Generous display at the Rustavi International Motorpark from the French driver of the Leopard Racing Team WRT, on the podium in Race2 with his Golf GTI for Valente’s time penalty and now 4th in the standings. Kajaia and Oriola the race winners of the day.
Today's two races at the Rustavi International Motorpark officially opened the 2017 TCR International Series, third edition of a championship that has visited Georgia this weekend for the very first time. The 4.1 km race track is located on the right bank of the Mtkvari river, along the Tbilisi-Red Bridge highway, 20 km away from the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.
The weather took center stage at the beginning: just before Race-1 was due to start, the rain came to ruin everybody's plans and strategies. Former teammates Jean-Karl Vernay and Stefano Comini were already head-to-head at the second corner, with the Swiss driver overtaking the Frenchman of the Leopard Racing Team WRT who did a great job holding the line without ending up into a spin.
Local hero (and poleman) Kajaia and his Giulietta were flying at the front chased by Hungarian pair Ficza and Tassi, but in the final laps Comini was able to overtake the latter to claim the third step of the podium. Colciago then won the final duel with Tassi for the 4th place. Kajaia sealed the win to secure a memorable debut for Alfa Romeo while Vernay was able to contains Oriola's attacks in the last part of the race.
In Race2, the reversed grid placed Altoe on pole but it was the two Seat Leon of Oriola and Valente taking the lead with Vernay duelling with Tassi for 5th place. Following a crash involving Homola's Honda, the Safety Car entered the track on Lap 2 before returning to the pits on Lap 5, when Altoe went wide to let Leopard Racing's Golf GTI earn fourth place, a position that the talent of Jean-Karl Vernay held firmly with tenacity and perseverance.
Behind him, battle was raging between Colciago and Nash while Comini was forced to retire due to technical issues. The two Seat Leon bagged a 1-2 for Seat while the fierce Vernay fought until the last meter to snatch 3rd place from Tassi's Honda Civic but had to settle for 4th. Kajaia ended the day in 10th position.
After the chequered flag, Valente (2nd) and Colciago (6th) were penalised for overtaking under Yellow Flag: in application of the art 40 of the TCR Sporting Regulation, the Drive Through Penalty will be replaced by a Time Penalty of 30 seconds added to the elapsed time of the car in Race 2.
After the 2017 season opener in Georgia, the two race winners are on the top with Kajaia leading with 34 points, followed by Tassi with 32 and Oriola with 31. Jean-Karl Vernay is 4th overall, at 25 points. The second round of the TCR International Series will take place in two weeks in Bahrain, on the weekend of the 13-16 April 2017.
Jean-Karl Vernay, 6th – 3th:
“It's been a tough and long day with also some special conditions as Race-1 started on the wet but the track was drying a lot. However, I think it was good for us because we are always really quick on the wet. The race started badly as Stefano hit me really hard in the second corner, so the car was damaged and I lost a few positions. After that I wasn't able to go back to the front of the race, the car wasn't perfect anymore, so I thought the best thing to do was to score good points. So we ended up in P6 but we were frustrated as we are always really quick on the rain. I think we messed up a bit with the set-up and that's not good, so I am disappointed also because of Stefano's move at the start. Anyway, now it's done, but that was not very professional.”
“In Race-2 I started in P7, I had a decent start and got hit once again in the first corner, but I did not lose any position. Then I made my way up to P5 and ready to battle for P4 but I could fight with Tassi as Honda has so much torque on the straight. They were really flying, so it was just not possible for me to overtake. We finished the race in P4 but Valente, who finished second, was disqualified for overtaking under safety car and we finished third. This is a pretty good results, with a lot of points for the championship. 25 in total, which is much better than last year, when I left Bahrain with zero points. Overall it has been a good weekend and I am happy also for the great effort from the team: everybody did a fantastic job and I am really happy about that. We will see what will happen in Bahrain, we will stay focused on the job and I would like to thank our Leopard, Castrol, Anonimo and our sponsors.”
Rustavi International Motorpark – Race 1:
1 - D. Kajaia / GEO / GE-Force / Alfa Romeo Giulietta
2 - F. Ficza / HUN / Zele Racing / Seat Leon
3 - S. Comini / SWI / Comtoyou Racing / Audi RS3 LMS
4 - A. Tassi / HUN / M1RA / Honda Civic Type-R
5 - R. Colciago / ITA / M1RA / Honda Civic Type-R
6 - J.K. Vernay / FRA / Leopard Racing Team WRT / Volkswagen Golf GTI
7 - P. Oriola / SPA / Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing / Seat Leon
8 - G. Altoe / ITA / West Coast Racing / Volkswagen Golf GTI
9 - D. Borkovic / SER / GE-Force / Alfa Romeo Giulietta
10 - G. Morbidelli / ITA / West Coast Racing / Volkswagen Golf GTI
Rustavi International Motorpark – Race 2:
1 - P. Oriola / SPA / Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing / Seat Leon
2 - H. Valente / FRA / Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing / Seat Leon *
3 - A. Tassi / HUN / M1RA / Honda Civic Type-R
4 - J.K. Vernay / FRA / Leopard Racing Team WRT / Volkswagen Golf GTI
5 - D. Borkovic / SER / GE-Force / Alfa Romeo Giulietta
6 - R. Colciago / ITA / M1RA / Honda Civic Type-R *
7 - J. Nash / GBR / Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing / Seat Leon
8 - D. Kajaia / GEO / GE-Force / Alfa Romeo Giulietta
9 - G. Morbidelli / ITA / West Coast Racing / Volkswagen Golf GTI
10 – P.Y. Corthals / BEL / DG Sport Competition / Opel Astra
* 30 seconds Time Penalty for Overtaking under Yellow Flag
TCR International Series – 2017 Drivers Standings
1 - D. Kajaia / 38
2 - A. Tassi / 32
3 - Oriola / 31
4 - J.K. Vernay / 25
5 - F. Ficza / 21
6 - S. Comini / 15
7 – D. Borkovic / 14
8 - R. Colciago / 13
9 - J. Nash / 10
10 - G. Morbidelli / 7