Jason Bright claimed his second TCR Australia win after taking advantage of dramas that hit early race leader John Martin and pole-sitter Will Brown in Race 1 at Winton.
The Alliance Autosport Volkswagen Golf driver started from sixth on the grid but soon found himself in the thick of the action after a frantic start.
Bright was third at the end of the opening lap and didn’t take the lead until Lap 7 after Brown and Martin made contact on lap 5 while fighting over the lead at the final corner.
The former Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 winner moved to second as a result before a puncture for Martin (Wall Racing, Honda) gave Bright the lead, which held to the flag.
Brown recovered to finish second while title rival Dylan O’Keeffe (Ash Seward Motorsport, Alfa Romeo) converted fourth to third at the finish despite battling a brake issue.
It was front row starter Andre Heimgartner (Kelly Racing, Opel) who led the field on the run to the first corner.
Behind, pole-sitter Brown suffered a moment at Turn 1 and was subsequently shuffled down to fourth as Martin occupied second with Bright in third.
Heimgartner’s lead was however short-lived as Martin dived underneath the Astra at Turn 7 for the lead.
Further back, Brown began to recover picking off Bright and then Heimgartner before setting his sights on reeling in Martin.
Brown took significant chunks out of Martin’s lead before coming to blows at the final corner. Side-to-side contact forced the Hyundai, which had briefly passed Martin, off the road.
The lap 5 incident allowed Bright to move back into second as Brown rejoined the track in third while Martin continued to lead.
Meanwhile, Heimgartner dropped out of the top four when he suffered a wild slide at Turn 7 that demoted him to seventh.
However, Martin’s victory hopes were dashed when his Honda suffered a front left puncture believed to have been caused as a result of the contact with Brown earlier in the race.
This handed Bright a relatively comfortable lead over Brown with O’Keeffe in third.
The positions remained unchanged until the chequered flag.
Tony D’Alberto (Wall Racing, Honda) came home in fourth ahead Nathan Morcom, who took advantage of a mistake by Aaron Cameron on the final lap, to claim fifth.
Heimgartner was left to settle for seventh in front of Russell Ingall (Melbourne Performance Centre, Audi) and debutants Tim Brook (Wall Racing, Honda) and Liam McAdam (Melbourne Performance Centre, Audi).
It proved to be a nightmare race for Garry Rogers Motorsport with both its Renault Meganes suffering issues on the formation lap.
James Moffat, who was set to start from 11th, stopped at Turn 6 while team-mate Chris Pither dived into the pits with a suspected fuel pressure issue.
As a result, neither made the start of the race.
In addition to that Jordan Cox in the squad’s Alfa Romeo was forced off the road at Turn 1 on lap 7 when fighting inside the top 10.
The field will return for two more races on Sunday.
UPDATE: Stewards have since issued penalties to D’Alberto and Alexandra Whitley.
UPDATED Results: TCR Australia Race 1
|1||8||Jason Bright (Vic)||Taskforce / Alliance Autospor||Volkswagon Golf GTI||16||23:06.9034|
|2||30||William Brown (Qld)||HMO Customer Racing||Hyundai i30N||16||23:07.8427|
|3||9||Dylan O’Keeffe (Vic)||Ashley Seward Motorsport||Alfa Romeo Giulietta||16||23:15.0596|
|4||11||Nathan Morcom (NSW)||HMO Customer Racing||Hyundai i30N||16||23:20.0936|
|5||2||Aaron Cameron (Vic)||Melbourne Performance Centre||Volkswagen Golf GTI||16||23:20.1533|
|6||50||Tony D’Alberto (Vic)||Wall Racing||Honda Civic Type R||16||23:21.5374|
|7||777||Andre Heimgartner (NZ)||Kelly Racing||Holden Astra||16||23:21.9711|
|8||100||Russell Ingall (Qld)||Melbourne Performance Centre||Audi RS 3||16||23:22.3507|
|9||38||Tim Brook (NSW)||Wall Racing||Honda Civic Type R||16||23:26.9974|
|10||97||Liam McAdam (Qld)||Melbourne Performance Centre||Audi RS 3||16||23:39.1908|
|11||6||Molly Taylor (NSW)||Kelly Racing||Subaru WRX STi||16||23:50.8315|
|12||3||Leanne Tander (Vic)||Melbourne Performance Centre||Audi RS 3||16||24:17.9154|
|13||35||Alexandra Whitley (Qld)||Alliance Autosport||Volkswagon Golf GTI||16||24:30.1609|
|14||24||John Martin (NSW)||Wall Racing||Honda Civic Type R||14||23:33.1349|
|15||37||Bryce Fullwood (NT)||Kelly Racing||Subaru WRX STi||12||23:55.8469|
|16||62||Hamish Ribarits (Vic)||Kelly Racing||Holden Astra||15||22:02.9527|
|17||7||Jordan Cox (NSW)||Garry Rogers Motorsport||Alfa Romeo Giulietta||6||8:54.4822|
|18||34||James Moffat (Vic)||Garry Rogers Motorsport||Renault Megane RS|
|19||33||Chris Pither (NZ)||Garry Rogers Motorsport||Renault Megane RS|