Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil has achieved their biggest ever championship points haul for the season, with an incredible one-two victory in race one and another second place podium in race two. All Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil drivers finished in the top five for both races and each contributed greatly to the massive 101 points scored over the Russian weekend. It was Spanish touring car legend, Jordi Gene, who got the weekend started with a bang, taking pole position to see him start at the front of the field for race one. It was from here that Gene would drive a dominant, lights to flag victory, with his fellow teammate and compatriot, Pepe Oriola, coming home just behind in P2. Race two saw a tough reverse grid for Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil, with their season rivals all starting ahead at the front of the grid. The trio of drivers challenged hard and it was Oriola once again who was able to defy his 10kg success ballast and P8 starting position to bring the SEAT Leon over the line in P2 once again. It was a true team effort this weekend, with all drivers putting in stellar performances. Oriola is now only two points behind first place in the Drivers’ standings and Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil has taken back the second spot once again in the Teams’ standings.
Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil was intent on putting on an authoritative showing of performance at the Sochi Autodrom and it was clear from the start that this was going to be the case. Jordi Gene claimed his very first pole position in the TCR International Series with a time of 2:20.890, but his time was disallowed by the stewards for overstepping the track limits. Gene was undeterred and posted a second fastest lap of 2:20.976 which saw the touring car legend take pole position once again. His fellow compatriot, Pepe Oriola, made a flying start to the session, achieving the fastest first two sectors before unfortunately out-braking himself. He still managed to set a blistering time of 2:21.256, which secured him third place on the starting grid for race one. Home hero, Sergey Afanaysev, was roughly .300 seconds behind Oriola, clocking a 2:21.564 to take P6.
1 Jordi GENÉ Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil 2:20.976
2 Andrea BELICCHI Target Competition 2:21.025
3 Pepe ORIOLA Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil 2:21.256
4 Tomas ENGSTRÖM Liqui Moly Team Engstler 2:21.272
5 Mikhail GRACHEV Liqui Moly Team Engstler 2:21.403
6 Sergey AFANASYEV Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil 2:21.564
Race one hopes were high, with an unladen Gene sitting on pole position and teammate Oriola only a row behind in third. The lights went out at the Sochi Autodrom and both Gene and Oriola were off to flying starts. By the first corner, Oriola had managed to snatch P2 while Gene had already begun to increase his lead. Afanaysev came out of the first corner fray unharmed but unfortunately lost two positions in the process. This wasn’t going to stop Afanaysev though; he quickly regrouped and began mounting a challenge on those ahead, already moving up to P7 by the second lap.
While Afanaysev battled through the field, the two SEAT Leons of Gene and Oriola moved ahead of the competition. They used the clear air ahead to put in some incredible lap times which helped them to build on their early lead. It was the Russian renegade, Afanaysev, who was fighting hard in the midfield and winning, taking several places from those ahead and moving into P5 by lap ten. On the penultimate lap, Mikhail Grachev, would attempt a daring move around the outside of Afanaysev to try and snatch away his hard earned fifth position but the Russian touring car rookie defended his territory with the confidence and skill of a grizzled veteran.
With the door firmly closed on his compatriot, Afanaysev, pulled away and crossed the finish line to secure a hard fought P5. His two teammates had claimed a spectacular one-two victory, with Gene leading for the entire race, the only real challenge coming from his teammate, Oriola, who finished just behind in P2 before leaving a substantial gap to P3.
Results Race One
1 Jordi GENÉ Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil
2 Pepe ORIOLA Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil
3 Andrea BELICCHI Target Competition
4 Stefano COMINI Target Competition
5 Sergey AFANASYEV Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil
While the race one starting grid may have been in Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s favour, the second race was looking to be far more difficult as they were starting from the midfield and with their season rivals ahead of them; it was not going to be easy. Afanaysev started race two in P4 but was able to quickly move up into P3 by the end of the first lap. Oriola and Gene were challenging from the midfield after starting in P6 and P8 respectively and it would now be their turn to carve through the traffic to attain a podium result.
Afansysev was closing in on Stefano Comini by the second lap and his charge was looking promising, but while he was caught up in the battle, Oriola was able to sneak past into P5. The young Spaniard continued his march up the order from here and made his next move to take P4. Gene and Afanaysev were now fighting for track positions and a clean and hearty fight between teammates ensued, with Gene eventually being able to sneak by into P6.
Lap four was filled with fierce attempts from Gene to pass Kevin Gleason, but it was to no avail. Just ahead, Oriola was scrapping with Andrea Belicchi for P3 but was unable to get by. He finally found a way around after a couple laps and moved up into P2. Oriola’s teammates had been moving through the field as well, with Gene up to P4 and Afanaysev into P6.
On lap seven, Gene made contact with another vehicle, causing damage to his bodywork that would ultimately force him to slow down. Afanaysev seized this opportunity and moved into P4 while his teammate, Gene, slipped in just behind. Oriola had caught up to first place Comini and was desperately trying to get by but couldn’t find a way around on the tight Russian circuit. Oriola eventually ran out of time to pass Comini and would finish the hard fought race in P2. Teammates Afanaysev and Gene continued their battle right up until the chequered flag, bringing their car’s home in P4 and P5 respectively and gaining a solid amount of points to add to their championship standings.
Results Race Two
1 Stefano COMINI Target Competition
2 Pepe ORIOLA Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil
3 Mikhail GRACHEV Liqui Moly Team Engstler
4 Sergey AFANASYEV Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil
5 Jordi GENÉ Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil
The pursuit of the inaugural TCR international title would not be possible without the support of Lukoil, Gravity, Team Dynamics and Orangebus.
Pepe Oriola, #74 Driver
“Really happy after the 1-2 Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil victory in race one, it got better in race two with my second place of the day, I’m really close to the lead in the championship, so it was a really positive weekend, I’m looking forward to the red bull ring in two weeks and I am looking to go to Asia with the lead in the championship.”
Sergey Afanaysev, #77 Driver
“It was lovely to drive on the F1 circuit and it was a really well organized event. It was a great job by the entire Craft-Bamboo Lukoil team. I am really glad and amazed, we did our best collecting points and it was the best weekend for us so far in terms of points. There are a few races to go and we will be pushing ourselves to develop and to fight for the championship. We had good starts in both races and I had some good fights with different drivers in both races. I also had a great battle with Jordi, so it was a really good race weekend for all of us.”
Jordi Gené, #88 Driver
Very good weekend so far, impressive Saturday with good qualifying and my second win of the season in race one. It is really good to do it here in Russia, the home of my main sponsor Lukoil. Race two wasn’t as good, but I still got a lot of points. I am now only 20 points form the championship lead, so it has been a very good weekend and I hope I can have similar results next round in Austria.”
Richard Coleman, CEO of Craft-Bamboo Racing
“What a fantastic weekend it was here at Sochi, for the home race of our title sponsor Lukoil and driver Sergey Afanaysev. We scored the most points out of any round so far here and it gets us very close to the championship leaders. We still have quite a few races to go and we will be making sure to remain consistent and take home every available point. We will be looking to take the lead in both championships next round in Austria.”
Drivers’ Championship Points
1 Stefano Comini 194 pt.
2 Pepe Oriola 192 pt.
3 Gianni Morbidelli 181 pt.
4 Jordi Gené 174 pt.
5 Andrea Belicchi 146 pt.
8 Sergey Afanasyev 77 pt.
Teams’ Championship Points
1 Target Competition 425 pt.
2 Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil 409 pt.
3 WestCoast Racing 360 pt.