After a 49-race wait, Tony D’Alberto has finally scored his first Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series win in a frenetic affair.
The Wall Racing driver held his own against privateer and fellow Honda Civic driver Zac Soutar, surviving a Safety Car restart to claim victory at Queensland Raceway.
With the win, D’Alberto extends his lead in the title race.
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“It’s a big relief, to be honest. Blokes like you can stop asking when I’m going to get my first win in TCR,” D’Alberto told Stan Sport commentator Chris Stubbs.
Tony D’Alberto greets the chequered flag at Queensland Raceway (Daniel Kalisz)
“The car has been pretty good all weekend. Thanks to Wall Racing, we did a test day here and ironed out a few bugs, but you’ve still got to execute on the weekend.
“I want to dedicate this win to my uncle who passed away between rounds, so this one’s for you, I know you’d be riding with me.”
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Even before the race got underway there was drama for Kody Garland, whose Renault Megane befell a power steering failure and a failed clutch.
That delayed the start and necessitated another warm-up lap.
Jay Hanson, Tony D’Alberto and Zac Soutar on the TCR Australia Series podium (Daniel Kalisz)
Soon, both of the Garry Rogers Motorsport-run Renaults were sidelined as James Moffat pulled into the pits with a turbo boost pressure problem.
The race carried on without them, and from pole position D’Alberto led the field into the first turn with Soutar hot on his heels.
Bailey Sweeney threatened to bring out the Safety Car on lap one after contact from behind sent him into a massive slide.
Fortunately, he managed to avoid further contact, skipping across the grass before returning to the rear of the field.
Michael Caruso was another victim of the first lap melee, spinning at turn two.
Jay Hanson, just 16 years old, claimed another TCR Australia Series podium (Daniel Kalisz)
Third place starter Will Brown threw away a podium at turn three when he locked up and speared off the road and dropped to the rear of the field.
At the end of the first lap, it was D’Alberto who commanded proceedings over Soutar, Jay Hanson, Aaron Cameron, Ben Bargwanna, Luke King, Nathan Morcom, Josh Buchan, Jordan Cox and Michael Clemente.
Drama struck on lap six when Bargwanna and Morcom got together. Wheel-to-wheel contact cast the pair wide of the apex, allowing Buchan to pass them both.
Moments later, Bargwanna locked up under brakes and speared across the grass, over the kerb, and into the side of the blindsided Morcom.
Buchan, who moments earlier had benefitted from the initial tangle, was forced to check up and lost out to King and Clement.
Bargwanna was remorseful for his part in the incident.
“Look, I’ve got to say sorry to Morcom and HMO,” said Bargwanna.
“I feel truly bad for those guys. My brake pedal just went to the floor and it just didn’t retard at all. I was just a passenger.
“As I said, I feel really bad for those guys and the race was going really well up until that point. That’s the way it is.”
Morcom said he was blindsided by Bargwanna.
“I didn’t see anything coming,” said the Hyundai driver.
“A shame for both of us because we’re both in the fight for the championship.
“Ben’s brake went to the floor so there was nothing he could do. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, which is a shame.”
Tony D’Alberto celebrates his first Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series win (Daniel Kalisz)
After a lengthy Safety Car intervention, racing resumed on lap 13 with D’Alberto at the head of the field.
On lap 14, an epic three-way pass saw Brown look to dispatch Buchan and Lachlann Mineeff.
Side-by-side on the straight, Brown and Buchan banged wheels, but ultimately it was the Supercars star who prevailed.
At the head of the field, D’Alberto cruised across the line to take victory. Soutar came home second with Hanson a close third.
Cameron, Sweeny, King, Cox, Clemente, Brown and Buchan completed the top 10.
Race 2 of the Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series, the 50th in the category’s history, gets underway on Sunday at 12:10pm while Race 3 starts at 4:10pm.
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