Photo: TCR Media

Stefano Comini takes lights to flag win in Russia

Stefano Comini dominated the first race at Sochi, Russia, keeping the lead from pole position to never look back. The Leopard Racing driver came home ahead of Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s Pepe Oriola and WestCoast Racing’s Gianni Morbidelli.

Comini kept the lead at the start, while Morbidelli took second away from Oriola and briefly closed in on the leader. Jean-Karl Vernay followed in fourth in the Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR, ahead of James Nash and local hero Mikhail Grachev, whose positive start left Petr Fulìn’s Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR down to eighth from fifth on the grid. Sergey Afanasyev stalled on the grid and slipped down the order.

Action started as soon as the second lap as Pepe Oriola attacked and passed Morbidelli in a clean move on the Italian, while Vernay dropped down to eleventh. On the following lap Petr Fulìn overtook Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Davit Kajaia for seventh, while Borkovic pulled off an aggressive and yet very clean move on home hero Mikhail Grachev to claim fifth.

A puncture for Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Vladimir Sheshenin left the Russian out of the race with front right damage, while Vernay tried climb up the field and passed Mat’o Homola in the B3 Racing SEAT. The Frenchman managed to close the gap to Grachev and Fulìn as the Czech tried to overtake the Honda Civic TCR. As the Alfa Romeo driver attacked the Russian he allowed Vernay to close on him quickly, the Frenchman eventually overtaking him at Turn 2 on lap 9. Sergey Afanasyev was also given a drive through penalty for track limits infringements.

Stefano Comini therefore won the race for Leopard Racing ahead of Pepe Oriola, while Morbidelli’s third place marked his first podium since Estoril. James Nash had a clean race in the Craft-Bamboo SEAT to take a rather lonely fourth ahead of Dusan Borkovic, who is however under investigation due to repeated track limits infringements.

Mikhail Grachev came home sixth in his home race ahead of Vernay, while Fulìn took his first points for Mulsanne Racing in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR after scoring a point yesterday in qualifying. Davit Kajaia was ninth in the Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf, with Mat’o Homola completing the top ten for B3 Racing.

Pepe Oriola still leads the championship, but it is now Stefano Comini in second, 9 points behind the leader. James Nash slips down a joint lead to third, 10 points behind his team-mate, while Homola slips down to fourth, 25 points shy of Oriola, and ahead of Morbidelli, who is fifth a further 11 points behind.

Race 2 will start at 14:05 local time.