Gabriele Tarquini stormed to victory in the opening TCR International Series race in China, giving Hyundai a win on their début in a TCR series from 14th on the grid, with Jean-Karl Vernay boosting his title hopes by taking second.
At the start, pole-sitter Rob Huff failed to make a strong start and lost out to both Leopard Racing team-mate Vernay and a fast-starting Pepe Oriola, who put his Craft-Bamboo Racing SEAT into the lead at Turn 1.
Huff emerged in fifth at the end of the opening lap, whilst the experienced Tarquini was up to sixth at the end of the first tour, with team-mate Alain Menu making progress to 11th.
Menu didn’t have a straightforward start to the race though, as the Swiss driver made contact with the Comtoyou Racing SEAT of Denis Dupont on the start line and was later handed a drive-through penalty for the incident whilst running in sixth, whilst Dupont had to retire with damage to his front-right wheel.
Tarquini made rapid progress through the field, passing Huff for fifth on lap two and Frédéric Vervisch for fourth at the final turn after having the legs on the Comtoyou Racing Audi on the back straight.
The Italian then took WestCoast Racing’s Gianni Morbidelli for third on lap four, before following the lead SEAt of Oriola for a handful of laps, getting ominously close.
The inevitable pass came on lap 11 when Tarquini sent his i30 up the inside of Oriola into Turn 1, with the Spaniard putting up little defence for the Hyundai, which is invisible as far as championship points are concerned.
Almost as soon as Tarquini was past Oriol, however, Vernay set about also getting through and at the final corner on the same lap he made his move, with contact, for second. Huff followed past, and Morbidelli tried to follow suit but contact was made on the start straight and into Turn 1, dropping Oriola to fifth as the Italian took fourth.
With Tarquini out in front he was able to stretch his legs, and the Italian took victory, his first in TCR, by a comfortable 1.6 seconds.
Vernay and Huff held on to second and third, allowing the Frenchman to extend a 26-point advantage in the drivers’ championship over Attila Tassi, who could only manage 11th and a single point (taking into account the invisibility of the Hyundais in the standings).
Morbidelli claimed fourth ahead of Oriola, whilst Vervisch was the leading Audi driver in sixth, ahead of the leading Honda of M1RA’s Roberto Colciago in seventh.
GE-Force’s Davit Kajaia was eighth, having passed Craft-Bamboo Racing’s James Nash for the position on lap 13. The Georgian was the only Alfa Romeo driver to finish the race after Dušan Borković retired to the pits after just two laps.
Nash and Boutsen-Ginion Racing’s Aurélien Panis completed the top ten, with Tassi crucially unable to make up much ground in the race on his way to 11th.
Despite a drive-through penalty for contact with Dupont, Menu salvaged a 12th place finish after also showing strong pace in the new i30.
DG Sport Compétition’s Mat’o Homola suffered yet another retirement in the race when he slowed after completing 11 laps and returning to the pits.
Race two takes place at 16:05 local time (09:05 BST, 10:05 CEST).
|1||30||Gabriele TARQUINI||BRC Racing Team||Hyundai i30 N TCR||19||19 LAPS||1:33.924||14|
|2||2||Jean-Karl VERNAY||Leopard Racing Team WRT||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||19||1.626||1:34.676||2|
|3||3||Rob HUFF||Leopard Racing Team WRT||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||19||1.970||1:34.554||1|
|4||10||Gianni MORBIDELLI||West Coast Racing||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||19||3.016||1:34.827||4|
|5||74||Pepe ORIOLA||Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing||SEAT León TCR||19||7.035||1:34.937||3|
|6||6||Frédéric VERVISCH||Comtoyou Racing||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||19||11.787||1:35.330||10|
|7||5||Roberto COLCIAGO||M1RA||Honda Civic Type-R TCR||19||15.380||1:35.425||6|
|8||16||Davit KAJAIA||GE-Force||Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR||19||16.972||1:35.278||9|
|9||54||James NASH||Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing||SEAT León TCR||19||19.028||1:35.392||8|
|10||28||Aurélien PANIS||Boutsen Ginion Racing||Honda Civic Type-R TCR||19||19.679||1:35.443||12|
|11||9||Attila TASSI||M1RA||Honda Civic Type-R TCR||19||20.201||1:35.452||7|
|12||33||Alain MENU||BRC Racing Team||Hyundai i30 N TCR||19||20.983||1:34.454||13|
|13||1||Stefano COMINI||Comtoyou Racing||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||19||29.285||1:35.805||16|
|14||81||Zhendong ZHANG||ZZZ Team||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||19||32.452||1:35.757||17|
|15||99||Rafaël GALIANA||West Coast Racing||Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR||19||50.245||1:36.376||19|
|16||71||Tengyi JIANG||ZZZ Team||Audi RS3 LMS TCR||19||1:01.357||1:36.497||20|
|17||18||Duncan ENDE||Icarus Motorsports||SEAT León TCR||19||1:01.735||1:36.566||18|
|R||70||Mat’o HOMOLA||DG Sport Compétition||Opel Astra TCR||11||DNF||1:35.889||21|
|R||62||Dušan BORKOVIĆ||GE-Force||Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR||3||DNF||N/A||15|
|R||17||Daniel LLOYD||Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing||SEAT León TCR||2||DNF||N/A||5|
|R||4||Denis DUPONT||Comtoyou Racing||SEAT León TCR||0||DNF||N/A||11|