Five things to watch: Supercheap Auto TCR Australia
The past three seasons of Supercheap Auto TCR Australia have provided plenty of thrills and spills, but last year’s nail biting conclusion was the best yet.
The 2023 season promises much of the same as Honda Wall Racing’s Tony D’Alberto is the first driver to defend the title, but a hungry field is ready to take the crown away from the Victorian.
Here are five to keep track of during the season.
Last year proved a breakthrough in more ways than one for the Supercheap Auto TCR Australia veteran after achieving his maiden race win at Queensland Raceway, following up with a second the next day and scoring the title.
D’Alberto will be glad Bathurst is not on the calendar twice this year as the JAS Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR is never suited to the legendary circuit as at most other circuits he is in contention for race wins or at worst a top five position.
Consistency is his masterstroke and was duly rewarded last season, but with the speed of the latest generation models on offer from not just Audi this season, but Hyundai, will the what is now aging Honda be up to the task? With Balance of Performance it should be.
Rule D’Alberto out at your peril to go back-to-back in 2023.
AUDI DOUBLE UP
Last year, the latest specification Audi proved a fast package with young Jay Hanson at the wheel as it achieved three pole positions and four race wins, but retirements were his downfall.
This year with inaugural Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series winner and last year’s runner up Will Brown steering the RS3 LMS TCR Gen 2 in LIQUI MOLY colours, it is definitely a contender. However, it’s not the only latest model Audi on the grid.
Privateer Zac Soutar is also in the latest generation and as he emerged in his family-run Honda Civic Type R TCR last season to be consistent frontrunner. With new naming rights sponsorship from Tufflift Hoists in 2023, the entry is one of the attractive in the field.
Having only received the Audi just prior to AWC Race Tasmania, Soutar might be at a slight disadvantage learning the new model, but watch out when he’s worked it out!
Rookie of the Year in 2022, Bailey Sweeny emerged as the find of the season to finish in the top five with two victories, both at Mount Panorama.
Sweeny was only new to Supercheap Auto TCR Australia last season, but was among the frontrunners almost immediately and his maiden race victory at Bathurst was a total domination, streaking the field by more than 20s.
Now with knowledge of circuits, his HMO Customer Racing Hyundai i30 N TCR and the category, Sweeny is ready for a title tilt in 2023.
Arguably having the strongest line-up in the Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series, Garry Rogers Motorsport has made the switch to just Peugeots as it targets the title in 2023.
Internet sensation Jordan Cox finished third in 2021 and fourth last year as he shifts into the Schaeffler Peugeot for 2023. Cox has not had luck on his side with retirements during the mid-season proving costly at the end. He has the speed, we all know that, but can he put a full-season together?
Another to experience retirements is Aaron Cameron. Whether it be turbo problems or getting caught in skirmishes, the Victorian rising star endured a tough 2022 campaign following a starring role the previous year battling Chaz Mostert at Bathurst as he finished series runner up. He will be determined to use his experience and speed to his advantage to lead the GRM quartet.
Ben Bargwanna matured into a consistent frontrunner towards the end of last season, winning at Sandown in dramatic circumstances. He will be aiming to continue his upwards trajectory into 2023 where he will also contest two overseas rounds of the TCR World Tour.
A wildcard is Kody Garland, who moves into the Peugeot after a frustrating season in the Renault. Watch for him to make gradual improvements at each round.
TCR has been spruiked as an international category since it started in 2019 and it will most definitely live up to this in 2023.
First of all, two rounds of the TCR World Tour will be held on Australian shores bringing 16 of the globe’s best touring car drivers to the Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series and of course to the holy grail, Mount Panorama. It’s not just one round, but a second is set to be confirmed soon.
With this, new TCR models will debut including Lynk & Co’s 03 TCR and maybe, just maybe the latest Honda Civic Type R TCR. Fingers crossed! Speaking of new models, the two Audis have been mentioned above, but flying under the radar is Josh Buchan in his Hyundai Elantra (i30 Sedan N) TCR, which is effectively unproven at most circuits on the calendar after it debuted at the Supercheap Auto Bathurst International last year.
Also, Supercheap Auto TCR Australia welcomes its first international full-time driver to the series as former BTCC race winner Tom Oliphant saddles up in the Autoglym Ashley Seward Motorsport Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR.
Finally, keeping with the international theme is the new control tyre from Kumho as used in various TCR titles around the globe, including the TCR World Tour.
Don’t miss the start this weekend at AWC Race Tasmania.
CLICK HERE for tickets.
All of the racing action can be seen live and ad-break free on Stan Sport, plus free-to-air coverage on 9GEM (9GO! for New South Wales) on Saturday, February 25 from 2-5pm.