A number of TCR Asia Series regulars joined forces once more with the TCR International Series to take on the famed Marina Bay circuit in Singapore, as part of the Singapore Grand Prix Formula One festivities.
In a weekend filled with plenty of drama, Volkswagen’s Jean-Karl Vernay and Honda’s Mikhail Grachev left the event with a race win apiece, whilst for TCR Asia’s Filipe de Souza, Neric Wei, Douglas Khoo and FRD’s Martin Cao they all gained valuable experience on one of the biggest TCR stages of them all and mixed it with some of the established international stars.
Race 2 - Grachev wins shortened race
Mikhail Grachev claimed a lights-to-flag victory - the fourth for him in the season so far - in a race that was shortened and finished under the Safety-Car.
The WestCoast Racing driver took the lead at the start and was able to create a small cushion between him and Dušan Borković who eventually finished second, with Borković denied the chance to try an overtaking manoeuvre by the Safety-Car interventions.
The battle behind them was white-hot, with a bunch of drivers fighting for position. The incidents that resulted from this battle eliminated or demoted some key players like Pepe Oriola (who was given a drive-through penalty and dropped out of the points), Attila Tassi, Kevin Gleason and Gianni Morbidelli.
James Nash, Stefano Comini and Jean-Karl Vernay were able to avoid the carnage and achieve some valuable points towards the title fight.
By virtue of finishing on the podium, Nash has re-taken the championship lead, two points ahead of Comini; Pepe Oriola has now to fill a gap of 16 points, while Vernay is 28 points behind the leader.
Petr Fulín managed to finish in the points as he crossed the line ninth in his Alfa Romeo ahead of the returning Gleason, and Jordi Oriola.
Martin Cao invited cheers of celebration for the new FRD built Ford Focus which completed every race lap over the weekend in amongst the Series regulars, the China Touring Car Championship front-runner claiming 12th in race two, just clear of Felipe de Souza who made up for the disappointment of his opening race DNF with a solid 13th place.
Pepe Oriola managed to claim 14th after his mid-race DNF, the Spanish title contender just clear of Viper Niza Racing’s Douglas Khoo in the menacing matte black Seat Leon, whilst Neric Wei - who was initially classified 17th after mid-race contact with Rafael Galiana - was excluded after a Parc Ferme infringement post-race.
The TCR International Series will resume in two weeks time at Sepang, in the frame of the F1 Malaysian Grand Prix, on September 30 and October 1.
Start - Grachev makes good use of pole position and takes the lead from Borković, Afanasyev, Tassi, Nash, Morbidelli and Pepe Oriola.
Lap 1 - Comini puts pressure on Pepe Oriola; Homola punts Gleason into a spin.
Lap 2 - Hezemans stops and retires with electronics issues; Fulín overtakes Cao for 12th place.
Lap 3 - the fight for positions heats up; there is a contact between Afanasyev and Tassi and the former spins and crashes into the wall; Comini tries to overtake Pepe Oriola who hits Morbidelli; Comini takes advantage and moves up to fourth; the Safety-Car is deployed.
Lap 6 - the race resumes; Grachev leads from Borković, Nash, Comini, Homola and Vernay; Tassi drops down from seventh, returns to the pits and retires with a steering problem.
Lap 7 - Pepe Oriola is given a drive-through for the contact with Morbidelli; Galiana and Wei make contact whilst fighting for 14th position; the Safety-Car is deployed for the second time.
Lap 9 - as the 30 minutes expire, the race finishes behind the Safety-Car one lap before the scheduled distance; Grachev wins from Borković, Nash, Comini, Homola and Vernay.
Race 1 - Vernay converts pole into victory
Jean-Karl Vernay remained undefeated after two days of track activities at Singapore’s Marina Bay Circuit. After posting the fastest laps in practice and this qualifying, the Frenchman converted his pole position into a brilliant victory during the night race.
Team-mate Stefano Comini crossed the line second and completed an excellent 1-2 finish for Leopard Racing, while Pepe Oriola successfully defended a crucial third position despite strong pressure from Mat’o Homola.
James Nash - who was leading the standings before the race - was classified fifth ahead of his Craft-Bamboo Racing team-mate Sergey Afanasyev.
The victory enabled Vernay to significantly reduce his deficit in the Drivers’ Championship standings, although he remains fourth, but now only 22 points behind Comini.
By finishing second, the Swiss driver - and reigning champion - has taken the leadership back of the championship ahead of Nash and Pepe Oriola who are one and two points behind him respectively.
Start - Vernay makes a good start and leads from Comini, Pepe Oriola and Nash.
Lap 1 - Morbidelli spins at Turn 1 and re-joins; Homola overtakes Nash for fourth.
Lap 3 - Fulín pits and retires from ninth; Afanasyev defends sixth place from Borković.
Lap 4 - Vernay pulls away; Comini is chased hard by Pepe Oriola and Homola.
Lap 5 - De Souza stops on the track.
Lap 6 - Gleason, Tassi and Morbidelli are in a tight battle for eighth.
Lap 7 - Khoo hits the tyre-wall, but is able to continue.
Lap 8 - Kajaia pits and retires; Grachev defends 11th place from Hezemans.
Lap 9 - Khoo stops on the track; Hezemans hits the tyre-wall head-on and retires.
Lap 10 - Vernay wins from Comini, Pepe Oriola, Homola and Nash.
Vernay claims maiden first pole position
Jean-Karl Vernay confirmed his form as the fastest TCR driver on Singapore’s Marina Bay Street Circuit after posting the best lap time in official practice, the Frenchman and his Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi topped qualifying with an impressive lap of 2:24.511 that improved last year’s pole position time by nearly two seconds.
This was Vernay’s first pole in the series, while Gianni Morbidelli’s Honda Civic (2:25.016) and Mat’o Homola’s SEAT León (2:05.019) qualified in second and third, split by only three one thousandths of a second.
The three title contenders - Stefano Comini (2:25.115), Pepe Oriola (2:25.436) and James Nash (2:25.899) - ranked fourth, fifth and seventh respectively, with Dušan Borković (2:25.629) in sixth position.
On his comeback to the championship, Kevin Gleason qualified in tenth and won pole position for the reverse grid for Race 2; Sergey Afanasyev completed the front row.
Petr Fulín’s set the 12th fastest lap in his Alfa Romeo Giulietta, just ahead of Jordi Oriola’s Opel Astra, while the brand new Ford Focus of Martin Cao was classified 17th, just behind TCR Asia Series podium place-getter Filipe de Souza and ahead of new TCR Asia Series recruit Neric Wei and Douglas Khoo.
Loris Hezemans could not clock any valid time as his SEAT stopped on the first lap out of the pits due to a broken driveshaft.
Race#1 (Rnd#17) - TCR International Series
10-laps (17 September, 2016)
1. 2. Jean-Karl Vernay (Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR)
2. 1. Stefano Comini (Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR)
3. 74. Pepe Oriola (Craft-Bamboo Racing Seat Leon TCR)
4. 70. Mat’o Homola (B3 Racing Team Hungary Seat Leon TCR)
5. 54. James Nash (Craft-Bamboo Racing Seat Leon TCR)
6. 77. Sergey Afanasyev (Craft-Bamboo Racing Seat Leon TCR)
7. 62. Dusan Borkovic (B3 Racing Team Hungary Seat Leon TCR)
8. 24. Kevin Gleason (WestCoast Racing Honda Civic TCR)
9. 9. Attila Tassi (B3 Racing Team Hungary Seat Leon TCR)
10. 10. Gianni Morbidelli (WestCoast Racing Honda Civic TCR)
11. 8. Mikhail Grachev (WestCoast Racing Honda Civic TCR)
12. 33. Jordi Oriola (Kissling Motorsport Opel Astra TCR)
13. 99. Martin Cao (FRD Racing Team Ford Focus TCR)
14. 35. Rafael Galiana (Target Competition Honda Civic TCR)
15. 64. Neric Wei (Son Veng Racing Team Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR)
16. 50. Loris Hezemans (Target Competition Seat Leon TCR)
17. 7. Davit Kajaia (Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR)
DNF. 65. Douglas Khoo (Viper Niza Racing Seat Leon TCR) - 6-laps
DNF. 22. Petr Fulin (Mulsanne Racing Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR) - 6-laps
DNF. 68. Filipe de Souza (Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR) - 5-laps
Race#2 (Rnd#18) - TCR International Series
9-laps (18 September, 2016)
1. 8. Mikhail Grachev (WestCoast Racing Honda Civic TCR)
2. 62. Dusan Borkovic (B3 Racing Team Hungary Seat Leon TCR)
3. 54. James Nash (Craft-Bamboo Racing Seat Leon TCR)
4. 1. Stefano Comini (Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR)
5. 70. Mat’o Homola (B3 Racing Team Hungary Seat Leon TCR)
6. 2. Jean-Karl Vernay (Leopard Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR)
7. 10. Gianni Morbidelli (WestCoast Racing Honda Civic TCR)
8. 7. Davit Kajaia (Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR)
9. 22. Petr Fulin (Mulsanne Racing Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR)
10. 24. Kevin Gleason (WestCoast Racing Honda Civic TCR)
11. 33. Jordi Oriola (Kissling Motorsport Opel Astra TCR)
12. 99. Martin Cao (FRD Racing Team Ford Focus TCR)
13. 68. Filipe de Souza (Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR)
14. 74. Pepe Oriola (Craft-Bamboo Racing Seat Leon TCR)
15. 65. Douglas Khoo (Viper Niza Racing Seat Leon TCR)
16. 35. Rafael Galiana (Target Competition Honda Civic TCR)
17. 9. Attila Tassi (B3 Racing Team Hungary Seat Leon TCR)
DNF. 77. Sergey Afanasyev (Craft-Bamboo Racing Seat Leon TCR) - 2-laps
DNF. 50. Loris Hezemans (Target Competition Seat Leon TCR) - 1-lap
DNF. 64. Neric Wei (Son Veng Racing Team Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR)