Klim Gavrilov made the perfect start to Team Russia’s Touring Car Cup assault by claiming a comfortable victory and maximum 25 points in Race 1 earlier today.
The regulation lights-to-flag win by five seconds from Mato Homola (Slovakia) was in stark contrast to the battle raging behind where Gilles Magnus’ bold moves helped the Belgian rise from sixth to third.
One of those came at the expense of Rory Butcher whose poor getaway from third dropped the UK’s entry out of contention almost immediately. Instead, and following an early Safety Car period to remove Norway’s stricken Alfa Romeo, it was France’s John Filippi who held the final podium spot ahead of Tom Coronel.
The French and Dutch entries initially ran nose-to-tail before Magnus joined the party by sneaking his Audi down the inside. It wasn’t quite enough to dislodge Coronel at first but when the Belgian attempted to switch back underneath the Honda contact was inevitably made, which sent the Civic sliding wide.
Not that it concerned Magnus who then set his sights on passing Filippi. He was on the Cupra’s tail in no time and shot past at the fast Curva Grande sweeper with just under six minutes remaining.
Filippi spent the final moments fending off Dusan Kouril Jr (Czech Republic) who picked up two places en route to fifth. Faine Kahia (New Zealand) and Jessica Backman (Sweden) also made progress from 11th and 12th to finish ahead of Coronel, who somehow crabbed his way to eighth after the earlier clash with Magnus.
Italy’s Enrico Bettera finished ninth while Jim Ka To battled through from 19th to claim the final point for Hong Kong.
Elsewhere, Luca Engstler’s chances of winning a medal now appear to be over after an engine change prevented the German from taking up his pole position. And with the new unit still not installed before the race began, there was no chance to score even a handful of points.
But there was no denying Gavrilov who has another excellent chance of scoring big points tomorrow when he lines up second behind Magnus.
Indeed, the 30-minute race is worth 30 points to the winner, while points are scored all the way down to 15th.