The fight for the TCR Australia Series is set to go down to the wire after Jordan Cox made a miraculous recovery from last to ninth in race one at the Bathurst International.
With the top 10 finish, the Garry Rogers Motorsport driver earned himself a front-row start for race two on Sunday morning courtesy of the reverse grid format.
By contrast, it was a tough day for series leader Tony D’Alberto, who started 12th and finished 12th in a chaotic opener to the SpeedSeries closer.
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Race winner Bailey Sweeny would have been none the wiser to the melee that unfolded behind him as he went from lights to flag.
Sweeny, who swept Friday’s two practice session, claimed his second win of the season for HMO Customer Racing at Mount Panorama.
The Hyundai i30 N pilot started from second and got a better getaway than pole position starter Jay Hanson to lead into Hell Corner.
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Just a few rows back, Josh Buchan stalled his all-new Hyundai and fell to last.
Melbourne Performance Centre ace Will Brown only narrowly missed the stricken car as he swerved hard right across the track.
However, the star of the start was Cox who, from last on the grid, made up eight places by the time he reached Griffins Bend.
TCR ace climbs eight places in two corners
After a relatively clean start to the race, Sweeny led Jay Hanson and Dylan O’Keeffe with Nathan Morcom and Ben Bargwanna just off the podium in fourth and fifth respectively.
It was a pedestrian start for D’Alberto, who was only 13th at the end of the first lap.
After a relatively quiet start to the race, the safety car was called out onto the track after kangaroos came too close to the track on lap 13.
After the field was bunched up, the race resumed with five laps remaining.
Crucially, Cox held the 10th place position that would net him the reverse grid pole position for race two.
However, his hopes took a hit when Luke King got his Hyundai up the inside at Forest Elbow and took the place away by The Chase.
What followed was a frenetic close to the race. A desperate dive from Cox at The Cutting saw him make contact with King.
King later made his way to the pit lane with damage while Cox rose to 10th.
The drama continued when Hanson lost control of his car on approach to Reid Park, slamming the left side of the car hard into the concrete.
Such was the impact that the suspension fell out of the bottom of the car.
Hanson extricated himself from the car and the racing continued. At the head of the field, Sweeny was untroubled. O’Keeffe moved into second and Morcom third.
As a result of the crash, Cox rose to ninth while wildcard Teddy Clairet moved to 10th to earn the reverse grid pole position.
Having come into the race 48 points adrift of D’Alberto, Cox narrowed that margin to 35 points.
Brown now sits 49 points away from the lead while Buchan is a distant fourth, 79 points off the back.
The second and third races get underway on Sunday at 9:25am and 3:50pm respectively.
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