Sweeny retakes the points lead with two wins at Sandown
10 September 2023
Bailey Sweeny recovered from a penalty in Race 1 and proved he’s the most serious contender in the TCR Australia title fight. After the reigning champion Tony D’Alberto took his first win of the season in Race 1, Sweeny made good use of the starting positions to dominate both Sunday’s races. This helped him to retake the lead in the standings, 30 points clear of his HMO Customer Racing teammate Josh Buchan, while two second places enabled Aaron Cameron to stay in contention, as he lies third, eight further points adrift.
Race 1 – Sweeny had moved back on top of the standings thanks to the 10 points for the pole and had Lachlan Mineeff alongside on the front row. At the start, D’Alberto and Cameron sprinted from P4 and P5 to lead the field ahead of Mineeff, Zac Soutar and Sweeny. In lap 2, Sweeny and Ben Bargwanna made contact and Will Brown – who had started from P10 – passed them both moving into fifth. Up front, D’Alberto was chased by Cameron and Mineeff, but in lap 4 the safety car was deployed after Clay Richards’ Peugeot stopped along the track. Racing resumed in lap 7, with Mineeff dropping from third to sixth, leaving Soutar and Brown fighting for P3. Brown passed Soutar in lap 9; he was now 2.7 seconds behind D’Alberto but began setting fastest laps and eating from the gap. Further back, Sweeny defended P5 from Mineeff and Bargwanna, while Michael Clemente pitted and retired with a broken driveshaft. By lap 13, Brown was on the tail of Cameron’s Peugeot, but at the end of lap 14 he went wide in the last turn and lost contact. The battle for P5 continued with Sweeny struggling to resist the pressure from Bargwanna and Mineeff. Up front, Brown had joined the leading pair once again, with the trio covered by half-a-second. D’Alberto held on to the lead, beating Cameron and Brown to the line, with Soutar fourth and Sweeny fifth. After the race, both Cameron and Sweeny were handed five-second penalties for track limits and unfair driving respectively; Cameron dropped from second to fourth and Sweeny from fifth to ninth.
Race 2 – Tom Oliphant’s Lynk & Co had the pole on the top-ten reversed grid, with Sweeny alongside him thanks to the penalty in Race 1. At the start, Jordan Cox sprinted from P3 and led into T1, but was pushed wide by Oliphant and dropped to fifth. In lap 2, Sweeny took the lead from Oliphant who then made a mistake and was passed by Cameron, Mineeff and Cox as well. Oliphant dropped further down the order, while Brown moved into P5 and then overtook Cox for P4 in lap 9. Halfway through the race, Sweeny had built a 2.6-second lead, while Cameron defended P2 from Mineeff. Brown set the fastest lap in the attempt to close the gap, but then retired in lap 14 with an oil leak. Sweeny went on to score his fourth victory of the season ahead of Cameron, Mineeff, Cox and Buchan.
Race 3 – Brown was sidelined by the engine issue that eliminated him from Race 2. On the grid, Sweeny was on pole thanks to the points scored in the first two races, with Mineeff on P2, but it was Cameron who sprinted to the lead from P3, followed by Sweeny, Soutar, Mineeff and Cox. Cameron and Sweeny pulled away, while Mineeff and Soutar followed in third and fourth. The battle for P5 saw Cox and D’Alberto making contact, while they were chased by Buchan, Clemente, Bargwanna and Kody Garland who lost contact after visiting the gravel trap. In lap 7, Soutar overtook Mineeff for P3 and one lap later Sweeny moved into the lead ahead of Cameron and ran away. In lap 13, Cox and D’Alberto made contact again and D’Alberto dropped to seventh behind Clemente. In lap 19, Mineeff made a move on Soutar, they clashed, and Soutar got the worst of it, pulling up on the pit straight. One lap later Mineeff’s front right tyre gave up following the contact with Soutar and he dropped down. Sweeny won again from Cameron, while D’Alberto won the sprint for P3 pipping Clemente and Cox during the last lap.
The championship will resume at Sydney on November 3/5 in a joint event with the Kumho TCR World Tour.
Sandown – Race 1
1. Tony D’Alberto (Wall Racing, Honda Civic Type R FK7), 12 laps
2. Will Brown (MPC Team Liqui Moly, Audi RS 3 LMS II), 1.3424
3. Tony D’Alberto (Wall Racing, Honda Civic Type R FK7), 19.6890
1. B. Sweeny, 589 pts; 2. J. Buchan, 559; 3. A. Cameron, 551
Picture: TCR Australia/Daniel Kalisz
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