Moments when ‘it was over’ filled champ with dread

Eventual TCR Australia Series champion Tony D’Alberto says there were moments during the final race of the season when he knew he was close to having his hopes dashed.

Early in the final 50-minute race, Will Brown of Melbourne Performance Center took the lead while D’Alberto slumped to a race-low 14th.

D’Alberto needed to finish 12th or better to secure the title. Fortunately, Ben Bargwanna and Jordan Cox struck trouble and ceded positions.

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In the end, the Wall Racing driver did just enough, finishing 11th in the finale, to secure his first title in his Honda Civic Type R.

A post-race penalty for Luke King promoted D’Alberto to 10th, netting him the title by a mere nine points.

“It was a super intense weekend,” D’Alberto said on Stan Sport’s pitlane podcast.

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“Probably the biggest thing from our point of view, we didn’t have enough car speed at Bathurst and we sort of knew that going into the weekend that we’d have to play it smart.

“It was really tight in the end, so tight that the team weren’t that confident with their calculations of the points on offer.

“To be honest, I didn’t expect Will Brown to be able to get to the lead of that last race. He did an epic job and put a lot of pressure on us.

“We required a bit of luck to wrap up the championship. We didn’t have the pace to get around cars. The Honda was quite slow in a straight line and it made our job really difficult.

“There were moments in that race where it was over. I could tell the voice of my engineer how disappointed he was, then it turned to elation when we got in pit lane.”

D’Alberto admitted he wasn’t optimistic about his chances heading into the season finale.

At the Bathurst 6 Hour, the Honda hadn’t been among the quickest cars. Instead, the Peugeot 308 and Hyundai i30 N ruled the roof.

That was the case again at the Bathurst International as D’Alberto struggled to crack the top 10.

“It was tricky to keep positive all weekend,” D’Alberto said.

“We just had our hands tied big time, all weekend. We had to rely on luck to get the job done. I felt really helpless, to be honest. I didn’t have enough pace.

“You mention Jordan Cox, who started at the back there for race one, he had rounded me up by the exit of turn one, passed me in a straight line and disappeared into the distance.

“When you can see your championship slipping away because of the way the BOP [Balance of Performance] is structured, it was pretty hard to deal with.

“I was pretty down on Saturday. I felt a little bit better coming into Sunday.

“I knew all weekend there was just so much to play out. The more points on offer. The longer races. It really didn’t make it easy.

“Going back to a circuit that isn’t strong for Honda, twice in one year, it gives everyone else that opportunity to grab points off us.

“I’m pretty proud of the team to keep us going. The biggest thing I think, the reliability of the Honda and how the Wall Racing guys prepped the car probably got us to the end there.”

The 2023 TCR Australia Series gets underway with Race Tasmania at Symmons Plains on February 24-26.

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