Photo: TCR Media

Aku Pellinen takes his first victory in Race 1 at Spa-Francorchamps

Aku Pellinen has won the first race of the weekend from third on the grid for WestCoast Racing, after the Finn jumped ahead of the two SEATs of Dusan Borkovic and Pepe Oriola at the start and never looked back, while there was a major crash for B3 Racing’s Attila Tassi on the final lap.

There was drama before the start as reigning champion Stefano Comini failed to make it to the grid, braking a driveshaft on his Leopard Racing Volkswagen as he exited the pits.

At the start of the race, Craft-Bamboo’s Sergey Afanasyev and Team WRT’s Antti Buri both bogged down at the start and fell to the back of the grid, while Aku Pellinen had a quick getaway from third, leaping in front of second placed Pepe Oriola’s Craft-Bamboo SEAT and pole-sitter Dusan Borkovic’s SEAT León TCR.

Oriola would overtake Borkovic for second later on the lap, with the Serbian now fighting a rear-guard action against the second-best placed Craft-Bamboo car of James Nash.

Further back, a number of drivers were making good progress, with Gianni Morbidelli and Kevin Gleason already up into the top ten at the end of the first lap in their WestCoast Racing Hondas, while Jean-Karl Vernay, the sole remaining Leopard Racing Volkswagen was making good progress and was up to fifth by the end of lap two, now behind Nash’s SEAT.

It was Nash who proved to be the Frenchman’s main rival, and ultimate downfall, as Vernay was unable to find a way past Nash, and would eventually make contact with the Briton on lap seven, pushing his SEAT out of the way.

The stewards decided to hand Vernay a 30-second penalty which was applied to the race result, dropping him from fourth to 14th, while Nash was able to recover to eighth position.

There was further trouble at the end of the race when Attila Tassi crashed out his B3 Racing SEAT at Turn 11 on the final lap, bringing out the yellow flags with his León TCR mounted over the tyre barriers.

This wouldn’t affect race leader Pellinen, with the 22-year-old Finn securing his first career victory ahead of Pepe Oriola, with Dusan Borkovic completing the podium.

With Gianni Morbidelli classified fifth after starting 15th, the Italian extends his lead over James Nash, which was tied after qualifying, with Pepe Oriola now moving up to second in the standings, two points behind.

The reversed grid second race, with WRT’s Antti Buri starting on pole position, is scheduled for 12:35 CET on Saturday.