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Jim Richards has taken the lead in the Touring Car Masters championship in his Shannons Ford Falcon Sprint after a very strong performance in the sixth round run at Sandown.

The weekend got off to a dramatic start when championship leader John Bowe was involved in an incident in pit lane during the first practice session which caused a female official to fall back and hit her head on the ground..

Fortunately she was not seriously hurt but the Stewards of the meeting then determined that Bowe should be excluded from the meeting and his car was taken over for the balance of the meeting by Stephen White.

In the first practice session Richards was happy just to do a few laps to bed in a new differential to be sixth fastest but then in the second session he was second fastest despite only completing two flying laps.

The Falcon was performing very well and Richards was happy to be third fastest in the next practice and third in the single qualifying session to Keith Kassulke and Andrew Miedecke with only half a second covering all three.

In race one Richards was running in a comfortable third place and challenging Kassulke when the fly in driver locked up the rear wheels of the two door Falcon on the entry to turn two and spun causing Richards to almost come to a stop.

This enabled Miedecke in the Camaro to open up a substantial gap which he held to the finish with Richards coming home in second after setting a new lap record. “I was really happy with the car which was just fantastic to drive. It’s the best the car has ever performed and we were a second faster than we have ever gone at Sandown in the past so I must thank Bruce, Mick, Russell and Brian for all their hard work”. said Richards.

The top ten from race one were reversed on the grid for race two and Miedecke and Richards started from row five.

Over the twelve lap race they worked their way through the field to repeat the finishing positions from race one which meant they both would start from the front row in the final twelve lap race.

The race developed into a great battle between the two former Targa Tasmania winners with both leading at different times but it was Miedecke who crossed the line first with Richards scoring his third second place finish for the round.

It was a clean sweep result for the Port Macquarie driver which elevated him to second in the championship standings just 13 points behind Richards on adjusted scores or 29 points without eliminating each driver’s worst score.

Richards was delighted to finish second overall for the round and move to first in the points tally but knows it will be tough battle to hold onto the lead with two rounds to go.

“The final two rounds will be held at Bathurst and Phillip Island which should suit the larger capacity cars but the way the car is performing at the moment who knows what the result might be. The car is in great shape and all we have to do before Bathurst is change the diff ratio and adjust the tappets”. said Richards.

It was an expensive mistake by Bowe as he now slips back to third place 30 points behind Miedecke or 51 points on adjusted scores. It should be noted that Bowe will not be able to count the Sandown round as his worst score.

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