Auto TCR Australia decider at Bathurst.
The opening race at the Supercheap Auto Bathurst International proved dramatic for a few title contenders, with two retiring and others struggling.
It was Sweeny off the start, but his HMO Customer Racing teammate Josh Buchan in the brand new Hyundai Elantra N TCR encountered a launch control problem on the start and dropped to the back.
Behind Sweeny, AWC MPC Racing’s Jay Hanson was hustling in his Audi RS3 LMS TCR, with Dylan O’Keeffe settling into third for Schaeffler GRM Peugeot, but the best start went to his teammate Jordan Cox as he climbed to 10th in the opening sector taking advantage of a tangle ahead on Mountain Straight.
Contact between the Autoglym Ashley Seward Motorsport Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR of Michael Caruso and Luke King in the Moutai/ZIP PAY Hyundai i30 N TCR delaying many as the Swyftx GRM Peugeot slid down the outside after an incident in qualifying forced him to start from the back.
Sweeny continued to lead by just under a second from Hanson, O’Keeffe, while Nathan Morcom was enjoying a good run in fourth from a fast starting Ben Bargwanna in the Burson Auto Parts Racing Peugeot.
Valvoline Team GRM’s Aaron Cameron was leading a developing pack featuring Lachlan Mineeff after a career best qualifying result in sixth as Caruso was setting up an attack.
Title contenders Will Brown and Cox continued to battle, the former unable to move forward in the LIQUI MOLY Team MPC Audi RS3 LMS TCR. Series leader Tony D’Alberto lost a position to Frenchman Teddy Clairet off the start in the fifth GRM Peugeot, but was maintaining 13th only losing 11-points to Cox in the standings.
As the margin fluctuated in front between Sweeny and Hanson, Morcom was sensing an opportunity to attack O’Keeffe for third.
Buchan meanwhile was charging through the field elevating to 15th in the Elantra N TCR, overtaking privateer Michael Clemente in his Ryco Audi.
Behind this battle, Spicers Australia-backed privateer Zac Soutar entered the pits in his Honda Civic Type R TCR and was pushed down pit lane by his team hurting his title aspirations.
Kangaroos caused a safety car on lap 12 when a few were close to the circuit just as rain began to fall across the
top of the Mountain.
On the restart, Hanson was all over Sweeny along Mountain Straight as Morcom mounted a challenge on O’Keeffe, but these both failed. Cameron demoted Bargwanna just as Caruso did likewise to Mineeff, who dropped back to ninth when Brown completed a pass at Hell Corner.
Right behind, King moved passed Cox into 10th in a crucial move for the title and D’Alberto lost further ground when Buchan completed an overtake at The Chase.
A further battle between Cameron and Bargwanna followed after the former made a mistake at The Chase, but the Team Valvoline GRM Peugeot held fifth.
However, it kicked off on the penultimate lap as first Cox made a move on King at The Cutting leading to contact and a puncture for the Moutai/ZIP PAY Hyundai i30 N TCR, but the race was turned on its head when Hanson crashed heavily at Reid Park.
Hanson emerged from the Audi under his own steam and was taken to the medical centre as a precaution.
In the end, Sweeny took the win from O’Keeffe, Morcom, Cameron, Bargwanna, Caruso, Brown, Mineeff, Cox and Clairet, who will start from pole for Race 2 tomorrow.
Buchan was 11th and his fellow title contender D’Alberto was 12th as he holds a 35-point margin to Cox.
Race 2 will feature the inverted top 10 from the results of the opener at 9:25am AEDT tomorrow live, uninterrupted and on-demand via Stan Sport.
Tickets are available at https://bathurst.international/
If you can’t make it to Mount Panorama, broadcast can be seen live and ad-break free on Stan Sport on Saturday and Sunday. Sign up now for your free 7-day trial >> https://www.stan.com.au/watch/sport/motorsport
The Nine Network will also offer live free-to-air coverage on 9Gem from 3pm-5pm AEDT. Check your local guides.
International viewers can watch on https://motorsport.tv/