Michael Clemente converts maiden pole into race one win
Michael Clemente scored his second win in as many meetings with his new Cupra León Competición TCR after a lights-to-flag win in the opening TCR Australia race of the weekend at Winton Raceway.
Clemente – who scored a maiden win in the previous event at Phillip Island – maintained his strong start to life with the new car with an impressive run in qualifying that saw him secure a new qualifying lap record.
The Carl Cox Motorsport racer was able to edge out points leader Bailey Sweeny in a close-fought battle in Q2 that saw the pair split by just 0.0514s, with Josh Buchan and Tony D’Alberto behind on row two.
Clemente held the lead at the start when the lights went out, with Buchan managing to get ahead of the older Hyundai of team-mate Bailey Sweeny going into turn one to move into second spot.
Behind, Zac Soutar jumped up into fourth, with Jordan Cox a man on a move as he made up three spots on the opening lap in his Peugeot to sit fifth – helped in part by the fact that the similar car of Aaron Cameron was slow away from the line.
Cameron, who was involved in multiple bouts of contact on the first tour, would then go off the road on lap two and was forced back into the pits for repairs.
As Clemente scampered away at the front, Buchan found himself under pressure from Sweeny and dropped behind the points leader when he ran wide; slipping off the podium moments later when Soutar’s Audi also found a way through.
Clemente had been more than two seconds clear when Sweeny moved into second spot, but the Hyundai racer would gradually start to bring the gap between the pair down – managing to get within a second of the Cupra ahead.
Despite his best efforts however, Clemente was able to retain his advantage as he completed a lights-to-flag victory, with Sweeny forced to settle for second spot and Soutar taking a distant third having been unable to keep pace with the pair ahead.
Buchan was also drop back in the Elantra and was forced to battle to keep Cox at bay, with defending champion D’Alberto sixth in his Honda having survived a hit in the rear quarter from Cox on lap one.
Ben Bargwanna took seventh ahead of Lachlan Mineeeff, with debutant Clay Richards and Tom Oliphant rounding out the top ten ten.
Oliphant had run in the top eight early on before being shuffled back down the pack, but will start from pole for the reverse grid second race in his Alfa Romeo.