Gianni Morbidelli takes lights to flag win in Honda 1-2-3
Gianni Morbidelli took a dominant win in Shanghai for WestCoast Racing. The pole sitter came home ahead of fellow Honda drivers René Munnich and Kevin Gleason, making it an all-Honda podium.
At the start, Pepe Oriola overtook both Gleason and Munnich, but a contact in turn 3 led to the Spaniard’s retirement due to the damage. Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Mikhail Grachev progressed up to fourth, ahead of championship leader Stefano Comini’s León, the Swiss pulling off a great start from eighth on the grid.
Meanwhile, Lorenzo Veglia lost control of his SEAT León Racer and spun, touching Target Competition’s Jiang Tengyi in the process.
Excitement was just beginning however, with Comini overtaking both Grachev and Gleason, which would trigger an almost race-long battle between the the Swiss and the American.
As the fight raged on, Morbidelli was comfortably leading from team-mate René Munnich. Contact was the order of the day as Comini and Gleason rubbed each other for most of the race, while a spectacular touch between Grachev and the recovering Jordi Gené meant the Spaniard lost two places, whereas the Russian was substantially slower after the episode, allowing Target Competition’s Andrea Belicchi to further close in on him.
The last couple of laps were particularly entertaining, as Kevin Gleason finally managed to open a small gap from Comini and keep his third place comfortably. There was more drama however as Grachev, who was successfully defending from the charging Andrea Belicchi, went wide at the final corner and lost the place from the Italian.
The race therefore finished with Gianni Morbidelli taking the win, despite team-mate René Munnich closing in during the last few laps of the race. Kevin Gleason completed the podium, with Stefano Comini a very positive fourth, especially considering his 30-kilos ballast. Andrea Belicchi just made it to fifth ahead of Mikhail Grachev, with team principal Franz Engstler behind him.
Jordi Gené came eighth after his mid-race contact with Grachev, while Norbert Tóth and Michel Nykjaer completed the top ten.
Gianni Morbidelli now leads the championship on 57 points, five more than former leader Stefano Comini. Pepe Oriola’s retirement meant he is now third, tied on points with Kevin Gleason on 37. Jordi Gené is in fifth a further two points adrift, with Andrea Belicchi just one point shy of the Spaniard.
Next up for the TCR International Series is Race 2, which is scheduled for 10.30 local time on Sunday.