Raphael Reis and Fabricio Pezzini share wins in chaotic Velocitta opener
Raphael Reis and Fabricio Pezzini claimed one win each in the 2022 TCR South America opener at Velocitta in Brazil that included a bizarre second reversed grid race.
Cupra driver Reis dominated the first race from pole position to win by close five seconds ahead of Lynk & Co driver Pezzini.
Pezzini meanwhile did not have an easy race, having to defend hard from Squadra Martino driver Juan Angel Rosso.
PMO Motorsport driver Pezzini managed to snatch second on the opening lap from Rosso who in the last stage of the race closed in, but did not get close enough to get past.
The safety car was called into action on lap four following an incident between Fabio Casagrande (Honda) and Adalberto Baptista (Audi).
Baptista passed Casagrande into Turn 1 but the two made contact a corner later as Casagrande ran Baptista wide, resulting in an off track excursion for both.
Both drivers were able to rejoin the race, only for Casagrande to retire with a puncture shortly after the safety car restart.
PMO Motorsport driver José Manuel Sapag came under pressure from Crown Racing’s Gabriel Lusquiños, who started 14th, during the closing stages of the race in the fight for fifth place.
Lusquiños managed to make the move stick with some contact two laps from the chequered flag, demoting Sapag to finish sixth.
Reis won the race 4.7 seconds ahead of Pezzini, with Rosso completing the podium ahead of W2 Pro GP driver Antonio Junqueira in fourth.
The start of the second reversed grid race quickly turned into chaos.
Casagrande started from the reversed grid pole race ahead of Peugeot 308TCR driver Franco Farina.
Farina seemed to suffer a technical issue just before the start and opened his door to signal to the race directors that he was left stranded.
But the lights went out anyway, with a number of cars remaining stationary in the belief that the start would be suspended.
The confusion caused a crash between Reis, Rosso and Sapag. Reis and Sapag dropped to the back of the field minor damage to their cars while Rosso had to retire.
This called the safety car into action.
But the chaos continued soon after the restart as another trio made contact, with Lusquiños throwing his Honda on the inside of Casagrande and Junqueira.
Casagrande and Junqueira were left stationary on track while Lusquiños continued.
Casagrande was eventually able to get going again while Cupra driver Junqueira had to be towed back into the pits.
Meanwhile Peugeot driver Pablo Otero passed PMO team-mates Pezzini and Sapag while there were yellow flags on track to claim the lead.
And there was no safety car heading out on track as the recovery crew attended Junqueira’s stranded car, forcing the recovery crew to run for safety as the field came roaring towards them.
The confusion continued as the safety car went out on track behind the leaders, having to pass almost the entire field to pick up leading driver Otero of PMO Racing.
Another bizarre moment came as Otero suddenly passed the safety car, almost collecting it in the process, only to drop back behind it again.
The race restarted on lap eight, with Pezzini immediately snatching the lead from Otero.
Sapag tried to follow past, but had to fight for another couple of laps before making his way up into second place.
Otero then came under hard pressure from Hyundai Elantra N TCR driver Pedro Aizza in the fight for third.
But as Aizza tried to pass the Peugeot 308TCR driver, a recovering Reis took advantage of the situation to snatch fourth with just two laps left of the race.
Reis, who won the first race, piled the pressure on Otero during the last couple of laps, but was not able to get past.
Pezzini and Sapag made it a PMO Motorsport 1-2, with Otero third and Reis fourth.
Aizza crossed the finishing line in fifth as Lusquinos rounded off the top six for Crown Racing.
Reis heads the standings on 86 points, Pezzini is second on 79 and Sapag third on 58.
The next TCR South America round takes place on May 1st at Interlagos in Brazil.