Ben Bargwanna emerged as TCR Australia’s first leader after winning two of the three races in the season opener at Sandown Park. The Garry Rogers Motorsport-run Peugeot 308 cars dominated the weekend with Jordan Cox victorious in Race 2.
These results mean that Bargwanna leads the standings, two points clear of the reigning champion Josh Buchan, with Cox in third position four further points adrift and Zac Soutar fourth with a gap of nine.
Race 1 – Buchan had won the pole, beating Soutar and Bargwanna by seven and eight hundredths respectively. In the #76 Honda, John Martin had replaced Will Harris who suffered from sore ribs, while Cox closed the grid after missing Qualifying due to a broken driveshaft.
At the start, Soutar had the best reflex but went wide at Turn 1, allowing Buchan and Bargwanna through. Behind them, Aaron Cameron was followed by Tony D’Alberto and Ryan Casha. At the end of lap 1, Bargwanna passed Buchan for the lead. Bargwanna kept Buchan at bay until halfway through the race, then began to stretch his lead. In the fight for P3, Cameron was chased by D’Alberto and Soutar, but with only two laps to go Cameron’s pace faded as his Peugeot suffered from a power-steering failure and limped to the end in P13.
Bargwanna took the chequered flag nearly six seconds ahead of Buchan, with D’Alberto and Soutar in third and fourth. Cox completed an impressive recovery passing Clay Richards and Brad Harris to finish fifth, while Martin overtook Tom Oliphant for P10 during the final lap, securing the pole for Race 2.
Race 2 – Martin and Dylan O’Keeffe made a slow start from the front row, while Cox dashed from P6 to the lead ahead of Casha and Richards, while Harris stalled and dropped from P5 to last. In lap 1, Richards overtook Casha for second, but the safety car was deployed to recover the Audi cars of Glenn Nirwan and Marcus LaDelle that had come together. Racing resumed in lap 6 with Cox leading from Richards, Casha, Soutar, Martin and Bargwanna. In lap 7, Buchan and Cameron moved up to seventh and eighth, passing O’Keeffe; two laps later Buchan climbed to sixth ahead of Bargwanna. The leading duo pulled away and Richards began to put pressure on Cox who did not make mistakes and kept his rival at bay until the end, beating him by eight tenths, while Casha took his maiden podium.
Race 3 – Buchan and Bargwanna shared the front row of the grid based on the points scored in the first two races. Bargwanna was faster at the start and led from Buchan and Cox. In lap 1, Oliphant was pushed into a spin by Harris; Oliphant lost five laps in the pits for repairs, while Harris was handed a 15-second penalty. In lap 3, D’Alberto overtook Richards for P6 and after that the race became processional.
Bargwanna and Buchan created a gap ahead of Cox, while Soutar defended the fourth place from Casha and D’Alberto. From lap 7, Buchan began to try and make a move on Bargwanna who closed all the doors. In lap 14, the gap between them exceeded one second and during the final laps Bargwanna was able to pull away and won by 3.2 seconds over Buchan, with Cox in third.
The championship will resume at Symmons Plains for the Race Tasmania event on March 15/17.
Sandown – Race 1
Sandown – Race 2
Sandown – Race 3
Picture: TCR Australia