Pepe Oriola took victory in the season opener of the TCR International Series in Bahrain, ahead of WestCoast Racing’s Gianni Morbidelli and the second Craft-Bamboo car of James Nash.
It was Nash who took the lead at the start when pole sitter and team-mate Sergey Afanasyev got off to a slow getaway. Oriola then passed the Russian racer at turn two, with Afanasyev forced to settle for third following the opening corners.
Sensing an opportunity, Morbidelli followed the SEAT trio closely in his Honda, as Oriola passed Nash for the lead further around the opening lap.
Morbidelli then pounced on Afanasyev into turn ten on lap three. After a few laps of following the leading duo, the experienced Italian then passed Nash with three laps to go.
By that stage, Oriola had benefitted from the scrapping between Nash and Morbidelli and was able to hang on to win the opening race.
Afanasyev held on to finish fourth, ahead of the second WestCoast Racing Honda of débutee Aku Pellinen in fifth, who had a relatively quiet race in comparison to his competitors.
Another big loser on the opening lap was B3 Racing’s Dušan Borković, who dropped from second on the grid to ninth by the end of the opening lap. The Serb was later involved in an incident with Leopard Racing’s Stefano Comini and Jean-Karl Vernay, but emerged relatively unscathed to take sixth at the finish.
Vernay was less lucky in the incident, which had begun when Comini pushed Borković into him into turn one on lap four. His right-rear suffered terminal damage, with Kevin Gleason also getting caught up in the incident and retiring from the race.
Defending champion Comini was himself able to hold on to finish seventh, although the incident will likely require investigation by the stewards.
Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Davit Kajaia and B3 Racing’s Mat’o Homola endured a titanic race-long battle, with the SEAT racer eventually pipping the Volkswagen driver Kajaia by a mere 0.045 seconds at the finish line, following a drag out of the final corner, to finish in eighth, leaving Kajaia to take ninth.
The second Liqui Moly Volkswagen of Mikhail Grachev took the flag in tenth, ahead of Target Competition’s Jordi Oriola in 11th, who just missed out on points. The younger Oriola had lost out in an incident at turn two on the opening lap, when Grachev and the Alfa Romeo of Michela Cerruti made contact, pushing Oriola’s Opel wide.
The second TCR race of the season takes place on Sunday at 12:30 BST (13:30 CEST).
|1||74||Pepe ORIOLA||Team Craft-Bamboo LUKOIL||SEAT León TCR||10||22:25.883||2:12.867||5|
|2||10||Gianni MORBIDELLI||West Coast Racing||Honda Civic TCR||10||2.372||2:12.602||4|
|3||54||James NASH||Team Craft-Bamboo LUKOIL||SEAT León TCR||10||3.219||2:13.085||3|
|4||77||Sergey AFANASYEV||Team Craft-Bamboo LUKOIL||SEAT León TCR||10||4.995||2:13.236||1|
|5||14||Aku PELLINEN||West Coast Racing||Honda Civic TCR||10||9.902||2:13.587||6|
|6||62||Dušan BORKOVIĆ||B3 Racing Team Hungary||SEAT León TCR||10||9.919||2:13.535||2|
|7||1||Stefano Comini||Leopard Racing||Volkswagen Golf Gti TCR||10||20.087||2:14.040||11|
|8||70||Mat’o HOMOLA||B3 Racing Team Hungary||SEAT León TCR||10||23.319||2:13.511||7|
|9||7||Davit KAJAIA||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||Volkswagen Golf Gti TCR||10||23.364||2:13.634||10|
|10||8||Mikhail GRACHEV||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||Volkswagen Golf Gti TCR||10||24.555||2:14.974||14|
|11||33||Jordi ORIOLA||Target Competition||Opel Astra TCR||10||27.750||2:15.016||12|
|12||32||Luigi FERRARA||Top Run Motorsport||Subaru Sti TCR||10||29.889||2:15.866||16|
|13||88||Michela CERRUTI||Mulsanne Racing||Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR||10||35.392||2:15.672||15|
|14||23||Andrea BELICCHI||Target Competition||Opel Astra TCR||10||45.761||2:15.864||13|
|15||78||Salman AL KHALIFA||Bas Koeten Racing||SEAT León Cup Racer||10||54.024||2:17.623||17|
|16||79||Hussain KARIMI||Bas Koeten Racing||SEAT León Cup Racer||10||1:17.967||2:18.975||18|
|R||2||Jean-Karl VERNAY||Leopard Racing||Volkswagen Golf Gti TCR||3||DNF||2:13.639||9|
|R||24||Kevin GLEASON||West Coast Racing||Honda Civic TCR||3||DNF||2:13.507||8|