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Stunning 1-2-3 Victory in Thailand Closes Championship Gap

Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil secured their second 1-2-3 victory of the season after a dominant race one in Thailand. The trio stormed to victory in commanding fashion, led by Pepe Oriola, fellow Spanish driver Jordi Gene claimed second, while Russian, Sergey Afanasyev, took third. First time TCR and Craft-Bamboo Racing driver, Munkong ‘Turbo’ Sathienthirakul proved to be the home hero, leading from start to finish and taking the TCR Asian Series win for race one. Race two saw, Oriola, take P3 with compatriot, Gene, in P4 and teammate, Afanasyev, in P7. Their huge points haul this round put them even further in the lead of the teams’ championship, with Oriola now trailing the drivers’ championship by only two points going into the final round in Macau, where he has already enjoyed multiple wins. Turbo lived up to his name once again and scored second place in the TCR Asian Series for race two to the delight of the home fans.

Qualifying

All three Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil drivers sailed through into Q2 after cracking into the top 12 with ease. Afanasyev was third fastest, followed by Oriola in fourth and Gene in eighth. Turbo surprised and delighted the home crowd by taking the last spot to sneak into Q2 with a cracking lap.

Oriola stepped up his game and delivered the fastest time of any SEAT Leon, with a 1:43.601 which would see him start in P2 for race one. Afanasyev recorded a 1:44.096 to take P4 just ahead of teammate Gene with a 1:44.192 to secure P5. Turbo pushed but couldn’t quite find the pace to start ahead of the International drivers, still setting an excellent time of 1:45.089.

Results

1. Gianni Morbidelli (ITA) Honda Civic TCR 1:43.423
2. Pepe Oriola (ESP) SEAT León 1:43.601 Team Craft-Bamboo LUKOIL
3. Kevin Gleason (USA) Honda Civic TCR 1:43.792
4. Sergey Afanasyev (RUS) SEAT León 1:44.096 Team Craft-Bamboo LUKOIL
5. Jordi Gené (ESP) SEAT León 1:44.192 Team Craft-Bamboo LUKOIL

TCR Asian Series

1. Munkong Sathienthirakul (THA) SEAT León 1:45.089 Craft-Bamboo Racing (P12 Overall)

Quotes

Qualifying

Pepe Oriola, Driver #74

“The balance of the car was great and I had a really fast lap before the red flag in Q1. I went out at the end of Q2 to warm the tyres and do a perfect lap and it worked thanks to a great balance and setup. We were half a second faster than the second SEAT so I will be starting on the second row which is great for my championship.”

Sergey Afanasyev, Driver #77

“The first few practices went well and I was P3 in Q1 which was good. I had one attempt in Q2 and I made a small mistake but I was able to get P4 which I am happy with. I am near my teammates and my mechanics and engineers did a great job of setting up the car.”

Jordi Gene, Driver #88

“Qualifying was a bit difficult, we had good rhythm throughout all the practice sessions. In qualifying we fitted new discs and had a brake balance change so I wasn’t able to push 100 percent. I lost a bit of momentum and qualified fifth which wasn’t bad but wasn’t as high as expected.”

TCR Asia

Munkong ‘Turbo’ Sathienthirakul, Driver #80

“It’s very nice to be here, it wasn’t really expected. I have a lot to learn this weekend, as this is my first time with the car and in the TCR Series. Frankly, I had expected a little bit faster lap time, but at this stage to try to improve may be very tricky, as you have to be much harder with the car.”

Race One

All three Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil drivers got off to a flying start, Gene was able to sneak around the outside of his teammate Afanasyev into the first corner. Oriola gave chase to Morbidelli who still occupied the top spot until a drive through penalty was given for his jump start. The trio were now running one-two-three and began to pull away, with Kevin Gleason in the Honda desperately trying catch the tail of Afanasyev. The three Team Craft-Bamboo SEATs focused their attention on running away at the head of the field. Towards the end of the race, Afanasyev and Gleason had a small battle but the Russian driver was able to fend him off and create a gap as he crossed the finish line behind his teammates to take their second, triple podium appearance of the season. Turbo proved to be just as dominant, making good ground on his start before pulling a huge gap of seven seconds over his closest Asian Series competitor to finish in P11. Turbo’s pace was just too great for the competition, with his fastest lap over 0.8s quicker than his nearest rival, making for an utterly brilliant first TCR race for the local driver in front of an ecstatic home crowd.

Race One

Pepe Oriola, Driver #74

“Race one I am really happy, we got a good start and with Morbidelli’s drive through we were all running in a Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil 1-2-3 which I am really happy with.”

Sergey Afanasyev, Driver #77

“Starting from P4 with my teammates around me was great, we had a good start and I saw Jordi come around the outside with a good move to pass me. We were now 1-2-3 but still had to pull away from the Honda behind us who was pushing hard. I managed to have a good fight with him and finish in front to take a fantastic 1-2-3.”

Jordi Gene, Driver #88

“Race one was quite good, I did a very good start and the car had very good pace so it was easy for us to take a lot of points and have a fantastic 1-2-3 victory.”

TCR Asia

Munkong ‘Turbo’ Sathienthirakul, Driver #80

“Race one was fantastic, it was very fun to drive and I had a good fight with the international boys for one or two laps which was great. I couldn’t close the gap between them so I just maintained my position. I am so happy to win the TCR Asia race.”

Race Two

While Oriola had overtaken, Stefano Comini, in the championship after his race one victory, race two was always going to be difficult with the reverse grid playing into the competition’s hands. The lights went out and Oriola made his move, taking six positions by the end of the first lap to move into P3. Gene was also able to make ground, moving into P5, while Afanasyev held his own in P7. By the fourth lap a battle was commencing for the last step of the podium, Morbidelli was on the tail of Oriola and managed to pass with his top speed advantage. With the top five separated by two seconds, the competition was intense but Oriola was able to fight back by the eighth lap and snatch P3 from Morbidelli. Afanasyev was locked in a great fight for P6, with Veglia ahead and Engstorm behind, forcing the Russian driver to balance his attack and defence. Lap ten saw Oriola and Loris Hezemans duelling for P2, with the Spaniard trying to pass at every turn, but Hezemans continued resisting. Gene was still hot on the tail of Oriola and with the battle for P2 keeping him busy, Gene was able to close the gap even further. Oriola kept furiously trying to pass Hezemans until the dying moments of race two but couldn’t make the move stick and finished in P3 to keep him only two points behind. Fellow Spanish driver Gene, completed the race just behind in P4, with teammate Afanasyev following in P7. Turbo was looking incredibly strong throughout race two, passing international drivers to make it up to P9 on lap five after making another quick start. Unfortunately, a misfire forced the driver to lose power for a brief period of time, causing him to lose a position to another Asian Series competitor. Although he lost the position, Turbo still claimed the fastest Asian Series lap of the race on his way to taking his second podium of the weekend. Turbo also scored the most points of any Asian driver to top off a remarkable debut in the TCR series.

Pepe Oriola, Driver #74

“Had a really good start, was third since the first lap and was constantly attacking Hezemans for P2 but couldn’t manage to get by and didn’t want to risk the championship. I am looking forward to Macau as it is one of my favourite tracks so the championship looks good for me.”

Sergey Afanasyev, Driver #77

“It was a very nice race, there was a bit of a mess in front of me at the start near my team mates so I was sure to steer clear of the title fight which cost me some positions. I then just pushed hard to get through, we had a great setup and everyone on the team did a great job. I was able to collect some points and I really enjoyed the circuit.”

Jordi Gene, Driver #88

“I did another good start but I touched Veglia, this jeopardised my chances to fight for the podium as Pepe was able to squeeze through. From that point on I tried to save some points for the team and for myself and to get to Macau with some hope of fighting for the championship."

TCR Asia

Munkong ‘Turbo’ Sathienthirakul, Driver #80

“I had a good start and gained two positions, I was up to P8 at one point and then started to get a small misfire for about half a lap and this was enough for the second place TCR Asia driver to catch me. The problem was sorted out quickly by my engineer but I couldn’t catch him by the end of the race. It is still such a good feeling to take my second podium of the weekend at my home race.”

Richard Coleman, CEO of Craft-Bamboo Racing

“Unbelievable to repeat our success of a 1-2-3 victory earlier in the season. It is an absolutely incredible result at the right end of the championship and I think we are going to be very strong in Macau. Our main rivals haven’t been there as a team or as drivers, so I am confident that we will be able to take the title in the next round.”