Race 2 – Belicchi takes maiden victory

The SEAT León cars took their revenge in a thrilling a very entertaining Race 2 today at Shanghai, with Andrea Belicchi conquering his maiden TCR win after an intense and beautiful fight with team mate Stefano Comini (signing a 1-2 for Target Competition) and yesterday’s winner Gianni Morbidelli, at the wheel of the WestCoast Racing Honda Civic.
With a brilliant start, Comini took an early lead ahead of Belicchi, before both being passed by Morbidelli charging from the back in lap 6, not without a slight contact between the Italian and the Swiss, which Belicchi used to take the lead. It looked as ‘Morbido’ was on his way to a second triumph but his engine switched off briefly two laps later leaving him in fourth. The Honda could pass Oriola and also Comini, but two corners from the end, the Swiss regained second with a great move.
It was a close and hardly-fought race at all levels of the ranking, with Oriola finishing fourth ahead of Nykjaer, Gleason and Engstler.
In the championship, Morbidelli is leading by a mere 2-point advantage on Comini, with Belicchi third 13 points from the top.

The TCR International Series will resume for Rounds 5 & 6 at Valencia, Spain, on May 3rd.

Key moments
Start – Belicchi takes a good start from pole, while Comini and Oriola jump ahead of Nykjær
Lap 1 – Münnich skids and drops to the back; Comini overtakes Belicchi and takes the lead
Lap 2 – Morbidelli climbs to fourth passing Engstler and Nykjær
Lap 3 – Grachev and Tóth make contact while fighting for seventh, Grachev stops onto the gravel trap; Oriola overtakes Belicchi for second; Engstler overtakes Nykjær for fifth
Lap 4 – Belicchi retakes second from Oriola; Oriola loses third to Morbidelli
Lap 5 – Morbidelli overtakes Belicchi for second; Engstler drives wide at the last turn
Lap 6 – Morbidelli hits the back of Comini’s car and takes the lead; Comini drops to third; Veglia and Gleason have a close fight for eighth
Lap 7 – Nykjær overtakes Engstler for fifth
Lap 8 – Morbidelli slows down and drops to fourth behind Belicchi, Comini and Oriola
Lap 9 – Münnich hits Afanasyev sending him sideways and making also contact with Tóth, while Veglia secures eighth
Lap 10 – the fight between Morbidelli and Comini provide the last thrills: Morbidelli overtakes Comini who retakes the position with a great manoeuvre on the last-but-one turn

Race 2 – Quotes from the podium finishers

Andrea Belicchi, winner: “I am very proud to win such a close race, where we had great fighting, always fair-play. It’s a lot of fun to be back to touring car racing. After almost twenty years of absence, it is clear that I still need to adjust and get used to front-wheel drive and a different racing style. It’s coming together, although I still need to improve starts and first laps. The TCR was a last-minute choice for me, but I really rejoice to have made it and I think we will have a great season. I am also very happy to be with a team such as Target competition, who does a wonderful job and has helped me a lot readapting to touring car machinery.”

Stefano Comini, second: “It hasn’t been an easy weekend for the SEAT cars, as we were clearly disadvantaged in the long straights, so it’s nice to end the weekend with a 1-2 win. In my case, I had also the extra-handicap of the 30-kg success ballast, which penalized me a lot in qualifying. But today’s race was a lot of fun, with a lot of fights, which is what I enjoy. The car was simply perfect.”

Gianni Morbidelli, third: “If yesterday was a perfect day, today proved that nothing is granted in motor racing. Shortly after taking the lead, by mid-race, my engine switched off for a brief moment, and I lost three positions. I was lucky to reconquer third and still keep the championship lead. I am sure fans enjoyed today’s show and that the race proves how exciting and closely-fought the season is going to be.”

Young fighter Lorenzo Veglia is “Man of the Race”

Liqui Moly Team Engstler “young gun” Lorenzo Veglia has been elected “Man of the Race” by the special jury awarding this honorific recognition.
Showing constant progress, the 17-year-old from Turin has put in an impressive Race 2, battling throughout the whole ten laps, in particular with Kevin Gleason and Sergey Afanasyev with whom he swapped positions many times, with immaculate fair-play.

Veglia was clearly satisfied with his weekend: “We are progressing a lot with the car set-up, as proven by the closing gaps in all sessions. In Race 1, I struggled with the with toe-in after a contact on the opening lap, but in Race 2 I was quite competitive and had fun fighting with all these guys from start to finish!”

Münnich is dropped by one position in Race 2

Today’s second TCR race at Shanghai was not as lucky as yesterday’s Race 1 for René Münnich.
After finishing a brilliant second behind his WestCoast Racing team-mate Gianni Morbidelli in the first race, today the German driver spoiled his chances when his Honda Civic got into a skid during the first lap.
This dropped him to the back of the field and, while trying to recover, Münnich was involved in a close fight with Sergey Afanasyev, Tengyi Jiang and Norbert Tóth.
Eventually, on the last-but-one lap, Münnich punted Afanasyev into a spin, which involved Tóth as well. The Stewards of the Meeting deemed Münnich guilty for the incident and imposed a 30-second time penalty that dropped him from 13th to 14th.