Roberto Colciago performed like Julius Caesar and completed a ‘veni, vidi, vici’ debut in the TCR International Series, claiming pole position and a race victory on the same day; a feat that no one has been able to achieve on their maiden appearance.
The race provided plenty of emotion, beginning with the fight for the lead between Colciago and Stefano Comini. They swapped positions, clashed and ran side-by-side, treating the spectators to some great entertainment.
Second place enabled Comini to retake the championship lead, albeit only one point ahead of James Nash. The young Englishman drove a sensible race, steering out of trouble but managing to recover from qualifying eighth to record an important third place finish ahead of his teammate and rival Pepe Oriola.
There were close fights in the TCR Asia series as well, with Kevin Tse claiming his first victory of the season, both for him and TeamWork Motorsport. Tse managed to beat Liqui Moly Team Engstler team-mates Andy Yan and Filipe de Souza, who finished second and third; Yan retaining a comfortable margin in the standings.
Grid - Gianni Morbidelli’s car is pushed into the pit lane with a steering failure; Galiana does not even join the grid, his car plagued by the same engine issues as in Practice and Qualifying
Start - Colciago makes a good start, but Grachev does better and overtakes him on the outside before Turn 1
Lap 1 - Colciago passes Grachev for the lead; the Russian also loses second place to Comini; there is commotion at the back of the field at Turn 4, when Yan cuts on the inside and causes a five-car collision, as a result Kajaia’s Volkswagen stops on the track
Lap 2 - the Safety Car is deployed; Pastorelli pits to fix a problem with an exhaust manifold
Lap 4 - the race resumes, Colciago leads from Comini, Grachev, Homola, Oriola, Nash, Vernay, Borković, Tassi and Afanasyev; Homola and Oriola make contact, Nash overtakes both and moves up to fourth; Comini overtakes Colciago at Turn 15
Lap 5 -Colciago and Comini run side-by-side; Colciago re-takes the lead; Sritrai pits with a loose turbo pipe
Lap 6 -Grachev is under pressure from Nash, they make contact and Grachev slows down and retires; Nash moves to third, pursued by Vernay, Oriola, Borković and Tassi
Lap 7 -Oriola overtakes Vernay for fourth at Turn 1
Lap 8 - Kevin Tse runs in 12th place, leading the TCR Asia field with a two-second advantage on Yan
Lap 9 -Oriola tries to find a gap and pass Nash; Ferraris pits in the Alfa Romeo with brake problems
Lap 11 -Comini tries to overtake Colciago at the last turn, they clash, but Colciago resists and wins by one tenth of a second; Nash finishes third ahead of Oriola, Vernay, Borković, Tassi, Gleason, Afanasyev and Homola; Tse beats Yan and De Souza in the TCR Asia Series race
Quotes from the podium finishers in Race 1
Roberto Colciago (winner): “I am really happy for everyone at Target Competition, for Giancarlo Bruno my engineer and the mechanics who gave me such a good car. I have to say it was a really great battle with Comini, so thanks to him for fighting so fairly. I know him well, so I know how much the win would have meant to him. It was the first time I made a start with the five lights system, so I was on the throttle too much and I touched Grachev just after the start. The thing is, I am a little bit old these days and so I have to fight at the start of the race, not the end!”
Stefano Comini (second): “I loved the fight with Roberto – he is an old-style driver inside and out, while I am just an old-style driver inside! I wanted to create a gap to the guys behind because I wanted to score as many points as possible ahead of the Macau races. Roberto left me a big space to pass, but I went wide at the next corner and he overtook me again as I didn’t want to risk making contact with him. I know his driving style from YouTube and I have a lot of respect for him, so I’m really delighted to have had such a good fight with him.”
James Nash (third): “I had a few problems with my brakes during the race and so it was tough going. If I’m honest, I didn’t think going from eighth to third was possible as I had a lot of good guys around me, so I had to make a few brave moves. Oriola had a few contacts during the race, which made life easier for me. We had a discussion in Qualifying about whether I should go out again or to stay where I was and the strategy worked well.”
Kevin Tse (winner of TCR Asia): “This was a fantastic result for me and for the team, so thanks to them. Luckily, I just avoided an accident in front of me, then the Safety Car came out and we were all grouped together but I managed to hold on to win. I know Andy (Yan) was concentrating on the title, so nothing will be decided until the final round in Macau.”
Qualifying - Surprise pole position for Roberto Colciago
Freshly-crowned TCR Italy champion Roberto Colciago claimed a surprise pole position at the end of a breathtaking and closely-fought Qualifying session at Sepang.
At the wheel of his Honda Civic, run by Target Competition, Colciago consistently moved up the time-sheet and eventually posted an impressive lap of 2:15.021 in the dying moments of the session.
This demoted Pepe Oriola to second after the young Spaniard had led throughout the entire session, improving the provisional fastest lap twice: 2:15.799 and 2:15.086.
Actually, in the first half of the 30-minute Qualifying session, the top five drivers were extremely close: Oriola, James Nash, Kevin Gleason, Gianni Morbidelli and Mat’o Homola were all covered by less than two tenths.
Then Oriola’s second provisional fastest lap opened a deep gap between him and his pursuers. A gap that was filled little by little as far as the other drivers improved in turn.
Jean-Karl Vernay climbed to a provisional second position (2:15.296), ahead of his teammate Stefano Comini (2:15.311), Morbidelli (2:15.476), Nash (2:15.646), Colciago (2:16.675) and Homola (2:15.923).
Eventually, as the session was drawing to a close, Colciago hit the target and won pole, beating Oriola by 0.048 seconds; Mikhail Grachev jumped into third with a last lap of 2:15.155 and Homola moved up to fifth (2:15.310) behind Vernay.
The twelve fastest drivers were all covered by the same second.
Team Thailand’s Tin Sritrai qualified in a brilliant tenth position, well ahead of the other TCR Asia Series drivers and winning pole position on the reverse grid for Race 2 in the process.
Rafaël Galiana was the only driver who missed the qualification maxima as he could not post a decent lap time due to lack of engine power.