Driver’s salty swipe at rivals after wild race

Nathan Herne has survived a scare to his Turtle Wax Trans Am title bid while Garry Rogers Motorsport teammate Owen Kelly took a swipe at their rivals on the way through.

Herne, who was set to start from second, rolled out onto the track on slick tires as rain began to fall on Sunday, soaking the Sandown circuit.

He, Kelly and a handful more opted to pit for wet weather tires – a decision that paid dividends as they stormed through the field.

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Herne claimed the win over Kelly while Lochie Dalton completed a podium lockout for the Melbourne-based team.

“I thought we were in a bit of strife when Owen pulled out before me and I’m still getting my wheels hooked up,” Herne said.

“It was good. Managed to get out there. I think a pit lane start was a lot safer. I was able to keep it out of trouble.”

Kelly, meanwhile, threw shade at his rivals after Garry Rogers Motorsport was called out on social media for supposedly cheating.

Rules have since been introduced to stop roof and rear window flexing after the online blow-up.

“I guess the rear windows don’t make that much difference after all,” Kelly said.

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“GRM one-two-three, so how about that?” Anyway. Nathan drove past me like I was tied to a tree. I thought, ‘man, I wish we had all that wet stuff we did previous’.

“We just needed to salvage what we could. That was as good as it was going to get, second for us in that one.

“There’s no pressure on me, it’s all on him, it’s his to lose. The racing gods will decide and we’ll see how we go.”

There were chaotic scenes even before the race got underway.

As the cars rolled out of their garages, most wore wet tires.

However, the preceding Gulf Western Oil Touring Car Masters race had dried up the track, leading to frenetic scenes on the dummy grid as the lion’s share of the field switched to slick tires.

Then, just moments before the cars rolled out onto the track, rain began falling and cars dive back to the pit lane for wet tires on their warm-up lap.

The series front-runners Herne and Kelly were among those to pit, gifting Nash Morris the lead of the race.

As the cars piled into turn one, Morris and Nic Carroll made contact and sent the former into a spin.

Edan Thornburrow was the biggest benefactor as the first of those cars on wet tyres.

He rose 12 spots and quickly skipped away from the field and established a 10 second lead.

Behind him, Kelly led the pack of cars that came to pit lane before the race began and found himself in 10th at the end of lap one.

Herne wasn’t much further behind, occupying 13th.

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It wasn’t long before the title protagonists carved through the field and by lap three were a distant second and third behind Thornburrow.

Kelly, however, made a mistake at the penultimate corner, handing Herne second place.

Moments later, and the safety car was drawn onto the track when early contender Carroll spun and beached his car in the gravel trap.

Hassett was another victim of the conditions as he got bogged down at turn two.

Ironically, with the full field on wet tires, the rain abated. Thornburrow led the field to the green flag with Herne, Kelly, Hayman, and Dalton in tow.

Herne wasted little time making his way to the front, passing Thornburrow at turn four.

He quickly stretched his lead out to a two-second advantage, leaving Kelly to fight Thornburrow.

In the end, Herne crossed the line five seconds clear while Kelly rose to second and Dalton to third.

It means Herne holds a 23-point advantage over Kelly going into the final race, which will decide the series.

Trans Am closes its account at the Sandown SpeedSeries event with race three at 3.20pm AEST.

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