Photo: TCR Australia

Will Brown gets first TCR Australia pole of 2023 despite driveshaft issue

Melbourne Performance Centre’s Will Brown claimed the first pole of the TCR Australia season at Symmons Plains Raceway on his first outing with the second-generation Audi RS 3 LMS TCR.

He was fastest from the off in Q1, only needing three laps to set a time that would ultimately keep him on top until the end of the 15-minute qualifying segment.

“It’s good to be P1 in the first session, but that doesn’t really matter now,” Brown said afterwards, admitting he felt his tyres “plateaued” and that was why he did not improve in later laps.

Bailey Sweeney was next fastest and 0.1652 seconds slower around the sub-minute lap, also setting his fastest time with several minutes remaining on the clock.

In setting his best lap, Sweeney shuffled Zac Soutar down to third, where he remained until the chequered flag came out despite improving on his final lap to go 0.2178s slower than Brown.

Aaron Cameron took six laps before getting into fourth place on the timesheet, while the fight to be fifth fastest went on for longer as Josh Buchan and Tony D’Alberto stayed on track while most pitted.

D’Alberto moved ahead with three minutes to go, then chose to pit as of the cars remaining on track there were not enough for him to be knocked out of the top ten.

That battle to get into the top ten and therefore progress into Q2 ended up being quite tense, particularly as the depleted 13-car grid meant only three drivers would be knocked.

Lachlan Mineeff initially held tenth despite a dramatic spin off the track, but pitted after being knocked down to eleventh. The two drivers just above him and the two just below on the timesheet were the only ones to keep on setting laps until the end.

Michael Clemente in twelfth improved with two minutes to go but could not change his position, then Kody Garland and series newcomer Tom Oliphant improved but also not moving from ninth and 10th place.

Clemente went faster again as the chequered flag was waved, and moved up the order, but finished the session in eleventh place and 0.0154s short of an all-important top ten spot.

Q2 began with drama as work on the engine of Soutar’s car meant he could not get on track and Brown was boxed in by others trying to get out of the pits. This time the drivers had ten minutes on track, and D’Alberto was first to set the pace.

He was only briefly on top with a 56.4619s lap though, as Brown moved ahead with a 56.1782s and Buchan was just 0.0112s slower as he slotted into second place.

D’Alberto was shuffled down to fourth as Sweeney went third fastest, and then the order was set as none of the drivers improved in the final five minutes. It meant Brown took pole by the slimmest of margins, and Sweeney and D’Alberto were both within 0.2s of the pace on the second row of the grid.

Brown earned ten points for pole, with the 2023 rules meaning seven points went to Buchan, five to Sweeney, three to D’Alberto and two to Cameron in fifth place.

“It was quite lucky to get that lap in,” Brown said, revealing that he “also had a driveshaft pop out after I did that lap, so really lucky to get that lap in”.

The first race of the weekend starts at 16:10 local time (06:10 CET) later today.