The SEAT cars took clear victories on home soil and Stefano Comini is again the leader in the overall standings. These are the main takeaways of the fifth and sixth rounds of the TCR International Series, which made its European debut at Valencia.
In a warm weekend, the SEAT León cars proved to be the fastest and comfortably won Race-1, which ended with a 1-2-3 for the Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil. Local hero Pepe Oriola took his maiden win of the season ahead of team-mates Sergey Afanasyev and Jordi Gené. Race-2 was made very lively from the start by a spectacular accident and the subsequent safety-car period. Stefano Comini made perfect use of the situation, becoming the first driver to claim a second success in the season. It was Target Competition’s turn to finish 1-2-3 with Michel Nykjær and Andrea Belicchi behind Comini, while Bas Schouten lost third place on the last lap. The young Dutch rookie was one of the good surprises in Spain.
Belicchi also lost his third place as he excluded for not observing a drive-through penalty.
The WestCoast Racing Honda Civic cars struggled throughout the weekend to be on the pace, but Morbidelli inherited third in Race 2 after Belicchi’s exclusion. Oscar Nogués helped Campos Racing to make significant progress with the Opel Astra; the Catalan qualified 8th and showed a front-runner pace, but was victim of the accident at the start of Race 2. Same bad luck hit the Liqui Moly Team Engstler Audi cars that, after Mikhail Grachev’s promising fifth position in Race 1, were involved in a collision on the first lap of Race 2.
The TCR International Series will resume next week, for Round 7 and 8 at Autódromo Internacional Algarve, in Portugal.
In a warm mid-day Race 1 in Valencia, the Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil took a resounding success, posting a 1-2-3 with Pepe Oriola, Sergey Afanasyev and Jordi Gené in SEAT’s home soil. This is also the first TCR win for Pepe Oriola, already one of the top-runners in the Asian rounds that opened the season.
The SEAT León cars of the British-Russian team proved their competitiveness since the practice session, but could pull away even more easily thanks a very bad start of Stefano Comini, who partly blocked the field. Behind the podium positions, Andrea Comini took fourth and Mikahil Grachev an excellent fifth with the Liqui Moly Team Engstler Audi TT.
Stefano Comini came in sixth, followed by team-mate Michel Nykjær. Gianni Morbidelli came in eighth, the first Honda Civic, in a race where the Japanese cars were not at the top. The last two point-scoring positions were for Dutch rookie Bas Schouten and Lorenzo Veglia.
Stefano Comini was the first driver to win a second TCR race in the inaugural year of the series: the Swiss claimed victory in a drama-packed Race 2 and jumped back on top of the overall standings. He managed beat his team-mate Michel Nykjær, who claimed his first TCR podium, with another Target Competition driver, Andrea Belicchi, crossing the line in third.
The race was rich in incidents from the very start, as Nogués and Morbidelli made contact at the end of the straight, causing an incident that eliminated the Campos Racing Opel and the SEAT of Jordi Gené.
Following a three-lap safety-car period, the race resumed with Comini as a strong leader and a great battle behind him. Nykjær had to fight hard to keep the position from the assaluts of Pepe Oriola and an amazing Bas Schouten. Schouten lost a well-deserved podium position on the last lap and Andrea Belicchi inherited the position, but he was later excluded as he did not observe a drive-through penalty.
Five other drivers received similar sanction, for overtaking during the safety-car intervention, which added further drama to the race. The WeastCoast Racing Honda cars of Morbidelli and Gleason were lucky, under the circumstances, to finish fourth and fifth.