Jean-Karl Vernay stormed to a debut victory for Audi in race one of TCR Australia’s first visit to Queensland Raceway, the Melbourne Performance Centre driver dominated the race to lead Ashley Seward Motorsport’s Dylan O’Keeffe by nearly eight seconds at the flag.
As Vernay effortlessly controlled the race there was drama between championship contenders Wall Racing’s John Martin and points leader HMO Customer Racing driver Will Brown.
Away from the line and Vernay held his lead into the first corner, as Brown, Martin and O’Keeffe looked to better each other through the opening corners.
At Turn 6 Brown looked for a way past Martin, and the two cars made contact sending the championship leader off the track.
A lap later Martin suffered a puncture as a result of the damage, and had to limp back to the pit lane as the safety car was called out with tyre debris littering the track.
Brown also hit pitlane but only after making a considerable shortcut between Turns 3 and 6, for which the stewards handed him a drive through penalty.
At the restart Vernay was able to drop Wall Racing’s Tony D’Alberto who had moved up from fifth, and after five laps the Frenchman had a lead of over two seconds.
D’Alberto shortly came under fire from O’Keeffe who was keen to further reduce the points deficit to Brown by taking one step up on the podium.
The battle reached boiling point as the second Melbourne Performance Centre Audi of Russell Ingall closed onto the back of O’Keeffe, and D’Alberto ran wide at Turn One with only three laps to go.
Vernay didn’t cruise to the flag, instead he opened the gap even more in the second half of the race to hold an unprecedented advantage at the end of the 21 laps.
O’Keeffe managed to keep Ingall at bay to reduce the gap to Brown, whilst D’Alberto crossed the line in fourth.
Garry Rogers Motorsport driver Jordan Cox crossed the line fifth, meaning two Alfa Romeo’s finished in the first five spots.
Aaron Cameron pulled off the drive of the race as the Melbourne Performance Centre driver was stuck at the end of the pitlane pre-race as an onboard fire extinguisher looked to have triggered. The 19 year old then proceeded to battle his way through to sixth, making several unrelenting overtakes.
HMO Customer Racing’s Nathan Morcom finished in seventh and the highest placed Hyundai i30N, ahead of Kelly Racing’s Alex Rullo in the highest placed Holden Astra.
James Moffat came home in ninth, the Gary Rogers Motorsport driver held off a charging Jason Bright who took his Team Tradie Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR from 15th on the grid into the top 10.
After their opening lap drama Brown and Martin crossed the line a lap down, and Kelly Racing’s Andre Heimgartner who looked likely to score a promising result in his first race after switching from Subaru to Holden retired from the race with only four laps to go with an unknown mechanical issue.
RESULTS, RACE 1
|1||4||Jean-Karl Vernay (FRA)||Melbourne Performance Centre||Audi RS 3||21||27:20.4629|
|2||9||Dylan O’Keeffe (Vic)||Ashley Seward Motorsport||Alfa Romeo Giulietta||21||27:28.4149|
|3||100||Russell Ingall (Qld)||Melbourne Performance Centre||Audi RS 3||21||27:29.0341|
|4||50||Tony D’Alberto (Vic)||Wall Racing||Honda Civic Type R||21||27:32.8063|
|5||7||Jordan Cox (NSW)||Garry Rogers Motorsport||Alfa Romeo Giulietta||21||27:33.7588|
|6||2||Aaron Cameron (Vic)||Melbourne Performance Centre||Volkswagen Golf GTI||21||27:34.2892|
|7||11||Nathan Morcom (NSW)||HMO Customer Racing||Hyundai i30N||21||27:35.3705|
|8||62||Alex Rullo (WA)||Kelly Racing||Holden Astra||21||27:41.8156|
|9||34||James Moffat (Vic)||Garry Rogers Motorsport||Renault Megane RS||21||27:44.8122|
|10||8||Jason Bright (Vic)||Taskforce / Alliance Autosport||Volkswagon Golf GTI||21||27:47.7425|
|11||35||Alexandra Whitley (Qld)||Alliance Autosport||Volkswagon Golf GTI||21||27:50.1770|
|12||38||Jordan Michels (NZ)||Wall Racing||Honda Civic Type R||21||27:54.4866|
|13||3||Leanne Tander (Vic)||Melbourne Performance Centre||Audi RS 3||21||27:57.4687|
|14||6||Molly Taylor (NSW)||Kelly Racing||Subaru WRX STi||21||28:10.0175|
|15||24||John Martin (NSW)||Wall Racing||Honda Civic Type R||20||27:53.2340|
|16||30||William Brown (Qld)||HMO Customer Racing||Hyundai i30N||20||28:26.4431|
|DNF||777||Andre Heimgartner (NZ)||Kelly Racing||Holden Astra||16||21:16.1908|