This year’s Austrian weekend of the TCR International Series will be mostly remembered for the crashes at Turn 9 that wrecked four cars and, in the case of Jean-Karl Vernay’s incident, shook up the standings. In fact, the French driver lost the series’ lead and dropped to third behind both the new leader Stefano Comini and Roberto Colciago.
Even worse, the Leopard Racing team has the arduous task of rebuilding two cars (Vernay’s and Rob Huff’s) in the few days before Friday’s free practice at the Hungaroring.
The good news is that these high-speed crashes proved how safe the TCR cars are, as all four drivers escaped unhurt apart for a bruise to Huff’s left elbow.
Dušan Borković claimed an authoritative win in Race 1, as did Roberto Colciago in Race 2. Mat’o Homola celebrated his and Opel’s first podium in the International Series (second in Race 1).
The other podium finishers were also happy: Attila Tassi (second in Race 2) could not have hoped for such a result after his destructive incident on Friday, but he was rescued by the combined efforts of M1RA and JAS that ‘materialized’ a second car for him; Comini put in his usual show, a mix of attack and defence that was worth two third places and the leadership in the points.
Another driver who had reasons to rejoice was Jens Reno Møller, who scored in both races, fighting on equal terms against far more experienced competitors.
The series will resume next week at Budapest’s Hungaroring for rounds 11 and 12.
Results remain provisional pending an appeal.
The Lukoil Craft-Bamboo team lodged a protest against four cars (the Alfa Romeos of Kajaia and Borković and the Opels of Homola and Jäger), requesting technical checks of their turbochargers.
Following the report of the Technical Delegate, the Stewards of the Meeting rejected the protest, but Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Team has decided to appeal.
Race 1 – Borković wins, as Leopard duo crash out
Dušan Borković took a light-to-flag victory – the second for him and the third for GE-Force and the Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR – in a race that turned to drama for Leopard Racing, as both Rob Huff and Jean-Karl Vernay crashed at high speed at the infamous Turn 9. Luckily both drivers escaped shocked, but unhurt.
The result was decided by the two perfect sprints that Borković performed at the start and the re-start after the first safety-car period. In both cases the Serbian was able to keep at bay the pole-sitter Mat’o Homola and his Opel Astra.
As Homola was forced to concentrate on defending his second position, first from Pepe Oriola and in the final stages from Stefano Comini, Borković created a small gap for the lead.
Behind him, Homola eventually managed to retain second place, while Comini moved up to third in his Audi RS3 LMS overtaking the SEAT cars of Oriola and James Nash. Just before the second safety car intervention, local driver Thomas Jäger managed to overtake Oriola and Nash as well to grab a brilliant fourth.
Jens Reno Møller completed a spotless race, finishing as the best of the Honda drivers in an impressive eighth position.
With Vernay off (and sidelined for the rest of the event) and Roberto Colciago scoreless following a collision with Daniel Lloyd, Comini took advantage of the situation, moving to second in the standings, only three points behind Vernay.
Grid – Tassi and Huff are both demoted (from 4th and 7th) to the back of the grid due to engine changes; Colciago was also dropped (from 10th to 13th) because of a penalty received in Monza
Start – Borković has better reflexes than Homola and takes the lead ahead of the pole sitter, Oriola, Nash and Jäger
Lap 1 – Møller and Colciago overtake Lloyd and Morbidelli for 8th and 9th
Lap 2 – Oriola and Nash are chasing Homola
Lap 3 – Comini overtakes Jäger for 5th
Lap 4 – Huff (17th) and Vernay (15th) try to recover
Lap 5 – Homola defends his second place from Oriola, Nash and Comini
Lap 6 – Vernay overtakes Morbidelli for 13th; Kajaia overtakes Jäger for 6th
Lap 7 – Paulsen retires after a clash with Morbidelli
Lap 8 – Comini overtakes Nash for 4th; Colciago and Lloyd make contact
Lap 9 – Comini pips Oriola for third; Vesnić and Ende make contact at the first chicane, the former remain stranded in the gravel, the latter loses a front wheel; Huff crashes at high speed at Turn 9, the safety car is deployed
Lap 12 – The race resumes; the leading quartet of Borković, Homola, Comini and Oriola is covered by only one second; Jäger overtakes Nash for 4th
13 – Jäger overtakes Oriola for third
14 – Vernay crashes just a few hundred metres before the spot of Huff’s incident; the safety car is deployed again
15 – The race is red-flagged, Borković wins from Homola, Comini and Jäger
Race 2 – Colciago and Tassi make 1-2 for M1RA
Roberto Colciago and Attila Tassi finished first and second, ending in glory a weekend that had started in the worst way for M1RA and Honda after Tassi’s crash in Friday’s free practice.
While Colciago dashed from pole position and escaped on the way to his third victory of the season, Tassi made a great start as well, jumping to fourth; then he was able to overtake James Nash and Gianni Morbidelli to grab the second position that he defended until the end despite pressure from Stefano Comini.
The winner of Race 1 Dušan Borković ended up in the gravel – maybe due to a broken driveshaft – and so did Pepe Oriola, while a few other drivers (Kajaia, Demoustier, Bettera) had flat tyres because of debris on the track.
Thomas Jäger encored his fourth place and Jens Reno Møller scored again; Gianni Morbidelli was classified fifth, the best result for him and WestCoast Racing so far.
Grid – Both the Leopard Racing Volkswagen cars of Vernay and Huff are missing after their shunts in Race 1; Paulsen starts from the pit lane, Vesnić doesn’t start as a rear wheel was locked after his Race 1 incident
Start – Colciago sprints from the pole, Morbidelli struggles to keep second place
Lap 1 – Tassi overtakes Nash for third
Lap 2 – Tassi and Morbidelli make contact and swap positions a couple of times; Paulsen pits and rejoins
Lap 3 – Tassi overtakes Morbidelli for second
Lap 4 – Morbidelli drops to fifth behind Comini and Oriola
Lap 5 – Kajaia and Jäger make contact while fighting for 8th position; the both overtake Homola for 7th and 8th
Lap 6 – Borković goes off into the gravel trap a Turn 9; Paulsen pits again
Lap 9 – Tassi’s second place is under attacks from Comini and Oriola; Morbidelli, Nash and Jäger fight for 5th position; Bettera and Ende pit with flat tyres, only the Italian rejoins
Lap 10 – Jäger overtakes Nash for 6th
Lap 11 – Jäger overtakes Morbidelli for 5th; Oriola spins off into the grave trap at T9, the safety car is deployed; Demoustier pits with a flat tyre
Lap 12 – Vervisch pits with oil pressure problems
Lap 15 – The race resumes; Kajaia pits and rejoins; Homola takes the — at the first chicane and drops to 10th
Lap 17 – Colciago wins from Tassi; Comini retains second place despite the pressure from Jäger
Stefano Comini (3rd in both races): “This was not a bad weekend for me at all. It’s like a game of roulette here in Salzburgring, because every session it’s different. You need to have big respect for Turn 9 because a lot of drivers crashed there. It’s amazing what TCR has done with the cars because they were scary crashes but here is ‘Attilino’ finishing second after a big crash. It’s good to know that we are working with safe cars. I don’t actually remember much about the races, only that some overtaking moves were good and that I had a puncture! If you want to overtake here, you have to take risks so you can defend quite easily. After only two and a half months, we are leading the championship with a new team, a new car and a last-minute project.”
Press release TCR