Photo: TCR Australia

Dylan O’Keeffe remains positive despite heavy damage from Phillip Island shunt

Dylan O’Keeffe has spoken of remaining positive about his TCR Australia series performances, despite a heavy crash in the final race of round two at Philip Island potentially throwing his title chances into disarray.

The Ashley Seward Motorsport driver had scored pole position and confidently won the first two races before he was taken out of race three following a wild moment at the first corner.

O’Keeffe had raced wheel-to-wheel with Will Brown to Phillip Island’s high-speed first corner, however light contact saw the Alfa lose the rear end and spear off the circuit, where he was collected heavily in the right-hand door while trying to recover.

Chaos in the middle of the field saw John Martin’s Honda Civic also sent spinning off, crashing backwards into the side of O’Keeffe’s car at high speed. The damage saw both cars out of the race, though the Honda was able to limp back to pit lane.

O’Keeffe, who remains second in the championship was uninjured in the accident and despite significant damage to the car said he was still positive about the weekend.

“It was a shame for our weekend to finish like that, after all the hard work from Ash Seward and the team, I really wanted to reward them with a clean sweep,” he said.

“The contact I had with Will was very light and in normal circumstances it would have been fine, but the rear tyres on these TCR cars take a while to warm up, and because it was the first lap, I had no rear grip. After that, it was just unfortunate that a couple of other cars crashed into me, otherwise I would have just driven away.

“The rest of the weekend was a dream – the car was very good as soon as we rolled out onto the track, and we just kept fine-tuning it. In qualifying and the races, it was brilliant.”

Despite the positive attitude and a five-week break prior to the next round of the championship at The Bend Motorsport Park in South Australia, doubts remain over the likelihood of O’Keeffe’s Alfa Romeo actually returning to the circuit.

While the team has confirmed that they will ‘assess the damage’ prior to the next round, TouringCarTimes spoke to several insiders able to secure a close look, prior to the car being covered on its return to the paddock.

They indicated it had suffered extensive and potentially irreparable damage to the roll cage and safety structure on the right-hand side when it was impacted by Martin’s Honda, casting its return at the next round into doubt.

The Alfa was one of two brought into the country by Garry Rogers Motorsport prior to the season commencing last month.

While the other car remains with the GRM team and is driven by fellow young-gun Jimmy Vernon, O’Keeffe’s car was leased to Ash Seward Motorsport to prepare as a satellite operation this year.

The 21-year-old had emerged as an early contender after finishing runner-up in the opening round in Sydney, prior to his impressive performances at Phillip Island that led to pole and two victories.

The straight-line performance of the Alfa was one of it’s strongest attributes at Phillip Island with O’Keeffe able to fend off Brown’s Hyundai across several safety car restarts across the first two races at the weekend.

He remains second in the standings, with misfortune for other early title contenders helping his cause despite scoring nothing in the final race, won by championship leader Brown.

After two rounds and six races, O’Keeffe trails the leader by 52 points – slightly more than one full race – prior to the third round of the championship. He holds a 38-point margin over third-placed Tony D’Alberto, who endured his own misfortune with a pair of punctures on Sunday hurting his weekend.

The third round of the championship will be held at The Bend Motorsport Park on 12-14 July.