THE opening round of the 2017 Touring Car Masters series proved to be an extremely entertaining opener to one of Australia’s most popular support categories, with competitive racing, some new faces at the front and plenty to suggest that this year’s series will be a good one.
Here’s our look back at the Good, the Great and the Unfortunate from round one of the 2017 Touring Car Masters.
Round one proved that John Bowe is definitely going to be challenged this year. First it was Steven Johnson in race one, the Mustang jumping to the front and staying there for three laps before an oil line failed and sent the car out of the race. Then it was Adam Bressington, who was immense in the Whiteline Racing Camaro all weekend long. ‘Bresso’ bounced into the lead on the opening lap of the second race and gave JB no quarter in a tight run through the Senna chicane.
And though he was only able to hold on for a lap, it’s promising that he, Johnson, Mark King and Jason Gomersall – amongst others – all look capable of running with Mr. TCM this season.
It was also good to see the Valliant Pacer driven by Cameron Tilley back on the pace: it was a top six contender all weekend until a camshaft follower broke in race two and he was forced to pit lane. But the incredibly dedicated little team and the World’s Fastest Pacer continued to battle away and proved they have their 2016 issues well behind them. Watch out for Cam at Winton..
Great debuts for two of the brand-new cars to Touring Car Masters this season, with Adam Garwood’s new Torana and Andrew Fisher’s new Falcon GTHO both performing competitively.
Garwood would’ve finished higher than his race two 10th position had he not been spun by Tony Karanfilovski, while Fisher was mighty in the new Red Falcon: Qualifying fifth and then finishing fourth in race one and third in the second. It was unfortunate that he suffered damage in the trophy race, but with a new engine and front suspension bits to come, ‘Abigail’ seems to have what it takes this year.
Also great was the mighty drive by Al ‘Cusso’ Boughen in Sunday’s trophy race. The enormous 302-powered Mercury was immense to watch as he held on valiantly to fourth place during the jumbled grid affair in a car you could also use as a helipad. And even though light contact in the hairpin ultimately dropped him down the order – it was a joy to watch and arguably the drive of the weekend.
Great, too, is the level of interest in Team Johnson. On social media alone their livery launch reached hundreds of thousands of people on social media, and plenty of media interest. It’s a great new addition to the category that will ‘move the needle’ in the right direction this year.
The race three, turn one crash dominates headlines here. It started out as a near-miss as both Cameron Mason and Brad Tilley saved immense slides in their Ford Mustangs. Then, just as we thought the hold-your-breath moment had passed, Terry Lawler found the wall and rebounded into the path of oncoming traffic.
The damage to his car was serious – and the collateral damage as he rebounded into the field – was just as bad and not something you want to see.
People will blame the often controversial reverse grid affair, but this incident was more a commentary on the unforgiving nature of the street circuit, rather than the way the grid was organised. The same crash in a field starting on qualifying order would have done the same kind of damage.
Terry has stated he’ll rebuild bigger, better, stronger and faster and we hope the Mustang is back on track soon.
What wasn’t unfortunate was the Safety devices doing their job. It was a big crash – but Terry climbed out OK.
We should also mention Tom Randle’s early weekend non-start: he caught someone else’s oil in practice one and ended up in the fence at the Senna Chicane – ending there and then what was going to be an interesting weekend for the young open-wheel star.
Finally, an unfortunate mention to Greg Keene and Amanda Sparks, the Adelaide husband and wife duo back racing each other and the IROC Porsche field at the weekend. Both had shockers: Amanda’s car broke a flywheel in practice and caused serious damage to the back of the engine, forcing her out.
Then, not long later, Greg’s engine ‘put a leg out of bed’ and detonated in a reasonably catastrophic way, ending his weekend there and then.
Lucky the pair live just a kilometer away from the track within Adelaide’s CBD..
WORDS: Richard Craill
IMAGE: Dirk Klynsmith