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Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil Announce All-Star TCR International Series Driver Lineup for 2016

Craft-Bamboo Racing will continue their partnership with SEAT Sport and title sponsor LUKOIL, by fielding another trio of all-star drivers for the 2016 TCR International Series season. The team welcomes new TCR entrant and skilled touring car driver, James Nash, alongside Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil regulars, Pepe Oriola and Sergey Afanasyev. The pair were instrumental in helping the team towards a string of top results that saw them finish a close second in both the drivers’ and teams’ championship.

James Nash returns to Craft-Bamboo Racing after a monumental season with the team in 2013, which saw him clinch the WTCC Independents' Championship as well as a top three finish overall. The former BTCC independent champion and race winner has been a huge signing for Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil, and he will bring a fresh dynamic to the trio this season. Known for both his speed and experience in touring cars, Nash has made his intentions clear, aiming for nothing less than a championship victory this season.

Russian driver, Sergey Afanasyev, will be continuing with the team after making his touring car debut last season. Involved in professional motorsport and supported by Lukoil since 2003, Afanasyev won championships in both Formula and GT categories before making the switch to touring cars in 2015 for the inaugural TCR season. The Russian driver was key in helping the team to secure second place in the teams’ championship, and with his rookie year behind him, will be looking to claim his first TCR race victory in 2016.

Pepe Oriola completes Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s trio, and after narrowly missing out on the drivers’ championship in 2015, he will be the one to watch when the lights go out in Bahrain in April. The young Spaniard was a force to be reckoned with on track last year, scoring an incredible 12 podiums during the season. The Macau Grand Prix saw an intense battle for the championship victory, showing Oriola’s true fighting spirit and never-give-up attitude. With an upgraded SEAT Leon and a full season of experience behind him, Oriola is in a strong position to go one better and is surely one of the favourites for the title this year.

SEAT Sport has been working hard on the development of the new SEAT Leon racer and the Spanish manufacturer has made a host of upgrades to ensure its competitiveness against entries from some of the world’s top touring car manufacturers. The 2016 SEAT Leon receives a new gearbox, replacing the old DSG item with a lighter and more individually adaptable, six-speed sequential unit. A lighter and more robust braking system has also been developed, featuring new front discs and calipers. New shock absorbers are also included to improve handling, while an updated cooling and aero package makes their debut alongside a 100 litre fuel tank.

The TCR International Series will see 11 rounds contested in both Europe and Asia. The series will take to the grid at the Bahrain International Circuit for the Formula One support race on the 3rd of April.

Quotes

Jaime Puig, Head of SEAT Sport

"We have been relentless in the further development of the Leon Cup Racer and are extremely confident that Craft-Bamboo Racing and their trio of drivers will be battling for both championship titles. We are delighted that a team as experienced and professional as Craft-Bamboo Racing is putting its trust in SEAT Sport once again and we wish them all the best.”

Evgeny Malinovskiy, Head of Lukoil Racing

“I'm happy with the work we've done during the off-season. Our priority was to reinforce our driver line-up to keep-up with the battle for the championship. With this in mind, I'm glad to welcome, James Nash, he will join Sergey Afanasiev and Pepe Oriola at Team Craft-Bamboo LUKOIL. I believe James has the potential to become the TCR leader, his third place in the FIA WTCC 2013 season speaks for his talent in touring cars. In 2016, the team will use an updated version of the SEAT Leon. With the long history of mutual success that LUKOIL and SEAT Sport have in motorsport I trust that, together with Craft-Bamboo Racing we can become the best in this championship.”

Richard Coleman, CEO of Craft-Bamboo Racing

“I am delighted that our partnership with Lukoil and SEAT Sport is continuing for the 2016 season. We had a lot of success last year with our SEAT Leon and I am sure we will be in an even better position to challenge for both championship titles this season. Sergey Afanasyev and Pepe Oriola are back on board with us after a great first year in the series and it is fantastic to welcome back James Nash to the team. Over the winter Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil worked hard to retain its partners and carry this consistency into the second TCR season; we feel very confident that we have the full package to deliver a championship winning effort. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jordi Gene as he was a big part of the family, and he has also done great work during the off-season to develop the new SEAT Leon for 2016.“

Pepe Oriola, Driver

“I am so happy to stay with Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil and SEAT where last year we all worked so well together and fought for the championship right up until the last lap. I want to say thank you to Lukoil and SEAT for making this all possible and I hope together with Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil, I can take the drivers’ championship this year.”

Sergey Afanasyev, Driver

“Finally, the 2016 season is getting close and soon the slicks will touch the race track. 2015 was a hard year for everyone - both Lukoil and Craft-Bamboo took on a new touring car series and I stepped into a front wheel drive car for the first time. Thanks for all the support that I received from my teammates, engineers, mechanics, and sponsors and to everyone who supported me! We had a lot of great moments and my target is to get even more of them this year! There is always only one target - to be first. But it is always a matter of experience, and the championship will be much stronger this year. I'm aiming to be in the top three drivers and will make sure the team is first in the teams‘ championship. Let's do it!”

James Nash, Driver

“I am really excited to be returning to touring cars with a team I had much success with in 2013. It's going to be a big change, as well as a challenge but one I am glad to be heading into with, SEAT, Craft-Bamboo and Lukoil. Pre-season testing has been limited but stepping into a championship winning car is always a good place to start. I can't wait to start work in Bahrain.”