Pepe Oriola wins spectacular Race 1 in Bahrain
Pepe Oriola won the inaugural 2016 TCR International Series race in Bahrain for Craft-Bamboo Lukoil. Gianni Morbidelli fought his way from fourth to second in the WestCoast Racing Honda Civic TCR, with James Nash completing the podium in another Craft-Bamboo Lukoil SEAT.
The Spaniard took an early lead after a hard but fair battle with his team-mate at the start, with Sergey Afanasyev slipping down to third from pole position. Dusan Borkovic slipped further down the order as Morbidelli got in fourth place.
Aku Pellinen was in fifth in his Honda Civic TCR ahead of Jean-Karl Vernay’s Volkswagen Golf Gti TCR, with Kevin Gleason, Stefano Comini, Dusan Borkovic and Michael Grachev completed the top ten.
Action started very soon as Oriola and Nash battled for the lead, with the Spaniard eventually estabilishing himself in front of his team-mate after some slight contact. On Lap 4 Gianni Morbidelli overtook pole sitter Sergey Afanasyev, while the battle behind raged on up to the point where Jean-Karl Vernay, who was attacking Pellinen for fifth, was the innocent victim of a contact between team-mate Stefano Comini and Dusan Borkovic’s SEAT, with the Golf spinning out of control and into the twin turquoise car, dealing terminal damage to it.
With Vernay out of the race the battle for ninth was hard between Kajaia and team-mate Mikhail Grachev. It was not long until Morbidelli overtook Nash in a hard but fair battle, leaving the Brit in third. The scrap between the two gave Pepe Oriola enough space to retain the lead without being challenged by Morbidelli, who was too far back to try.
The race finished with more drama as Mat’o Homola just made it back past Kajaia for eighth.
Pepe Oriola won the race ahead of Gianni Morbidelli, with James Nash completing the podium and pole sitter Sergey Afanasyev in fourth. Aku Pellinen scored a good fifth in his debut in the series, with Borkovic paying the price for the bad start and finishing sixth in his B3 Racing SEAT, although very close to the rival Honda.
2015 champion Stefano Comini finished seventh after surviving several battles, with Mat’o Homola finishing behind him. The two Liqui Moly Team Engstler Golfs completed the top ten with Kajaia ahead of Grachev.
Action will resume for the reversed grid final race of the weekend at 14.30 local time on Sunday.