Photo: TCR Media

Stefano Comini wins Sochi Race 2

Target Competition’s Stefano Comini won the second race in Sochi, Russia, also taking the championship lead back in the process. The Swiss came home ahead of Craft-Bamboo Lukoil Racing’s Pepe Oriola, with local man Mikhail Grachev taking the remaining podium spot for Liqui Moly Team Engstler.

Even before the race started there was drama as championship leader Gianni Morbidelli was not able to start his WestCoast Racing Honda Civic.

At the start Grachev took the lead ahead of Comini, the Swiss fighting hard with Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s Sergey Afansyev and WestCoast Racing’s Kevin Gleason. Behind them the battle was raging with Andrea Belicchi leading Target Competition team-mate Michel Nykjaer, with Oriola in eighth.

On the opening lap Nykjaer slowed down and left the top positions, while Afanasyev tried to retain his second place, but was eventually passed by Gleason and Belicchi, soon imitated by Oriola. Just a lap later the Target Competition driver overtook the Honda, with Oriola again taking advantage of the fight, passing Gleason.

As a fight for fifth entertained the crowd, with Gleason defending hard from Gené, Afanasyev and Dudukalo, it was Stefano Comini who finally pulled off a great move on Mikhail Grachev to take the lead. The fight closed the top four pack, with Belicchi trying hard to pass Grachev, but the Italian eventually left the track, leaving Grachev nowhere to go and triggering an accident which saw the Target Competition SEAT out of the race.

Gleason eventually surrendered to Gené and Afanasyev, as Comini came under pressure from Oriola but managed to hold on to the lead, with Grachev and Afanasyev behind them.

Stefano Comini therefore won the race ahead of Pepe Oriola, the Swiss driver also keeping a promise he had made earlier to do some spectacular reversed donuts had he won a third race in the championship. Mikhail Grachev completed the podium ahead of fellow Russian Sergey Afanasyev, who led home Craft-Bamboo Lukoil team-mate Jordi Gené. Kevin Gleason scored a good sixth despite jet-lag struggles and a 30-kilos ballast, with Michel Nykjaer making up for his problem early in the race to finish seventh ahead of Tomas Engström. Lukoil Racing Team’s Aleksei Dudukalo led compatriot Ildar Rakhmatullin to complete the points-awarding places.

“It was a great race, I had a lot of fun,” commented Stefano Comini. “We had a few problems earlier this weekend, but the team worked hard to fix them and I eventually had a perfect car for this race.”

The Swiss is now back in the lead of the championship, with a tight margin of two points over fellow SEAT driver Pepe Oriola. Gianni Morbidelli scored no points, as the Italian did not even start the race, remaining on 181 points, 13 less than Comini. Jordi Gené is now 20 points shy of the lead and is fully back in contention, whereas Andrea Belicchi’s retirement means his gap to the points leader is now up to 48 points.

Next up for the TCR International Series is the Red Bull Ring in Austria in three weeks.