James Nash takes key race victory in action-packed Race 2 in Thailand
Craft-Bamboo Racing’s James Nash has turned around a weekend which saw him leave Friday uncertain as to whether he’d be able to race, to win the second race at Buriram from fifth on the grid, storming into the lead of the drivers’ championship.
Mikhail Grachev started from pole position on the reversed grid and led into Turn 1 while local driver Kantadhee Kusiri was up to second in the Eakie BBR Kaiten Honda after a terrible start by Craft-Bamboo’s Sergey Afanasyev from the front row.
James Nash was already up to third after first corner in his SEAT León TCR, while Dusan Borkovic also made a great start and was up to fourth in the B3 Racing SEAT León, before he was passed by Gianni Morbidelli’s WestCoast Honda at Turn 4.
The Italian’s race would soon come to a dramatic end however, when the Honda driver spun at the exit of Turn 8 and crashed into the barriers, causing the deployment of the safety car.
There was drama further down the field as championship leader Pepe Oriola was forced to pit with a puncture on his Craft-Bamboo SEAT sustained in an incident with B3’s Mat’o Homola.
At the restart, Grachev pulled out an easy lead over Kusiri’s Honda before the green flag, which is under investigation, while Nash was able to get ahead of the Thai driver at Turn 3, the scene of his big accident on Friday on lap five.
Nash would also make his move for the lead at the same corner three laps later, while all the action happened behind as Kusiri was involved with the TCR International regulars.
Stefano Comini, now up to fourth, hit Kusiri’s Honda at Turn 3 on lap 11, pushing the Thai driver wide and allowed team-mate Jean-Karl Vernay past the pair of them, but the trio were soon joined by B3’s Dusan Borkovic, who made a move up the inside to pass Comini and Kusiri at Turn 4 before running into Vernay and knocking the Frenchman wide at Turn 5.
Comini took the spot from Borkovic one lap later, with Kusiri also making his way past, but the Serbian fought back and reclaimed third from the pair. Kusiri, with the local crowd cheering him on, was involved in every battle during the final laps as the Honda driver was slowly dropping down the order.
Davit Kajaia took advantage of the battle ahead to sneak past the three cars of Vernay, Kusiri and Attila Tassi at Turn 3 on lap 14 to grab fifth, while later on the lap Sergey Afanasyev made a move to get ahead of the Thai at Turn 8, two other Thai drivers, Munkong Sathienthirakul and Narasak Ittiritpong made contact, with their Engstler Volkswagen and Vattana Honda cars left stranded on the side of the track.
Nash went on to win the race seven seconds clear of Grachev, with Dusan Borkovic securing the final step on the podium, with last year’s champion Comini fourth and Kajaia fifth.
“I’m just so happy for the boys,” said Nash after the race. “I didn’t think we were going to be able to get back out, but to have a win and a second as well.”
Nash now moves into the lead of the championship after team-mate Oriola could only recover to 11th, one spot outside of the points. Nash’s lead is seven points with three race weekends remaining.