Photo: TCR Media

Stefano Comini beats Pepe Oriola to Sochi pole position

Stefano Comini took pole position at Sochi, Russia, his first of the season. The Swiss was over a tenth quicker than free practice pace-setter Pepe Oriola, while Leopard Racing team-mate Jean Karl Vernay will start third.

Pepe Oriola had continued to dominate the weekend in the first segment of the session, as the Craft-Bamboo Racing driver led Q1 ahead of Comini and Vernay. Petr Fulín took a rather surprising fourth in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR, with team-mate Michela Cerruti struggling and finishing last due.

Dusan Borkovic was fifth despite a lot of slides in the session, as the B3 Racing SEAT tended to lock under braking. The Serbian finished ahead of James Nash, while Gianni Morbidelli sat out of half of the session as he felt he was safely through to Q2, effectively finishing seventh ahead of WestCoast Racing team-mate Mikhail Grachev.

Local hero Sergey Afanasyev was ninth for Craft-Bamboo Racing, ahead of Mat’o Homola, with Attila Tassi and Davit Kajaia also through to Q2. WestCoast Racing’s Ildar Rakhmatullin and TCR newcomer Vladimir Sheshenin were out after the first segment and will start in the order ahead of Cerruti.

An entertaining Q2 saw Comini immediately rise to the top of the standings, while Oriola had his first lap disallowed due to track limits infringements at Turns 2 & 18. Vernay and Morbidelli were behind him in the order, but Fulín was again the surprise of the session as he jumped up to fourth.

After the last runs, though, Oriola managed a clean lap and looked on course to take pole position, but lost out to Comini in the final sector, handing the Swiss his first pole position of the season. Vernay will start from third ahead of Morbidelli, while Fulín takes the Alfa Romeo’s first point in qualifying with fifth. Dusan Borkovic came sixth ahead of James Nash and local hero Mikhail Grachev, while B3 Racing team-mates Mat’o Homola and Attila Tassi finished in the order and will form the front row of the grid for the reversed-grid second race. Afanasyev and Kajaia will start both races from 11th and 12th respectively.

Race 1 is scheduled for 12:35 local time tomorrow.