Photo: TCR Media

Stefano Comini leaps to points lead, while Vernay also throws his hat into the ring

The Leopard Racing team made the most from a circuit which didn’t favour their Volkswagen Golf GTI TCRs, with Stefano Comini capitalising on a wastegate issue for Pepe Oriola to snatch the championship lead with an eighth and a third at the Salzburgring, while fifth and another win firmly puts Jean-Karl Vernay back in championship contention.

Comini, who had qualified down in 13th position after a last minute gearbox change robbed him of a chance to set a lap in the dry on Saturday, had a consistent run in Race 1 to pick up four points from eighth, while the right strategy call to start on wets saw the Swiss driver right at the front from the start of Race 2, fighting for the podium with team-mate Vernay and the Craft-Bamboo SEAT of Sergey Afanasyev.

“Before this race weekend I sent an SMS to Pepe Oriola and told him I want to pass him after Salzburgring, and it happened,” said a delighted Comini after the race.

“We were unlucky yesterday, but lucky today. Though I’m really disappointed about our Golf, as we had no chance to pass today. It was really frustrating.

“If you look at the whole field, we (the Volkswagens) were all at the back of the grid,” explaning that the changeabout in performance for the second race was because the cars had a “complete rain set-up.”

“Thanks to Leopard Racing, they can’t do a miracle on the car, but they are working every time professionally,” added Comini.

Comini now has a one point lead over Oriola, who failed to score in both races, while team-mate Vernay is now joint-fourth in the standings with Gianni Morbidelli after victory in Race 2, after an inspired call to start on wet tyres while the four cars ahead opted for slicks.

“Thanks to my team manager, he took the decision, we then worried it was the wrong one, but we took the risk and it worked,” said Vernay to TouringCarTimes.

“After that I just wanted to do my job and stay quiet after a few difficult events,” he added. “I wanted to perform as much as I can during the race and went into qualifying mode. We are not criticising the BoP (Balance of Performance), but we have to work a lot more on the aero package as we have a big lack of top speed, but it’s been a very good weekend.”