Photo: TCR Media

Mikhail Grachev takes second consecutive TCR victory in chaotic race

WestCoast Racing’s Mikhail Grachev took his second win in as many races in the TCR International Series, going from ninth to first in a hectic race which saw a number of major retirements.

Jean-Karl Vernay started from pole position in the Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR, while there was trouble in Turn 1 as the two WestCoast Racing Hondas of Gianni Morbidelli and Harald Proczyk were spun around with B3 Racing’s Dusan Borkovic and Mulsanne Racing’s Petr Fulín also involved, with both Proczyk and Fulín forced to retire with damage.

Vernay fell behind the SEAT of Pepe Oriola at the end of the first lap, with the Volkswagen driver lacking pace in the dry.

On lap two, the two SEATs of Borkovic and Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Sergey Afanasyev made contact down the back straight, with Afanasyev falling off the track with a puncture at Turn 11, with overtaking suspended under yellow flags.

Vernay was then passed by the Target Competition Honda of Jordi Oriola on lap two, and then the WestCoast Honda of Grachev on lap three.

The Russian then found himself briefly behind Dusan Borkovic, after the Serbian driver tried to dive down the inside of Vernay’s Volkswagen at Turn 1 at the start of lap five, and ended up on a power slide through the corner, passing both Vernay and Grachev, although not quite by design, but the Honda was able to get back ahead of the B3 Racing SEAT before the end of the lap.

The stewards chose to bring out the safety car to rescue Afanasyev’s SEAT on lap five, while Jordi Oriola pulled into the pits from second with a mechanical issue.

When the race restarted, Pepe Oriola was still in the lead, now ahead of Grachev and Borkovic, with James Nash having worked his way up to fourth, with Mat’o Homola’s B3 SEAT behind.

Oriola’s almost certain win disappeared when the Spaniard slowed on lap 13 with a technical issue on his SEAT León TCR, with Grachev assuming the lead ahead of the battling SEAT trio of Borkovic, Nash and Homola.

On the final lap, Nash went side-by-side with Borkovic down the back straight for an attempted pass, with the two making contact. Into the next turn, Borkovic’s car slid into the barrier with a puncture, handing Nash second and promoting Homola to third.

The contact was investigated by the stewards but no further action will be taken.

Grachev’s win elevates him to ninth in the championship, whilst Nash, who went from 14th to second in the race, puts his championship challenge back on track and is now up to third, 19 points behind Oriola with Comini still in second, 14 points behind.

Race 2 follows with B3 Racing’s Attila Tassi due to start from pole ahead of Race 1 winner Grachev.