Photo: TCR Media

Stefano Comini wins incident-packed Race 1 in Imola

Stefano Comini won the first race at Imola, Italy, in a highly dramatic race. The Leopard Racing driver came home ahead of Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s Pepe Oriola, with Davit Kajaia completing the podium in the Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf.

At the start, pole-sitter Gianni Morbidelli kept the lead in his WestCoast Racing Honda Civic while Oriola lost two places, slipping down from second to fourth. Comini was promoted to second with Kajaia in third, defending from the Spaniard’s attacks. An intense fight at the front started, with Morbidelli defending from the Leopard Racing Golf and Kajaia desperate to keep his third place from Oriola. James Nash meanwhile had a damaged car and was forced to retire his SEAT León later in the race.

On the fourth lap, Oriola tried an attack on Kajaia at Rivazza, but went wide and also lost fourth to WestCoast Racing’s Mikhail Grachev, although the Russian was quickly re-taken back by the Spaniard.

On lap five, Morbidelli had a power steering issue and suddenly slowed down, and at Variante Alta the Italian was collected by team-mate Alain Menu, who retired on the spot. Morbidelli was also hit by B3 Racing’s Dusan Borkovic, which further damaged the Italian’s car and he limped back the pits, with a safety car subsequently deployed.

At the restart, Comini started to build a margin as Kajaia was passed by Oriola, while B3 Racing’s Mat’o Homola and Target Competition’s Jordi Oriola both went off at Villeneuve, with the Spaniard retiring from the race with damage. Jordi Gené was now fourth in the Engstler Volkswagen, leading a four-car pack, but a mistake at Tamburello saw the Spaniard drop down to seventh as Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s Sergey Afanasyev moved ahead as did Borkovic and Leopard Racing’s Jean-Karl Vernay.

The drama was not over as Borkovic and Vernay started battling it out, the result being contact on the entry at Rivazza, with the Serbian spinning out of the race in an incident which will be investigated by the stewards. With a heavily damaged car and a lost front bumper, the Golf also had to let Homola through, with Vernay defending hard from Gené up until the chequered flag.

Comini won the race with a perfect drive ahead of Pepe Oriola, who paid the price of a difficult start. Kajaia finished third, his best finish to date in the championship, with Sergey Afanasiev fourth.

Mat’o Homola emerged from several crashes to take fifth ahead of Vernay, with Gené having to settle for seventh.

Race 2 pole-sitter Attila Tassi finished eighth in the B3 Racing SEAT, with Mikhail Grachev ninth ahead of BD Racing’s Carlotta Fedeli, completing the top ten, with Alessandra Neri the only other classified finisher in 11th.

Race 2 is due to start at 15.30 CET.