Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil will be fighting for glory in Sochi this weekend for title sponsor Lukoil and Sergey Afanasyev’s home race in Russia. The team currently occupies the top spot in both championship standings and is looking to increase their lead with a dominant display for the home crowd. Pepe Oriola and James Nash are tied on points at the top of the leaderboard and they will be battling it out this weekend to secure the sole lead before the series enters its summer break. Sergey Afanasyev is seventh in the table but is only separated by 34 points; meaning a good weekend at home could catapult him to the front of the competition.
After Oriola’s third win of the season in Germany, the Spaniard is looking to continue with his winning ways in Russia. Luckily for Oriola, he will not have to fight any success ballast this weekend despite the win at Oschersleben. This leaves him free to focus on scoring points and claiming the top step of the podium. He has good knowledge of the circuit, scoring a double podium at the Sochi track in the inaugural TCR race in 2015, so he will be one of this round’s strongest contenders.
If there is one person on the grid that can challenge Oriola, it is his teammate, Nash. The British driver has made a comeback over the last couple of rounds to tie up the championship and is focused on retaking the lead position. Nash’s recent success has given him 10kg of ballast for the Sochi round, but we have seen him continually outperform the weight and reap great results. Nash has yet to drive the Russian circuit, so his initial focus will be on learning as much as possible before the first race on Sunday.
Afanasyev is hoping to put on the performance of his TCR career for the Russian fans in Sochi, and with the home hero’s recent form, he may be able to take his first ever TCR victory here. Afanasyev has been putting in some stellar drives in the wet recently but is hoping for some good weather at home. If the weather does turn though, Afanasyev will be ready for the challenge and in a good position to challenge the grid in the wet. One thing is certain though; it will be an epic battle between all teammates this weekend to see which Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil driver can come out on top in Sochi.
Time Table (GMT +3)
TCR International Series, Sochi
Saturday 2nd of July
10:00 - 10:30: TCR International Series Free Practice 1
12:15 - 12:45: TCR International Series Free Practice 2
15:20 - 15:40: TCR International Series Qualifying (Q1)
15:45 - 15:55: TCR International Series Qualifying (Q2)
Sunday 3rd of July
12:35 - 13:05: TCR International Series Race 1
14:05 - 14:35: TCR International Series Race 2
James Nash, Driver #54
“This is another new track for me but one my teammates both know well, so it will be a bit of challenge. I will be learning as much as possible in free practice and qualifying.”
Pepe Oriola, Driver #74
“I am really excited for Sochi because it is a track that I really like and it also the track of our title sponsor Lukoil. It is the last race in Europe and I hope to go on summer holidays with the sole championship lead.”
Sergey Afanasyev, Driver #77
“I believe that the homeland will help us to make this event the best of the year. Hopefully, we should be able to get some nice weather after the last two rounds and I am really excited to race at home. It motivates me to go for even better positions this weekend, so let’s keep on pushing and everything will come.”
Richard Coleman, CEO of Craft-Bamboo Racing
“This is an important event for us, as it is Lukoil’s home race and the final race before the summer break. Both James and Pepe are currently tied for the lead and we will be looking at retaining and extending our lead in both championships this weekend. It also Sergey’s home race at Sochi and we will be fighting for top results in both races before we head to Asia for the last half of the season.”