Photo: TCR Media

Andrea Belicchi leads Target Competition 1-2

Andrea Belicchi won his first TCR International Series race in Shanghai, China. The Italian came home ahead of Target Competition team-mate Stefano Comini, with Gianni Morbidelli completing the podium for WestCoast Racing.

At the start Belicchi led the way ahead of Comini and Michel Nykjaer, with Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s Pepe Oriola in third in his SEAT León. Action began very quickly, as on the back straight Comini took the lead away from Belicchi, Oriola passed Nykjaer and Morbidelli started his charge after a positive start by overtaking Franz Engstler’s Audi.

Oriola and Belicchi started fighting for second, allowing Race 1 winner Gianni Morbidelli to close in very quickly as the Italian overtook Nykjaer. The WestCoast Racing driver’s charge continued as he quickly jumped up to second subsequently, and immediately started chasing Comini for the lead.

Morbidelli eventually managed to overtake the Swiss driver on Lap 6, even opening up a gap. The slightest of contacts between the two saw Comini slip down to third with his bodywork touching his right rear wheel, forcing the Target Competition driver to defend from Oriola. Meanwhile a very entertaining fight for seventh unfolded behind them, with Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s Sergey Afanasyev leading a tight pack of five cars all fighting for position.

Franz Engstler lost the fifth place he had gained over Nykjaer as the Audi driver seemed to have tyre wear issues, the Dane taking advantage of it to reclaim P5.

Just when Morbidelli looked set to open a gap from the two SEAT León Racers behind him, what looked like an electrical problem saw the Italian slip down to fourth behind Belicchi, Comini and Oriola. The problem fixed itself, leaving the Honda driver to claim third back from Oriola, while the two Target Competition drivers fought in a hard but fair way for the lead, with Belicchi eventually opening a tiny gap over his Swiss team-mate.

After his great second place yesterday, René Munnich made a mistake and cannoned into Sergey Afanasyev, also touching Norbert Tóth in the process. The Russian was able to continue, while the remaining two protagonists of the incident felt the consequences of it and slipped down the order.

A last thrill came from Morbidelli again, as the Italian tried to get past Comini on the back straight for second, but the Swiss driver pulled off an excellent defensive drive to retain his position.

Andrea Belicchi, the fourth winner from four races, scored a well-deserved win ahead of team-mate Stefano Comini, making it a Target Competition 1-2. An unlucky Gianni Morbidelli still made it to the podium, confirming Honda’s strong form despite losing the chance of a perfect weekend. Pepe Oriola pulled off another great drive to fourth, with Michel Nykjaer in his slipstream over the line.

Kevin Gleason came home sixth for WestCoast Racing, ahead of a struggling Franz Engstler in his Liqui Moly Team Engstler Audi TT. Team-mate Lorenzo Veglia showed significant improvements compared to Sepang by claiming eighth in his SEAT León Racer, with stablemates Tengyi Jiang and Sepang race winner Jordi Gené taking the remaining points-awarding places.

Morbidelli leaves Shanghai still in the lead of the championship, although his margin is down to 2 points over Stefano Comini. Andrea Belicchi’s win promotes him to third, 13 points behind Morbidelli, with Oriola a further 10 adrift. Kevin Gleason now sits fifth, 27 points behind the leader.

The TCR International Series now heads to Europe for the third event of the season in Valencia, Spain, on May, 3rd.