Hong Kong’s Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil dominated the first race and the entire podium in a stellar display of driving that saw the team storm home with a one-two-three victory at the TCR International series race of Valencia. Home hero Pepe Oriola claimed a solid first after running away with the lead, teammate Sergey Afanasyev was close behind, followed by local legend Jordi Géne who closed out the podium, making it a Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil whitewash for race one. Unfortunately, race two would not be so easy with Jordi Géne being taken out before the first corner and drive through penalties preventing any chances of podium results for Oriola and Afanasyev.
Spaniard Pepe Oriola confidently secured pole position in his home race in Valencia after setting the fastest time in Q2 on the very first lap with a 1:42:045. Oriola was over a tenth quicker than the next car and would set a time that others would be chasing for the entire second session. While Sergey Afanaysev was quickest in Q1 he secured 5th overall at the end of Q2. Jordi Géne was only just behind in P6 with a slight mistake preventing him from realizing the car’s full potential. This put Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil in a solid position to claim some good results in race one.
1 – Pepe Oriola 1:42:045 Q2
2 – Andrea Belicchi 1:42:143 Q2
3 – Stefano Comini – 1:42:183 Q2
4 – Michel Nykjaer – 1:42:300 Q2
5 – Sergey Afanaysev – 1:42:537 Q2
6 – Jordi Géne – 1:42:823 Q2
It was a very special first race for a number of reasons at the Circuit de la Communit Ricardo Tormo, being the home race of manufacturer SEAT Sport but also Spanish drivers Pepe Oriola and Jordi Géne. Oriola began on pole position and instantly cemented his lead after an excellent start, teammates Afanasyev and Géne were able to make a lightning get away off the line as well, both overtaking the three cars ahead in one swift manoeuvre. Oriola now led Afanasyev and Géne in a Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil trio, all by the first corner.
Such was the dominance of the Craft-Bamboo Lukoil team, that the entire race would be run with the three red SEAT Leon Cup Racers out in front, unable to be touched by the competition. With Géne sticking to Afanasyev’s tail the pair found their rhythm and would consistently set the pace for the rest of the field. Andrea Belicchi attempted to challenge Géne but his attempts were futile. As the laps counted down to the chequered flag, Oriola used the clear space ahead to maximize his performance, scoring the fastest lap time of the race and further increasing the lead between him and his teammates.
The young Spaniard drove a perfect race and would cross the finish line a commanding 4.593s ahead of teammate Afanasyev. Géne came home a close third, rounding out the trio and completing the incredible triple podium in what was a special day for Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil.
Continuing the string of great starts that day, Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil began the second race in commanding fashion. Jordi Géne charged up the right hand side and was challenging for the lead when contact from Gianni Morbidelli caused Oscar Nogues to careen into the side of the Spaniard’s car, sending him rocketing into the side of the wall and ending what was a strong challenge for the win. Nogues received a five place grid penalty for the unwarranted contact after the race.
The safety car was called out and when the race re-started again on lap five, Oriola took the chance to overtake his teammate Afansyev for third and begin his charge to the front. Quickly catching up to second place, Oriola started to challenge Michel Nykjær, with the pair constantly trading positions until contact between the two caused Oriola’s car to suffer some damage. This forced the young driver to drop back over the next few laps before being able to regroup.
However, on lap 13, the stewards made a questionable call for a number of cars to receive a drive through penalty for overtaking during the safety car, including both Oriola and Afanasyev. They would complete their drive through penalties before finishing the race in 6th and 10th respectively. They were later re-classified as 5th and 9th overall as Bellichi was later excluded from the race.
Oriola retains 3rd place overall in the driver’s championship, with fellow Spanish teammate still secure in 6th and Sergey Afanasyev also retaining his position of 8th place. Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil moved up into second place in the teams’ championship after the strong team performance in race one. The TCR International Series heads directly to Portimao, Portugal for the next round this weekend on May 8-10.
The pursuit of the inaugural TCR international title would not be possible without the support of LUKOIL, Gravity, Team Dynamics and Orangebus.
- Stefano Comini- 106 pts
- Gianni Morbidelli – 91 pts
- Pepe Oriola – 89 pts
- Andrea Belicchi – 75 pts
- Kevin Gleason – 57 pts
- Jordi Géne – 53 pts
- Sergey Afanasyev – 37 pts
Target Competition – 209 pts
Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil -168 pts
WestCoast Racing – 163 pts
Pepe Oriola, #74
“Really happy with the results for race one, 1-2-3 Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil is fantastic. The second race was a really good start but unfortunately Jordi was forced into the wall. After the safety car everything was a mess, no one knew where to go so we just pushed and I had some really close battles but ended up with some contact which damaged my performance and then had the penalties which really prevented any big results. I have moved up in the championship and I’m close to Comini so this is really positive.”
Sergey Afanasyev, #77
“Last weekend was pretty tough but SEAT and Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil did a fantastic job of fixing the problems we experienced in Shanghai. We did a fantastic start in the first and race and we all kept up with each other. It was a great battle between me and Jordi, some safe racing between teammates that was really enjoyable. I am proud to be part of that historic 1-2-3 victory here in Valencia, it was an amazing job by all the drivers and the entire team.”
“It was an great start in the second race too and I am just so disappointed and sad for Jordi because it looked like he was going to have another podium in that race. It was a tough race because we were capable of a podium but there were a few surprises with the penalties and safety cars but it was a mess for everyone. I suffered some contact later on the race which prevented me from continuing my fight for a podium challenge which was disappointing. I am now going to focus on being consistent and collecting points and there are still a lot of races to go so I am confident that we can continue the success.”
Jordi Géne, #88
“It has been up and down this weekend, the good thing is that we were really quick. Pepe and I were the fastest drivers this weekend, but I made a mistake in qualifying and didn’t use the car’s full potential.”
In race one the start was good and I was pushing Sergey and it was really good for the team to have a 1-2-3 victory, our first in the TCR International Series.
“Race two was a fantastic start, I got to the top position, but contact forced me into the wall and there was nothing I can do. I am really disappointed because I believe we could have won the race with the pace we had so that was really unfortunate.”
Richard Coleman, CEO of Craft-Bamboo Racing
“What a fantastic result for this weekend, the first ever 1-2-3 victory in a TCR International Series race is a testament to the hard work and dedication that everyone in Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil has put in. We worked hard with SEAT Sport to resolve the engine issues we had last race and it showed exactly what we can do. We dedicate the triple podium this weekend to our former team partner Nigel Vaulkhard who passed this week one year ago. We wish he could have been here to celebrate with us today!”