In a chaotic end to the season, Pepe Oriola has taken second place in the TCR International Series drivers’ championship, followed by his teammate and compatriot, Jordi Gene who took the third position. Unfortunately, with all three cars suffering retirement in race two due to damage, Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil just missed out on the teams’ title and took second place in what is still a hard fought and valuable result
There was a three way fight for the championship when the first TCR International Series race of Macau got underway and Gene was sitting comfortably in P2, while rival, Stefano Comini was in P3, just ahead of the final championship contender, Oriola. Third team member, Sergey Afanasyev was starting in P8 for his Macau debut. The lights went out and Gene was off to a great start, matching Rob Huff off the line and sticking with him until the Lisboa corner to keep second. Comini remained behind, followed by Oriola. Afanasyev also held his own and filed into the touring car train to begin his own challenge. From here, the title contenders battled among themselves but the positions remained unchanged until the end. Oriola made a daring last lap challenge to take on Comini but knew that any mistake would cost him the championship. His attempt was unsuccessful and as the flag fell the contenders crossed the line in starting order, With Gene taking P2 and Oriola P4. Unfortunately, for Gene, this ruled him out for the drivers’ championship title and would receive the third place spot. Afanasyev was running strong until a small mistake forced him to lose track position before finding his feet and in a spot before the finish. The race wasn’t without incident though; a huge crash on the first lap caught out Frank Yu in the Craft-Bamboo Racing #99 Seat Leon. Frank slowed to avoid the crash but was hit from behind by an out of control Honda, bringing his race weekend to a premature end. The race was red flagged and restarted on lap four.
With no reverse grid for Macau, the race one classification determined the starting grid for race two. Gene was on the front row with Robert Huff, Oriola was in P4 behind rival Comini and Afanasyev was in P10. As Gene and Huff sprinted off the line and jostled for track position, the pair came together in spectacular fashion and caused an 11 car pileup and inevitable red flag. It was only Comini and Oriola who made it through at the front with the midfield being thrown into chaos. Afanasyev was caught up in the fray and even with the team’s best effort they were unable to get him back out on track for the restart. With Gene, Afanasyev and most of the field out of contention it was truly just Oriola and Comini left to fight it out. Comini restarted in P1 and Oriola started in P2. From the lap two restart, Oriola went into full attack mode and put every ounce of effort into his championship assault. He pressured Comini at every corner, resulting in some boisterous contact between the pair as they rallied for the title. Oriola’s gap to Comini fluctuated throughout the race and as the lap counter ticked down, the urgency of his attack grew. Scrap after scrap, Oriola was giving it his all but on lap eight, a brake check by Comini caught him out and would result in a pierced radiator. This forced Oriola’s retirement and sealed his second place drivers’ championship title after an incredible no holds barred battle. It was still a great finish for the young touring car driver who showed incredible skill and consistency with his results this season.
Pepe Oriola, Driver #74
“I have fought for the title until the end. Although I have had a handicap of 30 kilos, Macau is a very difficult circuit where overtaking is almost impossible. In the first race I did not want to risk unnecessarily and suffer an accident that could keep me out. I am very happy because I am runner-up of the TCR and this is already a great prize. Certainly, it has been a wonderful year for my career”
Sergey Afanasyev, Driver #77
“It was my first attempt at this circuit and I thought it went well, I was just behind my teammates and I started really well. I was continually improving until I got some understeer and touched the wall and I ended up in Lisboa. So I had to reverse and lost some positions but managed to regain a position and take the final point. At the start of race two, I saw that something was happening and then I felt the hit and then I was hit again. I took the car back to the pits but there wasn’t enough time to fix the car. The entire team did a great job this weekend and I want to thank everyone for supporting me in my first touring car year. Thank you to everyone in Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil.”
Jordi Gene, Driver #88
“I had a good race one, I kept ahead of Comini and Oriola but it just wasn’t enough to keep me in the running for the championship with where Comini finished. I still had a good chance to win race two though and I was going to do my best. Going into the first corner, Huff and I touched and I ended up in the wall and my race was over.”
Frank Yu, Driver #99 TCR Asia
“I had a good start and then saw the crash up ahead and did my best to avoid it but as I slowed down I was hit in the rear by a Honda which sent me into the wall. It wasn’t the race I was hoping for but I am really happy that I could take part in the legendary Guia race.”
Richard Coleman, CEO of Craft-Bamboo Racing
“We did ok in the first race, we got Jordi ahead of our rival Comini and tried to use that to control but unfortunately Pepe’s engine temperature was really high in the slip stream. It was very difficult but we lived to fight for race two but were seven points behind. There was a crazy move; Huff was totally in the wrong place. It was Jordi’s corner into turn one, which started a huge chain reaction and that put two of cars out and for the restart our rivals had three cars in the top five and we had one. So we had to focus on the drivers’ championship and that was going ok but Pepe just couldn’t find a way past. Comini broke very early into Lisboa and that damaged Pepe’s radiator and forced retirement, very disappointed to have no cars finish the race and crushed that we lost out of the championship. I’m sure we will pick ourselves up again and second is still a good effort from all the boys.”