Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing have ended their TCR International Series weekend in Zhejiang with a hard fought podium in race two. James Nash did a stellar job to take an early lead before fighting a hard battle that saw him cross the line in P3 to take his second podium of the year. Pepe Oriola showed great pace by leading the majority of race one but was unfortunately not able to match the speed of the Volkswagens and finished P5. After starting P8 for race two, Oriola carved his way up the field to take another solid P5 finish in Zhejiang. Unfortunately for Daniel Lloyd, he suffered contact at the first corner of race one, causing a loss of fluid and further overheating issues which ruled him out for the rest of the weekend. Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing managed to further close the gap in the teams’ championship in Zhejiang and are still in with a shot at the title in Dubai but will need a hugely successful final two races if they are to take the teams’ championship.
Pepe Oriola: P3 – 1:33.486 (Q2)
Daniel Lloyd: P5 – 1:33.817 (Q2)
James Nash: P8 – 1:34.158 (Q2)
Pepe Oriola made a magnificent start, splitting J.K Vernay and Rob Huff to snatch the lead as the grid rushed into the first corner. Daniel Lloyd and James Nash did well to avoid most of the chaos at the start but Lloyd suffered some minor contact damage at the front of his car, which would later force him out of the race with a damaged radiator and overheating issues. With Oriola out in front, Nash was busy battling in the mid-field in P8 and trying to find his way up the order. The Spaniard was showing great pace and had managed to hold his lead until the start of lap 11 where he came under immense pressure from Gabriele Tarquini, who dove down the inside into turn one to claim the lead. Now in P2, Oriola was defending from J.K Vernay in the quicker VW Golf and managed to hold him off until the start of the pit straight when he was tapped in the left-rear and forced off the track as they began lap 12. This allowed Rob Huff to slip past as well and put Oriola within reach of Gianni Morbidelli who came careening up the inside and into the rear of Oriola as they barrelled into turn one. This required Oriola to dive over the runoff and play catch up from P5 behind Morbidelli. Nash had been holding onto P7 but was coming under attack from Robert Colciago and Davit Kajaia, who soon made their way past and dropped Nash to P9 despite the #54 driver’s best efforts. Over the next six laps, both Oriola and Nash pushed to close the gap but couldn’t find the pace to catch their rivals, crossing the line in P5 and P9 respectively.
Starting from P3 on the grid, Nash made a brilliant start, weaving up the inside before darting right, putting him in direct contention for the lead with Frederic Vervisch and Davit Kajaia over the next few corners. Nash prevailed by nailing the inside line while the two others scrapped for second place. Oriola got underway safely and moved up a position from P8 but was finding it difficult to pass on the tight and twisty Zhejiang circuit. Only halfway through the first lap, Nash was already beginning to build his lead and by the sixth lap had extended his gap to P2 to 10.5s. Oriola had managed to make his way past a couple of competitors and by lap eight was up to P6 but was stuck in a multi-car fight for position. As the laps continued to pass, Nash’s lead was slowly being eroded by the fast charging VW of Rob Huff. By lap 15, Huff was glued to the back of the #54 SEAT but Nash was defending his position with everything he had, and he did well to fend off the VW for as long as possible. Half way through lap 16, Huff got the better of Nash but the pair continued to trade blows as Nash fought to regain the top spot. The battle had allowed Morbidelli to catch up and after another strong showing of defence, the quicker VW dropped Nash to P3 on the penultimate lap where he would ultimately finish the race. Oriola had done well to move his way up the order over the course of the race and was able to take his second P5 finish of the weekend as the flag fell for the final time on Sunday.
Richard Coleman, CEO of Craft-Bamboo Racing
“The whole team and all the drivers put in a very valiant effort to come away with a podium but ultimately we would expect more from a circuit like this and I think that goes to show how extreme the swings in the BoP have become. It is a shame for all the teams concerned because I think they have all been affected by this but I do think us more than others. I trust that the organizers will put in a plan for next year to ensure things are more equal from circuit to circuit.”
Daniel Lloyd, #17
“I got a good start off the line and everyone gathered on the inside and I broke early for the first corner. Everyone concertinaed up and I had a bit of contact but nothing unusual, but that small contact managed to snap a pipe near the radiator, which caused me to drop fluid and overheat the engine. This forced us to miss race two as well, which was a real shame as the team worked really hard to get the car up to pace and I think we could have had two good results from starting fifth and sixth."
James Nash, #54
“It's a little bit frustrating to finish Race 2 in third after having led with a 10-second gap, but I really tried everything I could. At the beginning, I managed to pass Kajaia and Vervisch to take the lead and pulled away, building quite some gap. But then the others caught me again. I did not make mistakes and had no issues, their pace was simply much faster than mine. There was much rubbing in Race 2, but I am sure it made a great TV show!”
Pepe Oriola, #74
“I was happy with my pace, I think it is the best result we could have had. I am upset about the contact with J.K Vernay because I think I could have gotten a podium position. We have to see for next year because the BoP is wrong, the pace of the VWs was too much. I will try and get some good points in Dubai to fight for third position in the championship.”