Kevin Gleason is pleased to still be in touch with the TCR International Series leaders after taking a pair of points finishes away from what was a solid damage limitation exercise at Russia’s Sochi Autodrom (20-21 June).
The American was tasked with learning the unfamiliar 5.85km Sochi circuit and optimising the setup of his WestCoast Racing Honda Civic TCR during a very narrow window immediately after a marathon 23-hour commute from the United States.
Gleason had no time to recuperate from his journey before taking to the Russian track in the Sochi Winter Olympic Park and carrying the maximum 30kg of success ballast following a triumphant weekend in Austria, he never featured at the top end of the timing screens in free practice.
However, tenth in qualifying was well-received, not only because it translated into the reversed grid pole position for race two, but because Gleason’s pace was comparable with his more experienced Italian teammate, Gianni Morbidelli, who wasn’t as heavily laden with success ballast.
In the first race on Sunday (21 June), eighth position was achieved when Tomas Engström and Michel Nykjær came together at the final corner, Gleason crossing the finish line directly behind Morbidelli, having matched his fellow WestCoast Racing driver for pace.
Race two began with pole-sitter Gleason slipping down three places at the start, although the contest was characterised by protracted and edge-of-the-seat ding-dong battles involving many of the frontrunners, including Jordi Gene and Pepe Oriola.
Places changed hands with every passing lap and, having had his racecraft tested thoroughly while going wheel-to-wheel with many of his TCR title contenders, Gleason was more than satisfied to emerge from the fight in sixth position, to achieve WestCoast Racing’s best result of a difficult weekend.
Glad to come away from Sochi with strong points scores that keep him in touch with the championship leaders, Gleason said: “I had a slow start to the weekend on a track I had not seen or tested on and, having arrived late into Russia after a 23-hour journey, I was up against it from the start. Despite carrying maximum ballast, I got stronger and matched Gianni (Morbidelli) for times in race one. In the second race I think I showed I am getting stronger in race situations, particularly in defending my position. In the end we haven’t lost too much ground in the championship, as we scored points in both races where others didn’t.”