D’Alberto Keeps his Cool to Claim Saturday Sandown Win
Honda Wall Racing’s Tony D’Alberto has held off young guns Aaron Cameron and Will Brown to claim his first victory of 2023 in the Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series at Sandown.
The reigning TCR Australia champion made an incredible start and was able to control the race from the front in a composed performance that comes at an important stage of his title defence.
At the start, the front row of Bailey Sweeny and Lachlan Mineeff were swamped by the pack, with D’Alberto and Aaron Cameron’s Team Valvoline GRM Peugeot making blistering starts from fourth and fifth respectively to lead the field into turn one.
Mineeff was able to settle into third, whilst Sweeny, who had regained the championship lead after taking pole position earlier in the day, found himself mired in the midfield mayhem, battling with Ben Bargwanna’s Peugeot for fifth.
The pair came to blows at turn one on lap two, allowing Will Brown to capitalise and move up into fifth behind fellow Audi runner Zac Soutar in the Team Soutar Motorsport entry.
The race was soon placed under Safety Car conditions on lap four as the Hangcha Forklifts Peugeot of TCR Australia returnee Clay Richards ground to a halt with overheating issues on the exit of turn nine, with the delay resulting in a time certain finish that cut two laps from the scheduled twenty-one lap distance.
Richards would be joined in retirement by the Cupra Leon of Michael Clemente, who pulled into the pit lane soon after the Safety Car restart with a suspected driveline problem.
The race was restarted on lap seven, as D’Alberto and Cameron pulled away from the chasing pack, with Mineeff falling from third to sixth on the first green flag lap, as the likes of Soutar, Brown, and Sweeny all made their way by the older Purple Sector Audi.
A battle soon began between the two newer Audis of Soutar and Brown, with the Supercars star making a brave move at turn six to make his way into third place on lap nine.
Brown then proceeded to make his way to the back of Cameron with plenty of laps in hand to make a move, however a big sideways moment at the exit of turn twelve undid all of the MPC Team LIQUI MOLY driver’s hard work.
Brown then had one final go at Cameron in the closing corners of the shortened event, allowing D’Alberto’s Honda to get far enough away to claim what was a relatively comfortable victory by just over a second at the flag.
Cameron was able to fend off Brown to claim second, with Soutar claiming fourth ahead of championship leader Sweeny, who had a wild late-race battle with Bargwanna and Mineeff.
Sweeny received a bad sportsmanship flag for blocking Bargwanna in the closing laps, however he could potentially face further punishment after pushing the Burson Auto Parts Racing Peugeot onto the grass at turn ten in a wild exchange.
The Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series returns to the track tomorrow at 12:40pm for the reverse top ten Race Two, where Tom Oliphant will start from pole position alongside Jordan Cox, before Race Three rounds out the weekend at 4:15pm.
You can catch all the action live, ad-break free, and on demand on Stan Sport.