TCR International Series – Pepe Oriola encores in Craft-Bamboo Lukoil 1-2

Pepe Oriola performed an encore at the Bahrain International Circuit. After victory in yesterday’s night Race 1, the Spanish driver and his SEAT León won the second race in a sunny and hot day. Oriola managed to recover from the sixth position on the grid and took the lead from Kevin Gleason’s Honda Civic on lap 8 of 10. He eventually crossed the line ahead of James Nash in a 1-2 finish for Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil.

Behind them, Gleason and his WestCoast Racing teammates Aku Pellinen and Gianni Morbidelli challenged each other for the last spot on the podium. Gleason and Morbidelli made contact; the American was forced to stop, while the Italian suffered from a flat tyre, which handed third to Pellinen.

Dušan Borković was classified fourth, followed by Davit Kajaia, Mat’o Homola and Sergey Afanasyev. Jordi Oriola (8th) and Luigi Ferrara (10th) scored the first points in the Drivers’ championship for the new Opel Astra and the Subaru STi respectively, while Morbidelli limped in ninth.

The reigning champion Stefano Comini and Mikhail Grachev retired after making a contact, while Jean-Karl Vernay was also eliminated for the consequences of a racing incident.

The TCR International Series will resume on April 23 and 24 at Estoril, Portugal, for rounds 3 and 4.

Key facts

Start – The Honda cars of Gleason and Pellinen jump ahead of the Volkswagen cars of Kajaia and Vernay that start from the front row; Belicchi’s Opel stalls

Lap 1 – Vernay’s rear bumper is hanging loose after a contact

Lap 2 – Vernay loses three places to P. Oriola, Nash and Pellinen; Homola and Morbidelli fight for sixth; Comini and Grachev fight hard for 9th and clash, the former retires with a broken suspension

Lap 3 – P. Oriola attacks Pellinen and passes him moving up to second

Lap 4 – With a brilliant move Nash passes Pellinen and P. Oriola at the braking for first corner to take second; Morbidelli passes the Finn for fourth; Grachev pit and retires

Lap 5 – P. Oriola retakes second from Nash, Gleason extends his lead to 1.4 seconds

Lap 6 – P. Oriola closes the gap from Gleason to 0.8; Al-Khalifa passes Cerruti for 13th

Lap 7 – Borković passes Kajaia and takes 7th; Vernay retires with brakes problems

Lap 8 – P. Oriola takes the lead muscling his way past Gleason who has to concede also second to Nash; Cerruti retires with a broken drive shaft

Lap 9 – Morbidelli manages to keep Pellinen at bay and to pass Gleason for third; they make contact and the American stops at the pit exit

Lap 10 – Pellinen takes third from Morbidelli, who has a flat tyre and drops to ninth; P. Oriola wins from Nash and Pellinen

Race 2 – Quotes from the podium finishers

Pepe Oriola (winner): “It’s true that yesterday I was a little bit upset for missing the pole, but having won the two races, I think I can be satisfied! Today was again a very intense race and I had a lot of fun fighting with Gleason and Nash, and luckily everything went well. My start wasn’t good, because of some clutch issues, so I was aiming at the podium but nothing more. Still, after we have changed the set up, the tyres stayed good into the race and that gave me confidence to push.”

James Nash (second): “It’s again a great result for the team and for me as well. After a third and a second here, I’m really looking forward to the next round in Portugal! It was again tough competition today and things are not easy when you have such a strong driver as Pepe on the same car and in the same team. My tyres were not in a good condition towards the end, so that prevented me to keep fighting.”

Aku Pellinen (third): “To finish my first weekend in the TCR and with the Honda on the podium is of course a very good result, and I am very happy. There was quite a good deal of fighting in both races, even with my teammates, but that’s fine. I just tried to be clever and stay out of trouble, aiming at the points, and I think the strategy paid-off.”

Borković inherits third after Pellinen’s penalty

B3 Racing Team’s Dušan Borković inherited the third place on the podium of today’s second race at the Bahrain International Circuit after WestCoast Racing driver Aku Pellinen was handed a 30-second time penalty for jump-start.

The Serbian commented: “These were two crazy races but I am happy with the result and very happy with the team. In Race 1, I had a very bad start and then a big contact with Comini. Even with open wheels, though, I realized the pace was good. Today, the start was better but I was stuck in P12 and got a little bit nervous, because I saw I had the pace, but too many cars in front of me. When I cooled down, I started to overtake cars one by one and finished fourth, which became third after Pellinen’s penalty. Mostly, I see it as good reward for the boys who worked very hard.”

The same penalty was imposed to Mat’o Homola, who had finished the race in sixth. As a consequence, Pellinen was dropped to 10th and Homola to 11th, this also meant that Bahraini driver Salman Al Khalifa was promoted to ninth and tenth, scoring points in the Drivers’ Championship at the wheel of a Bas Koeten Racing SEAT León.

Comini presents his winning helmet to Lotti

During a cheerful happening after the Bahrain races, reigning champion Stefano Comini presented the helmet with which he raced in his triumphant 2015 season to Marcello Lotti, promoter of the TCR International Series.

“Winning the first edition of the TCR International Series meant a lot to me”, said the Swiss driver, “I thought it would be nice to give my helmet to Marcello, to thank him for the great series he has put together.”

Very touched by the gesture, Lotti said: “It’s a very nice thought from him. We actually brought back the helmet from Macau where Stefano forgot it after winning the title. He is from Lugano, where we have our offices and we arranged to meet there for a coffee and give him back his helmet. That’s when he told me he would give it to us as a present but that we should wait for until the Bahrain event for his new helmet to arrive!”