Photo: TCR Media

Sergey Afanasyev takes hard-fought Bahrain pole position

Sergey Afanasyev took pole position in Bahrain for the first Qualifying session of the year. The Russian led SEAT stable-mates Dusan Borkovic and James Nash home, with Gianni Morbidelli in fourth in his WestCoast Racing Honda Civic TCR. 2015 Champion Stefano Comini missed the top ten during the session and will have to start from eleventh for both races in his Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf.

In Q1 Dusan Borkovic had led the way in his B3 Racing SEAT León. The Serbian made it into the lead with a handful of minutes to go, demoting Gianni Morbidelli, who put his WestCoast Racing Honda Civic TCR in second. James Nash came home third in the Craft-Bamboo Lukoil SEAT.

Stefano Comini was on the verge of disaster as he was in eleventh, half a second quicker than former team-mate Andrea Belicchi’s Opel Astra TCR, who eventually was the first to be eliminated from the first segment of Qualifying. Along with the Target Competition driver were eliminated Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Mikhail Grachev, Mulsanne Racing’s Michela Cerruti in her new Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR and Luigi Ferrara in the Top Run Subaru, while Attila Tassi never took part in the session.

Q2 was incredibly close, with Sergey Afanasyev eventually ending up on pole position for the first time in the TCR International Series. The Russian was a tenth quicker than Dusan Borkovic, with James Nash in third making it an all-SEAT top three. Gianni Morbidelli came home fourth ahead of Pepe Oriola, the difference between the Spaniard and the pole-sitting team-mate being just over one tenth.

Aku Pellinen came home a good sixth in his debut Qualifying, ahead of Mat’o Homola and Honda team-mate Kevin Gleason. Leopard Racing’s Jean-Karl Vernay and Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Davit Kajaia completed the top ten, which means they will fill the front row of the reversed grid.

2015 champion Stefano Comini missed tenth by around two tenths and will start eleventh for both races alongside Target Competition’s Jordi Oriola.

Action resumes later today at 19.30 local time for the first race of the year.