Keeping up with its long-standing touring car racing tradition, the beautiful track of Salzburgring produced two close and interesting races. Kevin Gleason took a well-deserved maiden win in the TCR in Race 1, becoming the eighth different race winner in the series (in only 12 rounds) and the first US driver to win an international touring car race. He also gave the Honda Civic his fourth success of the season.
In Race 2, Michel Nykjær became the third driver to clinch more than win: the Dane kept the lead in from lights to flag, just as Gleason did in Race 1, confirming his incredible personal record on this track. Nykjær has won every time he has raced on the Salzburgring, regardless of the series he was competing in, and earned the status of “Salzburgring Meister”.
The SEAT and Honda cars evenly shared podium finishes today, with the other Target drivers, Stefano Comini and Andrea Belicchi, coming home second and third in Race-1 and Pepe Oriola and Gianni Morbidelli clinching the rostrum in Race 2.
With the top title bidders having all mixed fortunes, the situation in the overall standings looks pretty close, with six drivers within 48 points. Morbidelli keeps the provisional lead by 18 points on Comini and 22 on Oriola.
The TCR International Series will resume on June 21st at Sochi, Russia, for Round 13 and 14.
Race 1 – Gleason takes clear maiden win
Kevin Gleason climbed the last step left for him to the TCR International Series, by taking a clear and well-deserved maiden win at the wheel of the WestCoast Racing Honda Civic. Starting from pole, the American controlled the race from lights to flag, being only briefly threatened by Stefano Comini, who finished a solid second ahead of team-mate Andrea Belicchi.
Behind Gleason and Comini, the fight, which arose mostly in the second part of the race, included the usual stars. This time, it was Belicchi emerging ahead of Jordi Gené, while Pepe Oriola and Gianni Morbidelli eventually lost ground after a contact between them. Lorenzo Veglia was first of the rest, after a superb duel with Igor Skuz, while Sergey Afanasyev, Bas Schouten and Markus Östreich filled the remaining point positions.
Stefano Comini came in sixth, followed by team-mate Michel Nykjær. Gianni Morbidelli came in eighth, the first Honda Civic, in a race where the Japanese cars were not at the top. The last two point-scoring positions were for Dutch rookie Bas Schouten and Lorenzo Veglia.
Grid – Monje’s Opel does not make the grid after it suffered from technical issues during the morning’s shake down
Start – Excellent start of poleman Gleason followed by Comini, while Morbidelli and Oriola make contact at the first braking point and Grachev is sent onto the gravel trap at the first chicane
Lap 1 – Gleason leads ahead of Comini, Morbidelli, and Oriola who are all very close; Gené is fifth and closing up
Lap 2 – Behind the leading quintet, Belicchi is sixth followed by Afanasyev; Skuz and Veglia fight for eighth
Lap 5 – Comini starts attacking Gleason but the American is still in full control; Grachev pits at the end of the lap
Lap 6 – Belicchi joins the leading pack in sixth
Lap 7 – Veglia manages to pass Skuz, who tries to counter-attack but spins in the fast right-hander and pits
Lap 8 – Gleason opens a gap, as Comini is under threat from Morbidelli; Nykjaer pits following a contact
Lap 9 – Morbidelli tries again to pass Comini, but the Italian is attacked by Oriola at the last chicane; they make contact and Gené and Belicchi take the opportunity to pass them both
Lap 11 – Gleason leads ahead of Comini, Gené, Belicchi, Morbidelli and Oriola
Lap 13 – Szabó goes off-track in the fast right-hander hitting the barriers following a puncture
Lap 14 – Belicchi passes Gené for third in the back straight and Gené tries unsuccessfully to repass at the chicane
Lap 15 – Gleason wins from Comini and Belicchi; Veglia steals seventh place from Afanasyev
Race 2 – Nykjær, “Meister” of the Salzburgring
Michael Nykjær took his second win of the season after a perfect Race 2, which confirmed the special bond of the Dane with this track, where he has won in both in the ETCC and WTCC in the past. The Target Competition driver made a perfect use of the spot on the front row to take the advantage at the start, while Igor Skuz and Mikhail Grachev tangled in the first chicane. It was a 1-2-3 for Target’s SEAT cars in the initial laps, but Stefano Comini (by then 2nd) was inflicted a drive-through for jump start and Andrea Belicchi (who was chasing the leader) had a scary ride off-track caused by oil on the track. Lorenzo Veglia lost his fifth place when he received a drive-through for a contact with Jordi Gené, while Pepe Oriola and Gianni Morbidelli took advantage of the situation and finished on the podium, reinforcing their positions in the overall standings.
Sergey Afanasyev took fourth after a consistent race, followed by Belicchi, Kevin Gleason and Grachev. Comini (8th) and Gené (10th) salvaged minimum championship points, while Bas Schouten repeated 9th despite having been rammed by Skuz in the opening laps.
Grid – Szabó is withdrawn from Race 2, as his car was not repairable after the incident in the first race; Östreich’s car, with an oil leak on the grid, starts from the pit lane
Start – Nykjær and Belicchi take perfect starts on the right side of the track, while Skuz and Grachev fight and cut the first chicane
Lap 1 – Nykjær leads ahead of Belicchi, Comini, Gené, Oriola, Grachev and Veglia who has passed Morbidelli
Lap 2 – Skuz pushes Schouten off at the Chicane; Skuz retires, Schouten rejoins
Lap 3 – Comini is given a drive-through for jump start
Lap 4 – Veglia passes Grachev for sixth
Lap 5 – Morbidelli and Afanasyev pass Grachev, who is attacked by Gleason
Lap 6 – Nykjær leads ahead of Belicchi, Oriola, Gené, Veglia and Morbidelli
Lap 8 – Veglia passes Gené at the end of the straight but he cuts the chicane and rejoins ahead of the Spaniard who cannot avoid to hit him; Morbidelli passes both of them, while Gené is forced to pit for repairs
Lap 9 – Östreich stops along the track with an engine failure; Gleason overtakes Grachev for seventh; there is oil on the fast right-hander (left by the Opel): Belicchi goes wide onto the gravel and rejoins but drops from second to sixth; while Oriola drives sideways but remains on the track and climbs to second
Lap 11 – Veglia (5th) gets a drive-through for the incident with Gené; Nykjær leads ahead of Oriola, Morbidelli, Afanasyev, Belicchi and Gleason
Lap 12 – Morbidelli attacks Oriola for second and both are chased by Afanasyev, with Belicchi and Gleason very close behind
Lap 15 – Nykjær wins ahead of Oriola, Morbidelli, Afanasyev, Belicchi and Gleason
What the race winners had to say
Kevin Gleason, winner of Race 1: “I am really happy. After two poles, a second and a third, I really wanted this first win badly. Luckily, I had a very good start in Race 1, which here is absolutely crucial, as we saw in Race 2, and was able to stay ahead. I tried to be as clean as possible to keep the gap and I think I did it OK. The only concern was Comini, who was quite close during the entire race and was very fast in the third sector, but I could defend well and rebuild a little gap on the straight at every lap.”
Michel Nykjær, winner of Race 2: “It’s great to win my second race of the year and to do it here at the Salzburgring, which seems to be a very special place for me. I have won here every time I came, regardless of the championship, and I really like the track. Race 1 was spoiled by a contact and I preferred to stop not to risk further damage for Race 2. My start wasn’t the best of all, but still I could keep the advantage at first corner. My team mate Belicchi was behind me and he pushed hard, but always in a sporting manner, then he got surprised by oil on the track, which was unlucky for him but gave me breathing space.”
Andrea Belicchi ‘Man of the Race’
Andrea Belicchi was elected “Man of the Race” at the Salzburgring following two solid and consistent performances, concluded with a third place in Race 1 and a fifth in Race 2.
The Target Competition driver was, together with Gianni Morbidelli, the only one among the front-runners, to make it to the top five in both races.
Moreover, Belicchi was the author of a great “save” in Race 2 when he was surprised by oil on the track and went off onto the gravel at high speed, mastering a perfect drifting to rejoin the track safely, despite losing two positions.
“I am happy with my weekend,” commented the Italian after the races, “because I put in two strong races and proved I could fight for the very top. What pleases me most is that, contrarily to recent rounds, I had again the right pace.”