Nathan Morcom takes season finale as Tony D’Alberto dramatically secures runner-up slot
Nathan Morcom secured the final victory of the inaugural TCR Australia series season at The Bend Motorsport Park as the fight to secure second in the championship standings was decided in dramatic fashion.
With one point splitting Tony D’Alberto and Aaron Cameron going into the race in the fight for the runner-up position, Cameron was best placed on the grid following his race two victory but the pole man got swamped at the start as Jordan Cox jumped from third into the lead.
James Moffat’s Renault vaulted up into second with champion Will Brown slotting into third despite clutch issues on his Hyundai, with Cameron meanwhile slipping back to sixth place on the opening lap.
A wretched first lap for D’Alberto however saw him plummet down the order to 15th spot, with the Honda racer left needing something of a miracle to keep his hopes of securing the runner-up spot alive.
As Cox and Moffat battled for the early lead, Nathan Morcom got ahead of team-mate Brown into third place on the third lap, with Chris Pither in the second of the Renaults also getting ahead of the champion on the following lap.
Cameron meanwhile was continuing to run sixth as he found himself fighting with Andre Heimgartner’s Holden, with D’Alberto working his way back up into the top ten as he looked to recover from his lap one issues.
Having come under pressure from Morcom for second at the start of the fifth lap, Moffat suddenly slowed and pulled off the circuit, which freed the Hyundai to set off after Cox’s Alfa Romeo.
Pither behind was also on a charge in third, breaking the lap record as he looked to make it a three-way fight for the win.
As the race reached the half-way stage, Cameron remained in the box seat to secure the runner-up slot in fifth place, but D’Alberto was continuing to make up places and had worked his way into eighth behind team-mate John Martin.
As Morcom and Pither closed on Cox for the lead, there was suddenly drama at the front as the Alfa Romeo went off the road and into retirement having suffered a front-left tyre failure – potentially as a result of debris caused by an earlier incident for Russell Ingall’s Audi.
That left Morcom’s Hyundai and Pither’s Renault dicing for the lead, with the pair running together on track with a comfortable advantage over Brown behind.
D’Alberto cleared Martin to move into the top six but faced an almost impossible task to get higher, with Heimgartner some seven seconds ahead and between him and rival Cameron.
However, Cameron’s Volkswagen suddenly started to slow with just three laps to go, with Heimgartner sweeping ahead into fifth and D’Alberto suddenly sensing an opportunity to secure the runner-up spot.
With Cameron reporting a loss of power on the Golf GTI TCR, D’Alberto closed onto the rear of his rival at the end of lap twelve and swept ahead as the pair headed into the penultimate lap.
With Martin and Jason Bright then following him through into turn one, Cameron’s hopes of taking the $50,000 for finishing second to Brown had suddenly disappeared, with his focus instead switching to simply making it to the finish.
Out front, Morcom held a lead of just half a second going into the final lap, despite the bonnet on his Hyundai having worked itself loose.
Pither would push hard but it wasn’t enough as Morcom instead clinched his first victory in the series, with Pither having to settle for second place; a result that marked his maiden trip to the podium.
Brown wrapped up his championship winning campaign with third place ahead of Heimgartner, with D’Alberto crossing the line in fifth place to secure the runner-up spot in the standings in dramatic fashion.
Wall Racing team-mate Martin was sixth ahead of Bright and Aurélien Comte, who managed to work his way through to eighth in the DG Sport Peugeot from the back of the grid, with Tim Brook capping a troubled first weekend for the Garage1 Cupra TCR with ninth place.
Cameron meanwhile was left to wonder what might have been as he limped to the finish in tenth.
Dylan O’Keeffe had seen his chances of finishing second in the standings ended by a DNF in race two, and his wretched weekend came to a disappointing finish when he failed to start after further issues with his Ashley Seward Racing-run Alfa Romeo.
The 2020 TCR Australia season will kick off in Sydney in late March, after a non-championship even supporting the Australian Grand Prix earlier the same month.