James Nash dominates Race 2 at Estoril

James Nash took the lead of the second race at Estoril, Portugal, right after the start, and never looked back. The Craft-Bamboo Lukoil driver came home ahead of Stefano Comini in the Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf Gti TCR, with Race 1 winner Gianni Morbidelli completing the podium in his WestCoast Racing Honda Civic TCR.

At the start pole sitter Loris Hezemans had a technical issue and stopped outside the pit exit, leaving the lead in the hands of Nash, with Stefano Comini starting a clean fight with team-mate Jean-Karl Vernay, eventually winning second place. Pepe Oriola was fourth in the Craft-Bamboo Lukoil SEAT ahead of team-mate Sergey Afanasyev, with Morbidelli ahead of fellow Honda driver Aku Pellinen, who got away well off the line but was closed by Nash and slipped down the order.

Dusan Borkovic stopped in the pits at the end of the first lap, with smoke coming out of the engine of his B3 Racing SEAT. Meanwhile Oriola was under attack from Afanasiev, Morbidelli and Pellinen. The Russian was quite quick to overtake his team-mate, but Morbidelli did not have an easy time passing as the Spaniard pulled off a very good defensive drive. The SEAT’s pace was not good enough to keep the Hondas behind, and Oriola slipped down the order as Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Davit Kajaia also made it past the Spaniard.

Morbidelli soon started attacking Afanasyev, passing the Russian on the tenth lap. The pair had meanwhile reached a struggling Vernay, who had to surrender to Morbidelli after a clean and spectacular move at the hairpin, with Afanasyev also making it past the Golf at Turn 1.

Nash won the race ahead of Comini with a 2.2s gap, although the lead had extended up to four seconds during the race. Morbidelli completed the podium after a spectacular and faultless charging drive, with Afanasyev a consistent fourth which shows the maturity acquired by the Russian during last year’s experience. Vernay ended up fifth as his flat floor was loose and started flapping under his Golf midway through the race, with Pellinen finishing a solid sixth, although far behind the Leopard Racing driver. Kajaia came home seventh, ahead of B3 Racing’s Mat’o Homola, with Francisco Mora in ninth under the flag in his Baporo Motorsport SEAT and a struggling Pepe Oriola completing the podium.

Today’s results mean Morbidelli leaves Estoril with a tiny 1-point margin over James Nash, with Pepe Oriola in third 15 points behind the leader.

Next up for the TCR International Series is Spa-Francorchamps in two weeks.