TCR 2015: Austria: The Sequel

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TCR International Series returns to Austria

The TCR International Series returns to Austria six weeks after racing at Salzburgring where the eighth race meeting of the season will take place this upcoming weekend at Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring. This is the first time the championship shares the event with the European Le Mans Series and the Formula Renault 3.5. Together the three categories will provide over 13 hours of track action, treating Austrian fans to a motorsport festival with the best of European endurance, single-seaters and touring car racing.

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The circuit was completely re-built twice since it was inaugurated in 1969 with the name Osterreichring. It hosted the Austrian Formula 1 Grand Prix from 1970 to 1987 and then again from 1997 to 2003 after it was re-designed and renamed A1-Ring. Its latest rebuilding dates back to 2011, after it was acquired by Red Bull following a few years of inactivity, which made possible to revive the Austrian F1 GP from 2014.

Target enters fourth car for Michela Cerruti 

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The Target Competition team entered a fourth SEAT León car in the TCR International Series event at Red Bull Ring. Cerruti joins regulars TCR competitors Andrea Belicchi and Stefano Comini (who’s leading the Drivers’ Championship) and newcomer Gabriele Marotta. 

Born in Rome, Michela Cerruti is the second lady driver to compete in the TCR International Series, after Lucille Cypriano from France who took part in the third race meeting of the season at Valencia. Cerruti’s racing career began only in 2008, but she has gained experience in a lot of different racing series since, proving she can be competitive with her male competitors on equal grounds.
 
Among her most outstanding results are race victories in the Auto GP, the Superstars International Series, the German VLN Endurance Series and the Italian GT championship. During the current season she took part in four events of the FIA Formula E Championship and in the Nurburgring 24 Hours in which she finished 6th in the SP9 GT3 class at the wheel of a BMW Z4. 
 

Daniel Nagy to race for Zengo Motorsport

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The Zengo Motorsport team keeps on raising Hungary’s young motorsport talents. After giving spells of international racing to Ferenc Ficza (19 years old), Norberth Tóth (17) and Dávid Zsolt Szabó (19) in the previous TCR events, the Hungarian team will bring another 17-year old to the Red Bull Ring: Dániel Nagy. Nagy belongs to a very sporting family: his elder brother Viktor is the goalkeeper of Hungary’s national water-polo team, while his father Tibor and his mother Brigitta are both racing drivers and often share the car in endurance competitions.

It’s not a surprise that Dániel moved his first steps in motor sports at the age of 14, taking part in the Hungarian RCM Suzuki Swift Cup. A category that sacred him champion in 2013 on his second racing season when Nagy also won one race at the Red Bull Ring. 
Dániel Nagy is currently lying second in this year’s RCM Cup.  

One single point equates to 10 kilograms of ballast

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Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s teammates Jordi Gené and Pepe Oriola were the best scorers two weeks ago, during the latest event of the TCR International Series at Sochi Autodrom. 
Gené pocketed a total of 40 points, claiming pole position (5 pts), one victory (25) and a fifth place (10), while Oriola – who qualified third (3 pts) and finished second in both races (18 + 18) – scored only one point less: 39. 
That single point will result in a difference of ten kilos of Success Ballast for the next race meeting at the Red Bull Ring. Gené’s SEAT León will be laden with the maximum ballast of 30 kgs, while Oriola will receive 20 extra kilos. 
T he 10 kilos of Success Ballast for the third best scorer will be allocated to the current championship leader, Stefano Comini, who collected 37 points at Sochi. 

Morbidelli and Gleason make 1-2 for WestCoast

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Gianni Morbidelli and Kevin Gleason emerged as the fastest drivers in today’s Qualifying session at the Red Bull Ring. The Italian was the only competitor able to break the 1:40 mark; his pole position time of 1:39.798 inflicted a six-tenth gap to his own WestCoast Racing teammate, Gleason. This was Morbidelli’s third pole in the current season so far.

The 17-year old Hungarian Dániel Nagy created the biggest surprise of the day. On his first appearance in an international event, Nagy qualified his Zengö Motorsport SEAT León in third position just behind the two Honda Civic cars. Nagy even managed to top the SEAT patrol, beating a bunch of more experienced drivers. 
Stefano Comini – the current championship leader – claimed fourth position, ahead of Sergey Afanasyev and Pepe Oriola. 

After making wonders in this morning’s Free Practice sessions, the two Volkswagen Golf cars were not as impressive in Qualifying. Pol Rosell and Mikhail Grachev posted the tenth and ninth fastest laps respectively, meaning that they will share the front row on the top-ten reverse grid for tomorrow’s Race 2. Igor Skuz qualified 11th, however he will be demoted to 16th on the grid for Race 1 as a consequence of a penalty he received for causing an incident with Bas Schouten during the second race at the Salzburgring.

Q1: Comini fastest from Belicchi and Morbidelli

Target Competition teammates Stefano Comini and Andrea Belicchi posted the fastest time in the first part of the Qualifying, Comini set a provisional fastest lap of 1:41.226 that Belicchi improved to 1:41.064. Eventually Comini responded with a lap of 1:40.798 that was not to be beaten. 

Gianni Morbidelli placed his Honda Civic in third position, only 14 thousandths of a second off Belicchi’s time. Milkhail Grachev continued to impress at the wheel of the new Volkswagen Golf, setting the fourth fastest time of 1:41.202. Diego Romanini was only able to complete a bunch of laps before his Proteam Racing Ford Focus stopped along the track due to a technical failure. 

The following drivers advanced to Q2: Comini, Belicchi, Morbidelli, Grachev, Gené, Rosell, Gleason, Afanasyev, Oriola, Skuz, Veglia and Nagy.

Q2: Morbidelli on pole, Nagy claims third place 

Belicchi (1:41.619) and Oriola (1:40.796) set the early pace, but soon Morbidelli annihilated the field with two tremendous laps of 1:40.210 and 1:39.798. In the dying moments of the session Gleason (1:40.335) secured the full front row on the grid for tomorrow’s Race 1 to WestCoast Racing, while Hungarian youngster Dániel Nagy qualified in an impressive third position. 

The two Volkswagen Golf cars of Pol Rosell and Mikhail Grachev qualified in tenth and ninth respectively, and won the front row on the grid for Race 2. 

What the drivers had to say

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Gianni Morbidelli, pole position: “It was an unexpected pole and I am very happy, because I really love this track and its facilities. I was really impressed by the three quick laps I did, it shows we came a long way since this morning’s first free practice. We changed a lot of things in the set-up and made some final adjustments between Q1 and Q2. The track conditions have been changing constantly during the day, given also the rising temperatures and the different tyre compounds left by the other series. We’ll see how things will go tomorrow. The start will be key and I hope we can improve from recent races. My objective is clear: to retrieve the championship leadership, so I’m happy to have already taken the five points of the pole.”  

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Kevin Gleason, second fastest: “I think I still had a little bit in my car, but there was no way for me to match Gianni’s time. Still, I am very happy because the team did a great job improving the set-up throughout the day and I did well also in learning the circuit, which is quite technical. I drove here on new tyres for the first time in Q1, so the results is really not bad!”  

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Dániel Nagy, third fastest: “I cannot believe I am in the top three for my first international outing, in such a competitive series as the TCR. I did know the track for having raced here a couple of years ago in the Suzuki Cup, it’s a pretty fast and straightforward track which I like, but I never had driven the SEAT León before this morning. So, I feel really happy to be in the top three and thank Zengő Motorsport for giving me this wonderful opportunity.”

Changing track conditions caused a surprise 

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It was a day of surprises for many at the Red Bull Ring, as temperature rose significantly throughout the day while grip conditions kept changing after different series left rubber of different compound on the tarmac. 
This explains why performances of some contenders changed drastically between Free Practice 2 and Qualifying. 

While some, like the Honda Civic cars of Gianni Morbidelli and Kevin Gleason experienced a dramatic improvement, securing the first row on the grid for Race 1, others that had shone in Practice, like Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s new Volkswagen Golf TCR cars, suddenly found themselves in a completely different situation. “We need to analyze carefully the data, because the performance was simply not the same” , admitted Mikhail Grachev. His teammate Pol Rosell echoed: “All of a sudden, we had terrible oversteer and the car became very difficult to drive.”

Michela Cerruti, who is making her TCR debut this weekend, also felt the same: “It seemed a completely different track, which made my life even more difficult, as I was discovering the car”. The Italian lady driver, who can claim the title of “Ringmeisterin” since her win last weekend in a VLN round at Nürburgring’s Nordschleife, acknowledged: “It’s since 2009 that I don’t race on a front-wheel drive car and it was tough at the beginning this morning, especially in such a competitive series as this, but by the end of FP2, I felt much more comfortable. Then, in Q1, I found conditions had changed completely. On top, I also did a mistake following my teammate Comini. It will be better tomorrow in the races, as it is often the case for me.”

Volkswagen Golf wins on debut, as Oriola is the new leader

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It was an exciting and historic weekend at the Red Bull Ring for the TCR International Series, as the much-awaited debut of the new Volkswagen Golf TCR not only materialized, but ended in glory, as Pol Rosell took a superb win in Race 2.  The 23-year-old Spaniard, who participated in the development programme of the Golf, made perfect use of the pole position on the reversed grid to keep everybody at bay, resisting in the final laps to the attacks of Pepe Oriola and Jordi Gené, the three signing an all-Spanish (and Catalan) podium.

Vokswagen becomes the fourth different brand to win a race on the maiden season of the series, joining SEAT, Honda and Audi. Oriola, third in Race 1, was the great winner of the weekend with respect to the title bid. He left Austria as the new leader of the standings, two points ahead of Stefano Comini and 24 of Gené; Morbidelli, Belicchi and Gleason are not much further away, a situation that anticipates a thrilling final stretch of the season in Asia.

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Target Competition signed a one-two in the first race, with Stefano Comini winning ahead of Andrea Belicchi, after the stewards imposed a post-race penalty to Gianni Morbidelli. The WestCoast Racing driver was sanctioned for the many contacts that marked the race and confirmed the heated permanent duel with Comini. With a braking failure putting an end to his Race 2, Morbidelli’s weekend ended bitterly.

The fight for the Teams’ title is also expected to be very intense, with Craft-Bamboo Lukoil having reduced the gap from Target Competition to 14 points. 
The TCR International Series will be back after the summer break, in Singapore (September 19 and 20) for rounds 17 and 18; this will be the third of the 2015 events held within F1 Grand-Prix weekends. 
 
RACE ONE: Comini inherits win after Morbidelli’s penalty

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TCR drivers delivered an exciting first race at the Red Bull Ring. Gianni Morbidelli defeated Stefano Comini, his main rival in the championship fight at the end of a tough battle, but was later demoted by a penalty. 
Comini led for most of the race but could not keep Morbidelli at bay in the final laps. 

The fight on the track was followed by a hot exchange of accuses between the two rivals and eventually Morbidelli was stripped of his victory by a 30-second time penalty that demoted him out of the point-scoring positions.

The Stewards of the Meeting deemed that the Italian driver had behaved unsportingly, hitting several times the cars of Comini, Belicchi and Oriola. 
Close behind the two duellists, Andrea Belicchi and Pepe Oriola had their own fight for third; Belicchi crossed the finishing line ahead by inches. The first four drivers classified were covered by only 1.2 seconds.

RACE ONE KEY MOMENTS:
  
Grid: Skuz (grid penalty) and Romanini (technical issue in qualifying) line up at the back.

Start: Gleason takes the best start, Morbidelli is slow to leave the pole and is passed by Comini.
  
Lap 1: Comini and Morbidelli overtake Gleason; Nagy and Grachev make contact and the Hungarian crashes into the wall at the last corner.

Lap 2: Oriola overtakes Gleason for third; Belicchi overtakes Afanasyev for fifth.
 
Lap 3: Morbidelli chases Comini.
 
Lap 4: Morbidelli ‘kisses’ Comini’s rear bumper, Oriola uses the contact to overtake Morbidelli.

Lap 5: Gené overtakes Afanasyev for sixth as the top seven become very close.
 
Lap 6: Morbidelli retakes second from Oriola whilst Belicchi overtakes Oriola for third.

Lap 7: Afanasyev and Gené nove up to fifth and sixth overtaking Gleason.
 
Lap 8: Romanini spins off at Turn 5.
  
Lap 9: Morbidelli and Comini swap places twice.
 
Lap 10: Belicchi overtakes Morbidelli for second and Morbidelli retakes second from Belicchi.

Lap 11: Morbidelli, Belicchi and Oriola fight for second.

Lap 12: Morbidelli is on Comini’s heels once again as Ananasyev loses two placed to Gené and Gleason.
  
Lap 13: Comini and Morbidelli run door-to-door and make contact, later Comini runs wide at the last turn and Morbidelli takes the lead.

Lap 14: Morbidelli wins from Comini whilst Belicchi beats Oriola by inches for third.

Race 2 – Rosell scores maiden win for Volkswagen

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The debuting Volkswagen Golf TCR took its maiden win in the TCR International Series in only its second race, as Pol Rosell managed to keep the pole advantage from lights to flag with a perfect and faultless performance. 
The Liqui Moly Team Engstler-run car preceded the two Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil SEAT cars of Pepe Oriola and Jordi Gené who put big pressure throughout the race on Rosell, but unsuccessfully. With three of their representatives on the podium, it was also a triumphant day for Catalan ( and Spanish) motor racing.

The best Target Competition SEAT cars and WestCoast Racing Honda cars had a more difficult afternoon. Comini salvaged a ninth after his car got damaged in various incidents, while Belicchi had to stop with mechanical problems. In the Civic camp, Morbidelli fell victim of a mistake that sent him into the gravel, while Kevin Gleason finished the race, in P5. 
Mikhail Grachev took 6th, ahead of Lorenzo Veglia and Michela Cerruti, who both made a good race. The final point was for Gabriele Marotta.

RACE TWO KEY MOMENTS

Grid: Nagy does not start, as his SEAT was not repairable after the accident in Race 1.

Start: Rosell makes an excellent start from the pole, while Grachev gets passed by Gené.

Lap 1: Morbidelli, after a poor start, passes Veglia for 9th.

Lap 2: Rosell leads from Gené and Grachev while there is battle for fourth between Belicchi and Comini.
 
Lap 4: Grachev is under attack from Oriola, while Morbidelli passes Afanasyev, Gleason drops to 9th and Skuz makes an off-track, returning to the pits with front left wheel damage.

Lap 5: Grachev goes wide in Turn 5 and is passed by Oriola and Comini.

Lap 6: Morbidelli attacks Belicchi, but goes sideways in Turn 3 and spins onto the gravel after hitting Comini who drops to 10th.
 
Lap 7: Rosell is still leading ahead of Gené.

Lap 8: The Ford of Romanini stops along the track, while Cerruti passes Comini.
 
Lap 9: Oriola is putting the pressure on Gené.

Lap 10: Belicchi seems to have some issues as he slows down and pits.

Lap 11: Gené makes an attempt to overtake Rosell; the latter defends the leadership and Oriola takes the advantage and overtakes Gené.
 
Lap 12: Comini drives off track and continues despite a flat rear tyre.
 
Lap 13: Rosell tries to keep at bay a threatening Oriola, whilst Afanasyev and Grachev fight for fourth. Later Gleason overtakes Grachev for fifth.

Lap 14: Rosell resists and wins from Oriola and Gené.

What the race winners had to say

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Stefano Comini, winner of Race 1: “The Honda was very fast and consistent here, I tried to be tactical, but it was difficult to stay in front. On top of that, Morbidelli hit me in the back at the beginning of the race and a few more times, which significantly affected my car’s performance in the closing laps. In my view the penalty he was handed was more than justified.”

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Pol Rosell, winner of Race 2: “It’s fantastic! To come here, the first race of the Golf and my first in TCR, and to win, it’s just great! It has been a tough weekend, it was difficult to find the right balance and I had to adapt to Michelin tyres, which were new to me, but eventually everything went well. I took a perfect start and was able to build some breathing space, I wouldn’t call that a real gap, but in the last five laps, I was struggling with the tyres and oversteer and it was hard to resist to Jordi and Pepe. I was involved in the testing programme of the new Golf, so it’s a special feeling to achieve this result. It is a very good car, easy to drive, and I think we will see it often on the podium. Of course, it shares many components with the SEAT Leon, but the bodywork is different, and that leads to some differences also in the behavior and driving style required.”  

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Pepe Oriola, new championship leader: “I never raced here before, so it’s nice to be on the podium twice and finish the weekend achieving the goal I had set for myself: to take the lead in the championship. I spent many hours on the simulator to learn the track and took advice from my brother Jordi, who raced here last week, but still, reality is always different. Race 2 was tough, because first I had to pass Belicchi and then hope for a mistake from Grachev. Then I could catch up Jordi and pass him when he went a bit wide in Turn 2, but I couldn’t do the same with Rosell, although he also went wide a couple of times, although not enough to attempt a clear overtaking. Also, I didn’t want to take any risk and preferred to go for the points, considering also the misfortunes of some of my rivals, like Comini and Morbidelli.” 

As the championship takes a break now until the Singapore Grand Prix weekend over 19-20 September, Pepe Oriola now takes the lead of the Drivers Championship ahead of Comini and Gene with Morbidelli in fourth place.

In the Teams Championship, Team Target Competion leads Lukoil Craft Bamboo Racing by 14 points with WestCoast Racing in third.

All the best!!

Phil!

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