Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil are aiming for the podium once again after arriving at the Estoril Circuit in Portugal for races three and four of the championship. After an incredible start to the season in Bahrain, the team now leads both the drivers’ and teams’ championship and is hoping to retain their lead this weekend. It isn’t going to be easy though; Estoril is a new circuit on the calendar and Pepe Oriola and James Nash will both be carrying success ballast. At this early stage in the championship the trio of drivers all remain focused on podium results but recognize the growing challenge from the competition.
Pepe Oriola took two solid victories in Bahrain but he will now have to carry the full 30kg success ballast, which will be a tough challenge for the Spaniard. Oriola proved how quick he could be with the full weight penalty last season and is looking to keep up his momentum and lead in the championship. While the young driver has not competed at the Portuguese circuit, he has had the opportunity to test on the famous track before and gained further experience when the series took to the circuit for testing on Wednesday. This should help him in his fight for a good result later this week.
Newcomer to the series, James Nash, impressed with two podiums on his debut and showed that he was going to be a serious championship contender for 2016. He will have to do battle with 20kg of success ballast but will start the weekend with a great deal more experience behind the wheel of his SEAT Leon and should still be a podium contender for Sunday’s races.
Sergey Afanasyev set a blistering pole position lap last round and he will be gunning for a repeat in Portugal. With the team’s test on Wednesday, the Russian driver has been able to further get to grips with the 2016 SEAT Leon and is confident that he can still improve his performance. Having raced at the grand prix circuit before, Afanasyev will be working on his lap times from the first free practice session on Friday to give him the edge on his opponents. He will also be free from the weight penalty throughout the weekend and he hopes that this will help him continue with the pole position form that he showed at the season open in Bahrain.
Timetable for Estoril, Portugal (GMT + 1):
Friday 22nd of April: FP1 at 17:10
Saturday, 23rd of April: FP2 at 10:15am, Qualifying 16:40 to 17:15
Sunday, 24th of April: Race One at 11:25am, Race Two at 17:05
The pursuit of the 2016 TCR International Series title would not be possible without the support of LUKOIL, SEAT Sport, Gravity, Orangebus, Team Dynamics and Tunewear.
James Nash, Driver #54
“I was very happy with the performance of the Craft-Bamboo Racing cars and I am going into this round with more confidence. We now know more or less what to expect. I do anticipate this weekend to be hard for us as we now have success weight. Estoril will be harder on tyres and made worse with the extra weight but we will be fighting for more podiums.”
Pepe Oriola, Driver #74
“I am happy to be racing in Europe and I am really motivated after Bahrain but I know that it will be hard with the 30kg of ballast, especially against the VW. Stefano, for example, will be 60 kg lighter than me and Estoril is a very twisty circuit but I will be fighting to score points and keep leading the series.”
Sergey Afanasyev, Driver #77
“I am really glad to be back at Estoril because I haven’t been here for ten years and it is such a beautiful circuit. I am also really happy that I could finally get some testing Kilometres in. At the beginning of the year I had zero Kilometres and the first two Free Practices I used to bed in the brakes, so I am really thankful to the team for organizing this. I am sure that this will help us to improve and get better, including myself. I will be working hard on the things I missed in the first race and I believe that together with my engineer I will improve my skills and be even more competitive. Can’t wait to get racing again and I am really excited.”
Richard Coleman, CEO of Craft-Bamboo Racing
"We had an excellent weekend in Bahrain but we know things will be much more difficult here. The VW has lost 30kg and we know from winter testing that the VW is as fast as the SEAT, other than the very last percentage of top speed. The Estoril circuit is also going to suit the Honda much more, so it will be challenging. I believe podiums are possible this weekend, wins? I am not so sure."