Photo: TCR Australia

Dylan O’Keeffe, Tom Oliphant share Symmons Plains wins amidst controversy

Dylan O’Keeffe and Tom Oliphant secured a win apiece from the final two races of the TCR Australia weekend at Symmons Plains, amidst plenty of controversy following a decision to remove the points scored in race one.

O’Keeffe victory in the reverse grid race came after he had secured pole position by virtue of taking tenth in race one in the Ash Seward Racing Lynk & Co.

Despite coming under pressure from Aaron Cameron at the start, O’Keeffe was able to hold onto the lead, helped in part by Cameron’s Peugeot being taken out by Will Harris on the third lap, and he led from start-to-finish for a first win of the campaign.

He would be chased home by Oliphant’s Hyundai after he managed to battle ahead of Jordan Cox, with the former BTCC race winner trying hard to find a way past the car he raced last season but ultimately having to settle for second spot.

Cox and fellow Peugeot man Ben Bargwanna were close behind, with the Audi of Zac Soutar and Josh Buchan’s Hyundai rounding out the top six.

The grid for race three would be decided from the points scored in the opening two races of the weekend, but that would be impacted by a decision taken by stewards to annul the results of Saturday’s opening race – which had run to just ten laps due to time constraints.

Tony D’Alberto had won that race, and taken eighth in race two, which would have seen him on pole position before the removal of race one points dropped him down the order.

The decision, taken following a protest from the Garry Rogers Motorsport team, led to anger from the former champion who elected to withdraw from the final race in protest at what he deemed to be an ‘unprofessional’ decision.

“We put it on pole, won race one and then conserved in race two to look after the car,” he told the TV broadcast. “We knew we had the points to start from pole for the last one and then a decision has been made that race one is non-points, and we are back in seventh.

“It’s unprofessional and I had to make a stand. The team wanted me to race but I decided to pull the pin; I’m frustrated with the whole thing.”

O’Keeffe therefore started the final race from pole with a fast-starting Cox jumping Oliphant for second, before the pair battled to get ahead of O’Keeffe on lap three; Cox grabbing the lead but Oliphant having a moment that almost saw him go off track.

O’Keeffe then tried to reclaim the lead from Cox only for the pair to be delayed and lose top spot to Soutar, with Oliphant then forcing his way to the front to battle past the Audi and take a lead he would retain to the finish.

Clay Richards came through from seventh on the grid to take second behind the Briton having taken advantage of a clash between Soutar and Buchan that saw Buchan spin off, with O’Keeffe fighting back from losing spots mid-way through the race to take third ahead of Soutar.

Ryan Casha and Cameron rounded out the top six, with the championship now headed by Soutar – just three points clear of Ben Bargwanna and Cox.