Gleason and Nykjær wrote history at the Salzburgring

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.

Key moments
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.

Key moments
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.”

Magic Monza produces thrilling races, as Morbidelli wins twice

The “Temple of Speed” kept up with its reputation and offered two superb races, probably the most thrilling seen so far in the TCR International Series and a delight for touring car fans at the track and at home.
The sight of up to four cars fighting side-by-side on the straights or of intense duels in the fast corners and in the chicanes was really captivating!
The other great winner of the weekend was Gianni Morbidelli. At home, the Italian driver of WestCoast Racing took a maximum of trophies and points, clinching the pole and a double victory, becoming the first driver to win both races in the same event in the TCR. Still, the Honda Civic, had to sweat to achieve this sensational harvest, against the SEAT cars of Pepe Oriola and Jordi Gené (who each took a second), Andrea Belicchi (third in Race 1) and Stefano Comini who missed the podium but was instrumental in putting in the show, as Always.
Fernando Monje rounded an excellent weekend for Campos Racing, by taking a podium finish in Race 2, the first one for the Opel Astra OPC, which has impressed by progress made. There were more first satisfactions, as rookies Zsolt Szabó and Antonio D’Amico scored points in both races and the Proteam Racing Ford Focus driven by Tom Boardman, took its first point.
Stewards’ investigations after the races resulted in two reprimands to Morbidelli for clashing with Comini and a drop of five grid positions for the next race to Afanasyev for the Race 1 pile up that involved Grachev and Nykjær.
Things are close in the championship standings, with Morbidelli retaking the lead ahead of comini, Oriola and Gené, all within 26 points.
The TCR International Series will resume next week, for Round 11 and 12 at Salzburgring, in Austria.  

Race 1 – Hard-fought win for Morbidelli

Gianni Morbidelli took the second win of the year for WestCoast Racing and the Honda Civic in a lively Race 1 at Monza that was much closely-fought than expected. The advantage shown by the Civic during free practice and qualifying did not materialize in the race, under a nice sunshine, which forced Morbidelli to the limit for passing Belicchi and Comini before taking the lead from Oriola at mid-race.
The Spaniard finished a close second ahead of Belicchi and Gené, while “warrior Comini” had to retire two laps from the end after running wide at the Lesmo 2 corner. It was not the only spectacular incident, as Grachev, Afanasyev and Nykjær were eliminated in a three-way collision while fighting for the eighth position.
It was a race of premieres, with Fernando Monje taking a superb fifth in the Campos Racing Opel Astra, while there were point finishes for rookies Zsolt Szabó and Antonio D’Amico. Last but not least, Tom Boardman managed to finish the race with the Ford Focus ST, giving the first point to Proteam Racing’s car. 

Key moments
Grid – All cars are on the grid, except for Davide Roda’s SEAT that could not be repaired after yesterday’s roll
Start – Not a great start from Morbidelli and Comini, with Oriola sneaking between them, which creates some rubbing at the first chicane; excellent kick-off from Monje and Belicchi
Lap 1 – Contact between Comini and Afanasyev at the first chicane; Oriola leads ahead of Belicchi, Morbidelli, Comini, Gené, Monje and Grachev
Lap 2 – Comini passes Morbidelli on the outside of the first chicane and is third
Lap 3 – Comini again in action at the first chicane, this time passing Belicchi for second
Lap 4 – Morbidelli outpowers Belicchi on the straight and is third; Veglia passes Grachev for 7th and soon after also Gleason is through; the first three are nose to tail at the Parabolica, with Comini trying the outside line, but losing position to Morbidelli
Lap 5 – Morbidelli almost passes Oriola on the straight but the Spaniard keeps the advantage; Gleason takes seventh from Veglia
Lap 6 – At the end of the lap, Morbidelli manages to take the lead using the slipstream
Lap 7 – Comini cuts the first chicane after trying to pass Oriola.
Lap 8 – Gleason passes Monje for sixth at the end of the straight; Skuz stops in pits with brakes problems; Monje repasses Gleason, while Veglia goes straight at the Roggia
Lap 9 – Big fight between Oriola and Comini for second, but the Swiss is kept at bay and then goes wide at Lesmo 2 and stops on the track soon after
Lap 10 – Grachev touches Afanasyev at the Roggia and both hit the barriers after taking Nykjær along; the race is over for the them all
Lap 11 – Morbidelli wins ahead of Oriola, Belicchi, Gené, Monje, Gleason and Veglia

Race 2 – Morbidelli wins battle, Monje on the podium

Gianni Morbidelli rounded a great day at Monza, by taking win also in Race 2 and becoming the first driver to win both races of a TCR event. Race 2 was thrilling from start to end, with a great fight and close duels involving Morbidelli, Comini, Gené and Monje, who all led at some point, plus Oriola and Belicchi. With often three and even four cars side-by-side on the straight and diving abreast into the first chicane, the show was superb.
Eventually, Morbidelli made the winning move on Comini, who had started last and climbed up in his usual flamboyant style, at the beginning of the last lap, with the Swiss losing a few position in the incident. Second place was for Jordi Gené, while Fernando Monje gave a first well-deserved podium to the Campos Racing Opel Astra OPC after having led for five laps and having performed a great show. Comini and Belicchi took fourth and fifth, with the last points going to Szabó, Veglia, Grachev and D’Amico.

Key moments
Grid – The cars of Nykjær and Afanasyev are not repairable, while Grachev (who had pole for Race 2) starts from the pits and Comini from the last row; this means that D’Amico and Gené are on the front row
Start – Gené takes the best start with D’Amico touching Belicchi and hitting the barriers at the first chicane; Monje and Oriola make contact
Lap 1 – Gené is in the lead but under attack from Monje; behind them are Belicchi and Morbidelli who have passed Skuz
Lap 2 – Monje passes Gené and takes the lead; Belicchi is third followed by Morbidelli, Skuz and Comini
Lap 3 – Morbidelli takes third from Belicchi, while Comini and Oriola pass Skuz; Comini also passes Belicchi; there is a big fight for seventh between Skuz, Gleason and Veglia
Lap 4 – Morbidelli passes Gené at the Roggia and is second
Lap 5 – Monje resists well to Morbidelli with Gené, Comini, Belicchi, Oriola and Gleason right behind
Lap 6 – Comini and Belicchi pass Gené; Morbidelli touches Monje at the Ascari, but Comini sneaks in-between the two at the Parabolica
Lap 7 – Monje, Morbidelli and Comini get side-by-side to the first chicane, with the Honda touching the SEAT which cuts the chicane and takes first; Oriola goes off-track at Lesmo and retires
Lap 8 – Gené, Morbidelli, Belicchi and Monje are side by side on the straight, with Gené taking the advantage and moving up to second
Lap 9 – Monje jumps over the kerb and hits Belicchi
Lap 10 – Great fight between Comini and Morbidelli for first, but the Swiss keeps the advantage; Belicchi drops to sixth behind Skuz
Lap 11 – Morbidelli passes Comini at the end of the straight, with the Swiss trying to respond by taking the outside line at the first chicane; there is a contact and Comini spins and nearly hits Gené; Morbidelli wins ahead of Gené, Monje, Comini, Belicchi and Skuz


What the race winner had to say

Gianni Morbidelli, winner of Races 1 and 2:
“It has been an incredible day for me, I must admit. Beyond the results, which of course pleased me very much, I am very happy because there were a lot of good fights and we put on a terrific show for the fans. I think today’s races proved we had not the advantage that everybody said we had. I said after qualifying that it would not be that easy and I wasn’t wrong. What probably made the difference was our good speed on some key corners, like Ascari and the Parabolica, rather than on the straight. If you know Monza, you know that both those corners are crucial to get the right speed. It was also difficult to preserve the brakes, which are under heavy constraints here, and I was constantly on the very limit."

Fernando Monje put the Opel in the top League

The “Man of the Race” recognition went without hesitation to Fernando Monje. At Monza, the 21-year-old driver from Barcelona was driving for the first time the Opel Astra OPC of Campos Racing, although he has been involved in this project since the very beginning as part of the management staff.
Not only Monje signed the best performance in qualifying (6th) of the car so far, but he produced two superb races, clinching a 5th in Race 1 and a 3rd in Race 2, where he led for five laps, earning everybody’s appreciation and the congratulations from an expert racer as Gianni Morbidelli:
“It was very difficult to pass Fernando in Race 2 because he drove very well and was doing exactly what he had to do to defend his position in a very clean way where his car was slower than mine and rebuilding enough gap in the straight, where the Opel was very fast.”
A delighted but laid-back Monje explained: “It was an unexpected but great weekend. We progressed well throughout it, showing performance, reliability and consistency. The new sequential gearbox worked well, while we struggled a bit with the brakes. I am very happy for Campos Racing that has been working hard and well since the beginning of the season. Here at Monza, we had a very good top speed, as everybody could see, but were slower than our opponents in key corners. This obliged me to be always on the limit, especially when braking, and adopt defensive lines when needed, but I think we did it well and put on an entertaining show.”