Tom Oliphant, Bailey Sweeny share Sunday wins at Winton
Tom Oliphant and Bailey Sweeny secured a win apiece in the final two TCR Australia races of the weekend at Winton Raceway.
Former BTCC racer Oliphant emerged victorious for the first time in the series in the reverse grid second race, with championship leader Sweeny obliterating the field with a dominant success in race three to extend his advantage at the top of the standings.
Oliphant started the reverse grid race from pole in the Ash Seward Motorsport Alfa Romeo and was able to hold position at the front despite the best efforts of series debutant Clay Richards to get ahead going into turn one.
Richards was soon under pressure from the Peugeot of Ben Bargwanna, who had made a great start from fourth to put pressure on second-placed Richards.
The top three held station, with Oliphant retaining a slender lead at the front, until Bargwanna was overhauled by team-mate Jordan Cox – who then set about trying to clear Richards for second.
Cox however would lose out on the chance to score a podium when he suffered a spin that dropped him to the back of the field, which reduced the pressure on Richards and left him to focus on trying to close in on Oliphant.
The Briton was never seriously troubled however as he became the first international winner in the series since 2019, with Richards grabbing a fine second place and Josh Buchan coming through to third in his Hyundai.
Lachlan Mineeff was a solid fourth ahead of Sweeny, with Tony D’Alberto rounding out the top six.
Zac Soutar and Aaaro Cameron followed behind, with Bargwanna slipping back to ninth and Iain McDougall completing the top ten.
Race one winner Michael Clemente however failed to even take the start due to a clutch on his Cupra.
Clemente’s car would be fixed for race three, with Sweeny holding the lead into turn one at the start ahead of Buchan.
D’Alberto got away well off the line to sit third before being shuffled back down the order through the opening turns as Soutar got out of shape and tapped the Honda, with Oliphant also nipping through.
It would get worse for D’Alberto before the opening lap was done, with Clemente, Cox and Mineef all getting ahead.
Eager to repay the team for getting his car back on track, Clemente dived inside Oliphant on lap two to move into fourth spot but at the front, Sweeny was on a charge – helped by the fact that Buchan was being forced to defend hard to keep Soutar’s Audi at bay.
That battle would also play into Clemente’s hands as he took advantage of the pair holding each other up to close in on the fight for second.
As Sweeny scampered away to score victory by the second largest margin in series history, the fight for second intensified as the three cars behind battled for position, with Clemente managing to find a way ahead of Soutar on lap 15 with a late lunge on the Audi.
There was to be a late twist in the battle however, with Clemente making a move on Buchan two corners from home only to tag the back of the Hyundai, putting Buchan sideways and off track.
Clemente then slowed to allow Buchan to rejoin ahead whilst Soutar – who had dropped back from the pair – looked to take advantage by swinging to the left to try and get ahead.
Soutar put a wheel on the grass as Clemente tried to defend, with the Audi getting slightly sideways before tagging Clemente – resulting in the Cupra going off into the concrete wall on the left-hand side of the circuit.
It left Buchan to cross the line in second ahead of Soutar, with Cox, Mineef and D’Alberto rounding out the top six following a huge multi-car battle in the midfield that would rage throughout.
Kody Garland took seventh ahead of Oliphant – who was unable to replicate his front-running result from earlier in the day – with Bargwanna and Cameron rounding out the top ten.
Richards had been in the middle of the midfield battle before a suspension issue forced him in to retire.