Chelsea Angelo makes strong return to TCR Australia
One year after her last race in the series, Aussie racer Chelsea Angelo showed strong pace in her TCR Australia return at Phillip Island, where she finished close to the top-10 in Sunday's races.
The return to the track for the 2021 SuperCheap Auto TCR Australia second round has been a troubled one for the drivers of the Australian-based touring cars championship: initially scheduled for 19-20 February, the Phillip Island race meeting was then postponed to later in March, after the state of Victoria was confirmed to enter its third lockdown due to a Covid-19 cluster.
24-year old driver Chelsea Angelo thus had to wait a little longer to get behind the wheel of her #37 Astrontech VW Golf GTI TCR car, having missed the first round of the year at Symmons Plains.
Angelo entered her first season in the series in 2019 and was expected to race in 2020 as well, before the 2020 season was called off.
Hitting the track again in the Melbourne Performance Centre entry, Angelo was P15 and P17 in the two practice sessions on Friday, topped by Chaz Mostert and Lee Holdsworth.
"Overall it was a good day" – commented Chelsea. "It's just about trying to get in the flow, in the rhythm of things. We're going to change a couple of things on the car before qualifying tomorrow morning. It was a successful day and we'll see how it goes tomorrow".
Her progress continued into qualifying: having made a good step forward, Angelo set the 13th fastest time and lined up on the grid for race 1 on the seventh row of the grid.
The track conditions, though, changed dramatically right before the start of the first race, when a rain downpour hit the Phillip Island racetrack.
A last-minute issue on Angelo's car unfortunately meant that the young lady couldn't make it on the grid in time and thus started from the back of the pack.
Australian Supercars superstar Chaz Mostert took off from pole, alongside Luke King. Lee Holdsworth had a great start in the #10 Alfa Romeo Giulietta and, starting from third, he made up one position coming into Turn 1. King, Martin and Morcom followed the leading duo, while Chelsea Angelo completed the opening lap in P19.
There was never-ending action throughout the field: Martin overtook King for third on the second lap, Angelo passed Mineeff for P18 and Soutar spun coming off of Stoner corner and was luckily avoided by the rest of the field as he rejoined the track at Honda Corner, having slipped through the wet grass.
Angelo kept moving up the order and got up to P15, just as Mostert managed to open an impressive 8-second gap to second-placed Holdsworth, who was coming under pressure from King. The driver of the #2 Audi RS3 made the move stick at Turn 10 on lap 7, making it an Audi 1-2. John Martin also made the most out of the battle and, at the wheel of his #24 Honda Civic Type R TCR closed on the #10 Alfa Romeo.
Having previously gone off in the grass at Turn 4, Soutar recovered a few positions and passed Angelo on lap 8, demoting the lady driver to P16.
Unchallenged, Mostert extended his lead by over 30 seconds, lapping over 2 seconds quicker than the rest of the field.
There was more action around the top-ten positions, with father and son Bargwanna battled with Jordan Cox. He would drop down to P13 on the final lap.
It was an absolute masterclass for Chaz Mostert under the rain and he crossed the finish line winning Race 1 with the biggest margin ever in the series' history.
King was second, ahead of Holdsworth, Martin and D'Alberto.
After a very positive qualifying, Chelsea Angelo was P16 in Race 1 at her series return, having started from the last spot on the grid.
"Qualifying was really good for us, we felt like we got the setup on point, for the dry." – she said after the first race of the weekend.
"The race was clearly wet, so we struggled a little bit for pace on the wet. We had a bit of an issue so we didn't make it on the grid for the formation lap and that ended up with us being towards the back of the grid."
"We had to make up a few spots to get back up in the grid for races 2 and 3 tomorrow, so that was a bit of a bummer. But I keep my chin up and tomorrow it looks like it's going to be dry so I'm really confident with the car. Hopefully we'll jump up a few more spots."
The sun was back up in the sky for Sunday's race 2.
At the green lights, Holdsworth's Alfa remained stationary on the grid and was luckily avoided by the sprinting group. Aaron Cameron led Chaz Mostert into Doohan Corner, with the latter also coming under attack from Luke King. In the opening stages, the battle between the two Audi teammates was on fire: King tried to find a way to sneak ahead of Mostert, with John Martin also close behind.
Having overtaken Mostert, King jumped ahead of Cameron for the lead on lap 3 – making the most out of the Audi's impressive straight line speed. Mostert started his recovery soon after and launched an attack on the #18 Peugeot 308 TCR car of Cameron at Turn 10, diving on the inside at the hairpin. He first had to back off, but the pass was finally completed at Turn 1 a few laps later, in a spectacular side-way battle at full speed.
Starting in P16, Chelsea Angelo dropped to 18th after a slow start, but she quickly chased back her rivals and regained her starting position after Jordan Cox went off due to a front-right wheel damage sustained in a contact with Josh Buchan. The collision also involved Ben Bargwanna, but the driver of the #71 Peugeot 308 TCR continued.
Mostert, now in clear air, quickly caught up with King and engaged in another outstanding side-by-side and lap-long battle with the race leader.
Angelo moved up to 15th on lap 8, then advanced to P14 after Moffatt hit trouble. She caught up with Dylan O'Keeffe – and passed the Renault driver for P13.
Despite the very exciting fights in the midfield, though, all the eyes were on the leading duo.
In a huge moment, Mostert saved his car from a spin on the front straight when he clipped the grass in an attempt to pass his teammate. On lap 13, he found the outside line at the Southern Loop, which ultimately gave him the better line into Honda Corner: Mostert clinched the first place in spectacular fashion.
The Queensland-native, former Bathurst 1000 and Daytona 24H winner, secured his back-to-back victory, ahead of Luke King and John Martin, who kept Tony D'Alberto at bay in the final minutes. A 6-car fight for fifth finished with Jason Bargwanna holding on to his position and completing the race in front of Clemente, Cameron and Soutar.
In dry conditions, Chelsea Angelo had a very good race and was P13 across the finish line in the Astrontech VW Golf GTI TCR.
Mostert, King, Martin and D'Alberto headed to the grid in the two front rows for the final race of the Phillip Island weekend, as Angelo took the start from P13.
When the lights went out, Luke King – despite having too much wheelspin – managed to jump ahead of Chaz Mostert. Martin had a great getaway from third but the race took an unexpected turn at Stoner Corner, when the race leader King spun and went off in the grass.
Mostert found himself back in first place, leading D'Alberto and Jason Bargwanna.
Chelsea Angelo had a much better start compared to her previous races and held 13th.
Bargwanna kept momentum and made a move stick on D'Alberto for second on lap 2. There was great racing from fifth all the way down to eleventh, as Clemente and Cameron swapped positions several times at the top-end of that train.
After the disastrous first lap, King tried to make his way back up the order and moved ahead of Caruso – who had started from the pitlane.
On lap 6, Soutar went off but managed to avoid hitting the tyre barrier at Siberia corner. But there was more drama coming towards the mid-race mark, when Bargwanna, approximately 2.5 seconds behind Mostert, had a high-speed off in the grass at Doohan Corner. Incredibly, he maintained his second place and, once he had rejoined, he quickly closed the gap to the leader and started to put pressure on the driver of the #25 Audi RS3.
On lap 12, a tyre blow ended Mostert's chances and handed the leadership to Jason Bargwanna, followed by D'Alberto, Martin and Clemente.
Forced to pit on three wheels, Mostert changed tyres and resumed his race, chasing some points.
Fighting hard in the midfield was also Chelsea Angelo: the young lady had a very strong race and moved up to P11, showing very good pace.
Tony D'Alberto tried one final push lap to catch Bargwanna, but the 48-year old Peugeot driver took the chequered flag to claim his first win of the season in the series.
D'Alberto was second, while Natham Morcom secured third in a last-lap pass on John Martin.
Just outside the top-ten was Chelsea Angelo, finishing her first race weekend of the year in P11. "It was a very good weekend" – she said on her social media.
"In Race 2 we ended up where we qualified in 13th position, which was a good start. The car was a little bit off in terms of pressures, but we got all sorted for Race 3 in the end."
"I started 13th, got a better start and was able to stick with the bunch in front and we got to 11th. So not quite the top-10 that I was hoping for, but I'm actually really stoked by the fact that I was able to keep up with the bunch in front and get a top-seven pace. Really ecstatic with how the weekend went, and now I'm back on my laptop, working on sponsorship for Bathurst."
Having secured the entry for the second round only, in fact, Angelo will hopefully get the chance to build on the clear progress made in Phillip Island and get back in the Melbourne Performance Centre car at Bathurst on April 2-4.