Kevin Gleason takes first career win at the Salzburgring
Kevin Gleason scored his first win in the TCR International Series at the Salzburgring, defending against the Target Competition SEAT León of Stefano Comini throughout the race, while team-mate Gianni Morbidelli was involved in a number of skirmishes and eventually crossed the line fifth.
Gleason got away well at the start, while Comini was able to pass Morbidelli for second into the first chicane, where the Engstler SEAT of Mikhail Grachev was spun off the track as the field bunched up into the first corner.
The top six cars began to break away from the rest of the field, comprised of Gleason’s Honda, Comini’s SEAT, Morbidelli’s Honda and the SEATs of Pepe Oriola, Jordi Gené and Andrea Belicchi.
On lap seven, Igor Skuz, fighting for eighth position in his WestCoast Racing Honda, spun at the Ostschleife and was narrowly avoided by Bas Schouten and Michel Nykjaer’s SEATs, with the Ukrainian returning to the pits, safeguarding his race two pole position.
Comini fought hard against Gleason for the first few laps, but it appeared the Swiss driver’s tyres began to fade, leaving him vulnerable to attack by Morbidelli’s Honda.
However, the Italian found himself caught out as he planned a move on Comini, as Pepe Oriola caught him unawares at Turn 14 and lunged past the Honda driver for third. The move saw both cars lose ground, as Jordi Gené and Andrea Belicchi were now able to sneak past the pair of them a, with Morbidelli now down to sixth, though he was able to move back ahead of Oriola and grab fifth a lap later.
On lap 12, Zsolt Szabó’s Zengo SEAT suffered a puncture at Turn 11 and went off into the gravel. The Hungarian was able to slowly recover the car to the pits at a snail’s pace and it was fortunate that no one collected the León through the twisty final corners.
Andrea Belicchi overtook Jordi Gené’s SEAT for the final podium spot on the penultimate lap, drafting past the identical SEAT on the back straight. Gené was now under attack from Morbidelli, the Spaniard was able to hold off the Honda driver to keep fourth at the line, with Morbidelli forced to settle for fifth.
Gleason had now pulled a safe margin over Comini’s SEAT, and the American went on to take his first career win in the TCR Series, 2.8 seconds ahead of the Swiss driver.
With Nykjaer, Grachev, Szabó and Skuz all failing to finish the race, and with Fernando Monje unable to start due to persistent engine problems in his Opel, just ten cars took the finish, with Markus Östreich picking up points with tenth on his TCR debut for Campos Racing.
With Comini finishing second and Morbidelli third, the Italian’s points lead is reduced to seven points, with race two following at 14:05 CET.