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Pepe Oriola Snatches Championship Lead

Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil have completed a successful weekend at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, where Pepe Oriola was able to take the lead in the Drivers’ championship after scoring podium finishes in both races. His two teammates were not far behind and were instrumental in helping to further close the gap in the teams' championship and there are now only 14 points separating them from first place. Jordi Gene drove two solid races with full ballast to finish the weekend with a third place podium and after scoring a great deal of points has moved up into third place. Sergey Afanaysev set the fastest lap of race two which helped him towards his fourth place result, finishing directly behind his two teammates and completing another consistent weekend of results.

Qualifying

Two of the three Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil drivers were dealing with the unwanted effects of the success ballast, but the trio hit the circuit with the intentions of securing the fastest possible time. Afanaysev was highly motivated during qualifying and it showed, with the Russian driver completing a 1:40.714. This secured him P5 and set himself up with a good chance of making a successful challenge in both races. Oriola was up next and was dealing with 20kg of extra weight; he was able to grab P6 behind Afanaysev with a 1:40.719. Fellow Spaniard, Gene, had to tackle the full 30kg but he still managed to set a time of 1:40.634 which was good enough for P8.

Qualifying Results

1 10 Gianni MORBIDELLI ITA West Coast Racing 1:39.716
2 24 Kevin GLEASON USA West Coast Racing 1:40.335
3 43 Daniel NAGY HUN Zengö Motorsport 1:40.567
4 25 Stefano COMINI CHE Target Competition 1:40.634
5 77 Sergey AFANASYEV RUS Team Craft-Bamboo LUKOIL 1:40.714
6 74 Pepe ORIOLA ESP Team Craft-Bamboo LUKOIL 1:40.719
8 88 Jordi GENÉ ESP Team Craft-Bamboo LUKOIL 1:40.974

Qualifying Quotes

Pepe Oriola, Driver #74

“Hard qualifying, especially after the pace we had in FP, we thought we would be up, we didn’t expect the Hondas to be that fast. I got disturbed by Veglia which made me miss two turns. A little disappointed but looking forward to tomorrow’s race.”

Sergey Afanaysev, #77

“I thought having experience here with GT cars would help but with FWD it is completely different. I was able to compete against the leaders of the championship and this shows we have good speed, so I am looking forward to the race to get out there and try and score some points from P5.”

Jordi Gene, #88

“Everything is really close and having 30kg of ballast is not making things easier. We have a good rhythm and a car that is consistently lapping quick. I also hope for some good results in race two thanks to my starting position.”

Race One

The lights went out and the grid darted into the first corner, with Pepe Oriola gaining two positions to move up to P4. Afanaysev had held his own and was still in P5, while Gene had dropped a position, he regrouped and was quickly on the back of the competition and looking for any opportunity to pass.

Oriola was fast approaching Kevin Gleason and he snuck up the inside for a daring pass that allowed him to slip into P3. Gene was also marching up the order and was pressuring Andrea Belicchi from P6. On lap four, contact between Gianni Morbidelli and Stefano Comini gave Oriola the perfect opportunity to pass and take P2.

Lap five saw a fantastic battle for the championship lead between Oriola and Comini, but after a tough battle between the pair it was third place Morbidelli who would capitalize. Oriola was forced back to P4 by lap seven after losing precious time in the fray. Teammates Gene and Afanaysev had found their rhythm and were showing good pace in P6 and P7 respectively, chipping away at those ahead.

Over the next few laps, Oriola pushed hard to close the gap, with an incredible battle between the top four drivers coming to fruition on lap ten. The 21-year old driver was right on the back of Morbidelli but his 20kg ballast prevented him from being able to take the position.

Oriola pushed during the coming laps but frustratingly couldn’t find a way to get ahead. Gene and Afanaysev kept trading places in a great display of team rivalry and as the cars crossed the line for the final time, Oriola clenched P3. Morbidelli was stripped of his race one victory for behaving un-sportingly and hitting several other competitors, including Oriola. Gene completed some brilliant closing laps and was able to get ahead of the competition and finish behind his teammate in P4. Afanaysev closed out the trio of Craft-Bamboo Lukoil drivers in P6 and completed a good haul of points for the team.

Race One Results

1. 25 Stefano COMINI CHE Target Competition SEAT León
2. 33 Andrea BELICCHI ITA Target Competition SEAT León
3. 74 Pepe ORIOLA ESP Team Craft-Bamboo LUKOIL SEAT León
4. 88 Jordi GENÉ ESP Team Craft-Bamboo LUKOIL SEAT León
5. 24 Kevin GLEASON USA West Coast Racing HONDA Civic TCR
6. 77 Sergey AFANASYEV RUS Team Craft-Bamboo LUKOIL SEAT León

Race Two

Gene made a great start from P3 and managed to squeeze by Mikhail Grachev to take P2 where he remained while constantly whittling away the gap between him and P1. By lap four, Oriola was now on the tail of Grachev and after constant pressure forced the Russian driver into a mistake on the fifth lap. It was here where Oriola seized the opportunity and slipped by into P3. Unfortunately, Afanaysev was caught up in a losing battle and was passed by Morbidelli.

The trio of drivers continued their push, with Oriola starting to put pressure on Gene on lap nine. Gene was also applying the pressure and made an attempt to overtake leader Pol Rosell on lap 11. Rosell was able to stave off Gene’s advances and in doing so; Oriola was able to sneak by Gene into P2.

Rosell continued ahead and Oriola was intent on catching him, applying pressure and looking for any way around, but it wasn’t to be. The chequered flag fell and Oriola had secured himself the second spot on the podium and first place in the drivers’ championship standings. Gene followed close and after a hard fought race took a well-deserved P3. Afanaysev was hot on the heels of Grachev and in a brave final lap attempt, snatched P4 away from his Russian compatriot to cross the line right behind his two teammates.

Race Two Results

1. 42 Pol ROSELL ESP Liqui Moly Team Engstler VOLKSWAGEN Golf R
2. 74 Pepe ORIOLA ESP Team Craft-Bamboo LUKOIL SEAT
3. 88 Jordi GENÉ ESP Team Craft-Bamboo LUKOIL SEAT León
4. 77 Sergey AFANASYEV RUS Team Craft-Bamboo LUKOIL SEAT León
5. 24 Kevin GLEASON USA West Coast Racing HONDA Civic TCR

Quotes

Pepe Oriola, Driver #74

“Really happy to be leading the championship heading into the summer break as it was our goal. Two podiums and the team did a really good job with everything this weekend.”

Sergey Afanaysev, Driver #77

“It was a solid weekend, I managed to get some good points and fight some good battles with my teammate Jordi. After some really busy few months of racing, it will be nice to have a break and come back for the final championship push.”

Jordi Gene, Driver #88

“Good weekend, it was very tough in the beginning. First race was good, we managed to find a good rhythm and take a few cars so P4 was fantastic. Second race was even better, very good start, the chance to win was there, I really pushed for it and at the end I lost second place because of the will to win. Still happy with third, scoring a lot of points and now third in the championship, one position more towards my goal. Everything is looking good after this weekend in Austria.

Richard Coleman, CEO of Craft-Bamboo Racing

‘Going into this round we wanted to take the championship lead and we have succeed in this mission with Pepe now leading going into the summer break. The entire team did an excellent job and collected a great deal of points that has us within 14 points of the teams’ championship lead. We are now in a good position take both championships when we return.”