Johnson wins TCM race as puncture robs Zukanovic

Steven Johnson takes the chequered flag in Race 1 at Mount Panorama. Picture; Ross Gibb

Steven Johnson has survived a dramatic nine-lap encounter at Mount Panorama to win the first point-paying race of Gulf Western Oil Touring Car Masters.

The race was riddled with drama, kicking off before it even began when Jamie Tilley pulled his #29 Ford Mustang Coupe into pit lane from seventh on the grid.

From pole position, Johnson led the field into Hell Corner. At his side, Ryan Hansford snagged a brake, which allowed Marcus Zukanovic to get alongside up Mountain Straight.

Hansford would hold on, albeit only briefly as the supreme straight-line speed of the Ford XD Falcon saw Zukanovic blow by the Holden Torana A9X on Conrod Straight.

Initially, the top seven skipped away from the field. Johnson led Zukanovic at the end of Lap 1 from Hansford, George Miedecke, and series leader John Bowe.

Adam Bressington wasn’t far behind in sixth while Cameron Mason was over a second adrift in seventh. Tony Karanfilovski, Brad Tilley, and Jim Pollicina rounded out the top 10.

Tilley soon struck trouble as smoke began to pour from the #28 Ford XY Falcon. He would slow on the run to Skyline and eventually pull over out of Forrest’s Elbow.

Come Lap 4, Hansford found himself battling with Miedecke for the final place on the podium.

The straight-line speed of the Camaro was evident, Hansford ceding position on the run down to The Chase.

However, Miedecke’s time in the podium position was short-lived as drama struck at the end of Lap 5 when he suffered a right front puncture drawing him into pit lane.

Karanfilovski was the second driver to fall victim to a right front puncture on Lap 6. He too brought his #88 Ford Mustang TransAm to the pits.

Meanwhile, at the head of the field, Zukanovic hounded Johnson for the lead, although few opportunities to pass presented.

Finally, on Lap 7, Zukanovic blew by Johnson on Conrod Straight after a strong exit out of Forrest’s Elbow.

There would be a double dose of drama with two laps to go when another right front tyre blew, this time race leader Zukanovic falling foul to a right front puncture on Conrod Straight.

Zukanovic would slow, letting Johnson through, before pulling his #71 Ford XD Falcon up in the gravel trap.

Moments later, the #9 Ford XY Falcon of Andrew Fisher suffered what appeared to be a right front mechanical failure, hitting the outside wall hard at The Grate.

Johnson would cruise home to the win in the famed #17, Hansford coming home second in the #6 while Bowe was third in his #18 Holden Torana SL.

Bressington was a distant fourth in the #85 Chevrolet Camaro RS while Dean Lillie in the #15 rose 12 places to finish fifth in his Holden Torana LS.

Mason, Pollicina, Cameron Tilley, Peter Burnitt, and Sven Burchartz completed the top 10.

Race 2 of the weekend gets underway on Thursday at 8:55 local time/AEDT.

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