Photo: TCR Media

Mikhail Grachev takes home glory in Sochi

Mikhail Grachev won his home race for WestCoast Racing in Sochi, Russia. The Honda driver took his third win of the year ahead of Leopard Racing’s Jean-Karl Vernay, while Attila Tassi took his maiden TCR International Series podium with B3 Racing.

At the start of the race, Grachev made a good getaway and took the lead ahead of Tassi, while Craft-Bamboo Racing’s James Nash jumped up to third by passing the B3 SEAT of Mat’o Homola. Vernay was fifth ahead of the Honda of Gianni Morbidelli, Dusan Borkovic’s SEAT, the Leopard VW of Stefano Comini and Pepe Oriola’s Craft-Bamboo SEAT, while Petr Fulín started from the pit lane in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR.

The race was quite uneventful for the first couple of laps, but on the third lap Homola tried a move on Nash, who had lost time trying to attack Tassi. The Slovakian subsequently went wide and lost several positions, ending up ninth at the end of the lap. Another attack from Nash saw the Brit losing momentum and allowing Vernay through, as the battle for sixth between Comini, Oriola and Borkovic raged on.

Morbidelli made a clean pass on Nash for fourth as Vernay tried to overtake Tassi, the Frenchman eventually making use of a mistake by the young Hungarian to take second on lap nine. Just as that happened, Oriola had a failure on his SEAT and was forced to head into the pits, meaning the Spaniard scored no points in the race.

More drama was to come as Morbidelli tried to squeeze past Tassi for the final podium spot, but the Italian apparently suffered from a suspension failure and just managed to avoid contact with the wall, retiring on the spot.

Grachev won ahead of Vernay and Tassi, while Nash took 12 precious points by finishing fourth. Stefano Comini recovered from early struggles in this race to claim a good fifth ahead of Dusan Borkovic. Davit Kajaia finished seventh for Liqui Moly Team Engstler ahead of Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s Sergey Afanasyev, passing B3 Racing’s Mat’o Homola in the closing stages of the race. Despite starting from the pit lane, Petr Fulìn scooped up another point for Mulsanne Racing in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR.

Several drivers, including race winner Grachev, Homola, Nash and Fulìn are under investigation. Race control did not reveal the reason, but it is likely to be due to possible track limits infringements.

Nash now leads the championship, a single point ahead of Comini, with Oriola a further point behind. Homola is now fourth, 25 points off the lead and two ahead of Vernay, while Morbidelli lost yet another chance to score important points due to a failure and is now 38 points off the lead.

The TCR International Series will now enjoy a break before it resumes at Chang International Circuit, Thailand, for the first event of the Asian leg on August 28th.