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HomeNewsBathurstThe young gun out to seal TCR crown at Bathurst

The young gun out to seal TCR crown at Bathurst

THERE’S a host of world champions in town but the driver to watch at this weekend’s Supercheap Auto Bathurst International is a young gun perhaps unfamiliar to the casual fan.

Bailey Sweeny, a 20-year-old from New South Wales’ South Coast, is vying to etch his name in the history books as the fourth TCR Australia champion.

The club currently consists of three much higher profile figures: Will Brown, Chaz Mostert and Tony D’Alberto.

But since stepping up from Toyota 86s at the start of last year, Sweeny has taken to TCR like a duck to water.

He finished his rookie season fifth in the points with two Bathurst race wins.

Impressively, as the field has trended towards newer equipment – including HMO Customer Racing teammate and nearest title threat Josh Buchan running a Hyundai Elantra N sedan – Sweeny has this year powered on in the older i30N hatch.  

The Elantra of Josh Buchan. Pic: Supplied/Daniel Kalisz

“Being in the older-spec car, we expected to be competitive but we didn’t know how competitive the package would be,” Sweeny told V8 Sleuth.

“We’ve wrangled it up the grid and had some good results throughout the year and here we are, one round to go and in the lead with a little gap to P2. We expected to be in the fight but to be in this position is pretty cool.

“There’s a lot of difference in aero and underbody and whatnot (between the i30 and Elantra).

“The new package is definitely a big upgrade from the older hatch, so to be in there in a Gen1 car right at the front of the grid and leading the Australian championship is pretty cool in my books.”

So, Sweeny holds a 29-point advantage over Buchan heading into the final three races of the season at Bathurst. Garry Rogers Motorsport Peugeot driver Aaron Cameron is a further 20 points back from Buchan.

Adding to the equation is the presence of the TCR World Tour field for the second successive weekend. Those drivers are ineligible for TCR Australia points but have their own championship battles going on and proved in Sydney that they’ll be taking no prisoners.

“It was good to see the Australians doing well against the world guys,” Sweeny said of Sydney.

Josh Buchan and Bailey Sweeny. Pic: Supplied/Daniel Kalisz

“In other (regions) when the World Tour has rocked up, they’ve pretty much been smoked by the world guys and the other national categories are struggling to get in the top 10.

“So for us Australians to be winning races and having fastest laps and almost being 50/50 in the top 10, it’s pretty good for the Australian category and it shows the quality of the field we’ve actually got.”

Sweeny himself can move a step closer to qualifying for the TCR World Tour final, to be held next March in Portugal, with a strong showing this weekend.

Whether that’s the direction he wants to head in future, or move into Supercars or otherwise, he’s still weighing up.

But it’s worth noting he’s already got a Supercars guru onside, with Bathurst 1000-winning engineer Adam De Borre having been pivotal in facilitating Sweeny’s current drive.

“At the end of 2021, an opportunity came up to test with HMO through Adam De Borre, who we were put in touch through because we live quite near each other on the South Coast of New South Wales,” he explained.

“He put us forward for a HMO evaluation day.

Bailey Sweeny on the Race Sydney grid. Pic: Supplied/Daniel Kalisz

“So that was a late thing that came around in ’21 and on the day we matched the current drivers’ pace, which was (Nathan) Morcom and Buchan at the time, and there was other Super2 drivers there on the day and we were nearly a second up the road from them.

“So I think we made a pretty good impression and it wasn’t long after that that we got the call-up for 2022 to do the full season.”

As for now duelling with teammate Buchan for the top gong, he chimed in: “Obviously it’s on everyone’s mind being in the championship fight but we don’t talk about it too much, we just go about our business and we sort it out on-track.

“There’s no bad blood, we’re good between each other.”

Away from racing, Sweeny works in a water truck business.

“We have got a couple of trucks that do roadworks and fresh drinking water down home,” he said.

“We’re not as lucky as the big cities, some of those suburbs down there don’t have town water so we deliver water to them by truck when they’re running low.”

Opening practice for TCR starts today at 11:20am AEDT.

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