Roberto Colciago claimed his second TCR International Series victory after last year’s win at Sepang, which also occurred during a Formula One event.
The M1RA driver and his Honda Civic Type-R made a perfect start and overhauled both the pole-sitter Pierre-Yves Corthals and Hugo Valente to lead the field going into Turn 1. That turned out to be the critical move as far as Colciago was concerned and the Italian driver led for the remainder of the nine-lap race. Valente drove a sensible race to finish second, the SEAT León never really threatening Colciago, while Jean-Karl Vernay finished third after a thrilling series of battles with Corthals, James Nash and Dušan Boković ended with Boković making contact with Corthals, which allowed Vernay’s Volkswagen to dive past the pair into a podium place.
In all, five different car brands filled the first five places with Boković’s Alfa Romeo and the Opel Astra of Corthals joining the Honda, SEAT and Volkswagen of the podium finishers. Stefano Comini’s Audi finished eighth making six brands in the top-eight.
Corthals suffered from power-sapping high engine temperatures in the race’s last few laps while it was a brake problem that caused Borković to run into Corthals and so ultimately deny the Opel a top-three finish.
Start – Colciago makes the best start and leads from Valente and Corthals into Turn 1
Lap 1 – There’s a close fight between Kajaia, Nash and Vernay for 4th; Kajaia and Vernay make contact; Borković passes Vernay, but Vernay then passes Borković again and keeps fifth place; Nash also passes Borković for 6th
Lap 2 – Borković passes Nash and Vernay for 5th place
Lap 3 – There is contact between Homola and Morbidelli at Turn 1; Kajaia stops on the track with a broken driveshaft
Lap 4 – Vernay passes Nash for 5th
Lap 5 – Comini passes Ficza for 8th
Lap 6 – Morbidelli passes Ficza for 9th
Lap 7 – Vernay and Borković fight for 4th; Ende pits with brake problems
Lap 8 – Borković attacks Corthals for 3rd; Vernay passes Borković for 4th, but Borković re-takes the position; Borković and Corthals make contact and Vernay passes them both to take 3rd place
Lap 9 – Oriola passed Nash for 6th; Colciago wins from Valente and Vernay
Quotes from the Race 1 podium finishers
Roberto Colciago (1st): “It might have looked easy, but it wasn’t! The start was really good and after four or five laps, there was a good gap behind me. I didn’t push so hard at the beginning of the race so my tyres were still good for the second part. It’s really important not to make any mistakes at this circuit – I made one small mistake when I braked at the end of the straight, but afterwards I made no more. In the championship, there are many, many good drivers and we are always within two or three tenths, so it is much too early to be thinking about that.”
Hugo Valente (2nd): “I was quite happy with my start but I know the Honda is always very strong off the line; I don’t have a lot of experience yet with this car and we couldn’t practice starts yesterday. Roberto managed his tyres well at the beginning of the race, he made a mistake but I made a few too. I maybe could have overtaken him, but it was too risky and I need to score points for the championship, so I cooled down a bit and he was just too fast. After that, I was looking in my mirrors and also enjoying watching the big TV on the straight! I think tomorrow will definitely be more exciting and I’ll be looking for another good result for the team again.”
Jean-Karl Vernay (3rd): “My start was just terrible, so I need to work on my coordination because I’ve been struggling with that for a few months now. I was lucky not to spin on the first lap, but after that I tried to be a little bit calm. We had a small engine problem, as sometimes there was no power when I was back on the throttle. I lost a lot of time behind Borković because he did a good race and was quite fast on the straights so the only way to overtake him was to wait for a mistake and in the end it happened. I think we deserved the result – my team did a great job and the car was really, really quick so let’s see how we do tomorrow.”
First BoP adjustment of the season applied in Bahrain
Following the Qualifying session in Bahrain, and taking into account the results of the first race meeting of the season in Georgia, the TCR Technical Department has decided to make the first Balance of Performance adjustments of the year ahead of today’s Race 1 in Bahrain.
It was decided to reduce the engine power of the Opel Astra TCR cars to 95%, while a ride height break of 10mm has been granted to the Audi RS3 LMS and the SEAT León TCR cars that use a DSG gearbox (in Bahrain, this only applies to the Icarus Motorsports SEAT of Duncan Ende).
All car weights remain unchanged.
Race 2 : Borković takes his first International Series victory
Dusan Borković, driving a GE-Force Alfa Romeo Giulietta, took his first victory in the TCR International Series after a commanding performance in the stifling heat of a Bahrain Easter Sunday afternoon.
This was also the second victory for the Romeo Ferraris-built Italian car after Davit Kajaia’s in the season opener at Rustavi, Georgia.
Starting from the second row of the grid, Attila Tassi made the best start and passed both Borković and pole-sitter Ferenc Ficza going into Turn 1. Borković and Ficza quickly struck back and overhauled the M1RA Racing Honda Civic, with Borković leading from Ficza’s Zele Racing SEAT León.
The Lukoil Craft-Bamboo SEAT of James Nash and Jean-Karl Vernay in the Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi then passed Tassi, with Nash quickly snatching second place from Ficza. When Ficza then ran wide on lap 2, Vernay was one of four drivers to take advantage. Nash’s teammate Hugo Valente took third place from Vernay on lap 3 and that was how the race ended; Borković finishing ahead of Nash and Valente.
Behind the battle for the podium places, there were several thrilling fights within the top ten. Vernay held onto fourth place despite a determined challenge from the Honda of Roberto Colciago, while Pepe Oriola finished seventh, behind Ficza.
Reigning TCR champion Stefano Comini and Gianni Morbidelli made contact on a number of occasions, with the Swiss driver’s Comtoyou Racing Audi RS 3 LMS eventually finishing in ninth place, ahead of the Italian in a WestCoast Racing VW.
Davit Kajaia lost a valuable sixth place on the last lap as he coasted to a halt with a stream of oil trailing from the underside of the Alfa Romeo; the oil sump was cracked after he had jumped over a kerb.
Two points now cover the top three in the Drivers’ series; Vernay has 52 points with Borković on 51 and Colciago a further point adrift. Oriola and Kajaia – the two winners on the opening weekend in Georgia – are in fourth and fifth places with 45 and 39 points respectively.
The TCR International Series will resume for rounds 5 and 6 at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, on May 4 to 5, in the frame of the 6 Hours of Spa, second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Grid – Sunny and hot, but windy; all 16 cars take place, including Corthals’ Opel, after the DG Sport Compétition crew managed to replace the clutch in the ninety minutes before the start of the race
Start – Tassi makes the best start and leads from Borković going into Turn 1; Borković and Ficza then both pass Tassi
Lap 1 – Nash and Vernay pass Tassi for 3rd and 4th places; Nash passes Ficza for 2nd
Lap 2 – Ficza runs wide and allows Vernay, Valente, Tassi and Colciago to pass; Colciago passes Tassi for 5th place; Comini is fighting with Ficza for 8th place; Altoè stops on track with both front tyres punctured
Lap 3 – Valente passes Vernay for 3rd place; there are contacts between Tassi and Vernay and between Nash and Tassi
Lap 4 – Kajaia locks up under braking and makes contact with Tassi; Ficza passes Tassi for 6th place
Lap 5 – Comini passes Kajaia for 8th, but Oriola then passes Comini and Kajaia re-takes 8th
Lap 6 – Morbidelli and Comini make contact and Morbidelli passes Comini for 10th place
Lap 7 – There is contact between Oriola and Kajaia; Colciago is attacking Vernay for 4th
Lap 8 – Tassi runs wide and Kajaia passes for 7th place; Oriola then passes Tassi for 8th; Comini passes Morbidelli for 10th.
Lap 9 – Kajaia stops on track with oil trailing from the car; Borković takes the win from Nash and Valente.
Quotes from the Race 2 podium finishers
Dušan Borković (1st): “I am really, really, really happy with the performance; I must thank the engineers and mechanics at Romeo Ferraris and GE-Force for giving me such a good car. I had a lot of chances to win last year but made some stupid mistakes, particularly in the first races when I was usually in the top five. Today I took advantage of being on the front row and when I saw all the fights going on after the first few corners I knew I just had to control the race. The Honda cars always make a good start but I knew I had to be in front to avoid running in the slipstream of another car and so keeping the air temperature down – luckily I know how to attack! The Alfa is much harder on the tyres than the SEAT I drove last year because of the higher torque so there are some good points for us and some not so good. I’m just delighted to win in a beautiful place like Bahrain at a Formula One event.”
James Nash (2nd): “The start is always the most important part so I was quite aggressive right at the beginning and found myself in second with a whole queue behind me. I could see Hugo was behind Vernay and I’d much rather fight with Hugo than Jean-Karl! I couldn’t catch Dušan so it was all about making sure that my second place was secure. We were all making mistakes and it was all about who made the fewest. The temperatures were really high and the tyres were struggling; it was really easy to snatch a wheel and miss an apex. I started to make mistakes over the last few laps and Hugo was catching me, but thankfully he also made some errors and created a gap for me.”
Hugo Valente (3rd): “I’m very happy. The biggest part of the job was today because starting from P8 was always going to be more difficult than yesterday. This is my third podium finish in a row and I’ve only finished three races so I’m really happy with a double podium from this weekend for sure. I said it was really important to score a lot of points this weekend and so I’m over the moon with the performance. I thought I was going to catch James at the end but I had a lot of tyre degradation as well. I’m really happy for him as he had a really difficult weekend in Georgia so it’s good to share a first podium with him; I hope there will be a lot of others this season. It was a fun race with lots of overtaking and defending and Vernay was like my bodyguard – pushing everyone off in front and then keeping Colciago behind. I’m looking forward to Spa now, I know the track and it will be interesting to see how the car behaves there.”
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