Photo: TCR Media

Mikhail Grachev takes maiden TCR win for WestCoast in Imola

Mikhail Grachev took his maiden TCR International Series win on his debut with WestCoast Racing in another action-packed race in Imola, Italy. The Russian crossed the finish line ahead of B3 Racing’s Mat’o Homola SEAT, with Stefano Comini completing the podium for Leopard Racing in the Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR.

There was drama before the start as Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s Sergey Afanasyev stopped just after the beginning of the formation lap with a driveshaft failure. Alain Menu started from the pit lane for WestCoast Racing following damage in Race 1, while B3 Racing’s Dusan Borkovic and Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s James Nash did not start, the latter due to an engine failure in the first race.

At the start, pole-sitter Attila Tassi immediately lost the lead in favour of Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Jordi Gené, with Grachev up to second in the Honda Civic ahead of the Hungarian. Mat’o Homola was in fourth in the twin B3 Racing SEAT, with Stefano Comini just behind in fifth.

Gianni Morbidelli slowed down from ninth with a brake caliper problem, and retired again, scoring no points in either race. On the second lap, an attack from Comini on Homola at Tosa saw the Swiss run wide and slip down behind Pepe Oriola as well. On the third lap Grachev pulled off a overtake on Jordi Gené, who then started slipping down the order very quickly.

Meanwhile Comini started making up places and, after a scrap with team-mate Jean-Karl Vernay, launched himself in the hunt for Attila Tassi, making full use of the Hungarian’s slide at Acque Minerali to pass on the fifth lap, and began chasing Oriola for third.

As Vernay and Jordi Oriola were given black and white flags for track limits infringements, Comini’s chase ended up with the Swiss putting the nose of his Volkswagen in Oriola’s exhaust. With three laps to go the 2015 champion pulled off a spectacular and clean move on the Spaniard, progressing to third, with team-mate Vernay following on the straight to claim fourth ahead of the Craft-Bamboo Lukoil driver.

Grachev won the race ahead of Mat’o Homola, with Stefano Comini completing the podium. Jean-Karl Vernay was fourth for Leopard Racing, ahead of Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s Pepe Oriola, while Jordi Gené came home sixth after leading the way for the opening laps. Attila Tassi finished seventh from pole position, with Race 1 podium finisher Davit Kajaia right behind him in the Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen. Jordi Oriola finished a troubled race in ninth, with Alain Menu completing the top ten in the repaired WestCoast Racing Honda Civic TCR after starting from the pit lane.

Pepe Oriola still leads the standings on 116 points, with a 15-point advantage over Stefano Comini. Gianni Morbidelli is third, 31 points shy of the lead, with James Nash not moving all weekend on 82 points, 39 behind Oriola, while Mat’o Homola is up to fifth in the B3 Racing SEAT.

The TCR International Series will be back on track in two weeks’ time in Salzburg, Austria.