eam Craft-Bamboo Lukoil scored a well fought second place podium at title sponsor Lukoil’s home race at the Sochi International Circuit in Russia. The team showed great pace all weekend and after a good qualifying run by Pepe Oriola secured him P2 on the start grid for race one, he was able to maintain his position throughout the race to take the second step on the podium. Oriola looked strong in race two and was carving up the competition on his way to the front, but an issue with the front right of his car dropped him down the order and forced him into the pits where he would be classified P13 by race end. James Nash made the most of his first time at the Russian circuit, finishing P4 in both races. Unfortunately, a harsh ruling from the stewards saw Nash receive a 10 second time penalty for contact in race one, resulting in a P8 classification. Sergey Afanasyev did not have the weekend he was hoping for at home, finishing in P13 after a drive through penalty in race one for track limits. The home hero fought back in race two though and charged from P11 up to P7, showing great pace and offensive driving skill in the process. Oriola is now second in the drivers’ championship, trailing the lead by one point, while Nash is third in the standings and only seven points behind first. Without the harsh ruling by the stewards, Nash would have reclaimed his lead in the championship and been clear of Comini by one point. Afanasyev is still looking strong in P7 and the team is still sitting at the top of the teams’ championship with a considerable margin. The TCR series now enters its summer break and will reconvene in Thailand for the final Asian leg of the season.
Pepe Oriola – P2: 2:21.271 (Q2)
James Nash – P7: 2:22.011 (Q2)
Sergey Afanasyev – P11: 2:22.475 (Q2)
The lights went out in Sochi and the grid funnelled into the first corner, with Oriola being forced to the outside and down into P3. Nash made a good start and was able to squeeze his way into P5, up two positions from P7 by the end of lap one. Afanasyev stalled on the grid but quickly got himself up to speed and got back into the pursuit of his competitors. Oriola was focused on Gianni Morbidelli in P2 and after biding his time, made the perfect move down the inside on lap three to take second place. Nash was also on a march up the field, passing J.K Vernay to take P4 also on the third lap. From here, the top four began to separate themselves from the mid field and build gaps between themselves. Afanasyev was picking off opponents on his way back up the order but was given a drive through penalty for exceeding track limits on lap nine. This sent the Russian driver to the back once again and would cause him to finish the race in P13. As the flag fell on race one, Oriola crossed the line to claim P2, while Nash wasn’t too far behind and finished in P4. However, after the race, the stewards awarded Nash a harsh 10s time penalty for contact with J.K Vernay, which resulted in Nash being classified as P8 overall.
Race One Quotes
James Nash, Driver #54
“It was always going to be difficult with Sochi being a new track for me but I tried to learn the circuit as quickly as possible and then maximize my start position in qualifying. I started race one from P7, made a relatively good start and overtook Vernay on lap two or three and held fourth position until the end to get some good points.”
Pepe Oriola, Driver #74
“I am happy with second place and with the move I made on Morbidelli. I wanted to close the gap on P1 but it was too late.”
Sergey Afanasyev, #77
“I stalled at the start and then I was trying to get some positions back. Unfortunately, I went off the track a few times and was given a drive through penalty. I lost all the positions that I had gained and it was not the way I wanted to end my first race but I am looking forwards to race two.”
Nash started race two from P4 and was off to a strong start, taking P3 after turn one and then attacking P2 for the rest of the first lap. Oriola held his P9 start position, as did Afanasyev who started in P11, but both drivers were on a mission to move their way up the field. Oriola was following season rival Stefano Comini and the pair were locked in a brilliant battle while also taking positions away from those ahead. By the fourth lap, Nash was still challenging for P2 while simultaneously defending his position. Oriola had made some great moves and was now running in P7, with Afanasyev fighting hard in P11. After lining himself up on the start of lap five, Nash made his move to take P2 but was unable to make the move stick after being blocked. This allowed J.K Vernay to capitalize and take P3 away from Nash, but the British driver got straight back into the fight and continued to push. On lap seven, Oriola began to lose positions as a problem with his car began to develop over the course of the lap. He tried to fight it for as long as possible but had to enter the pits to try and remedy the problem on lap nine. Unfortunately, the problem could not be fixed and Oriola would be classified P13 by the end of the race. Nash was continuing his battle towards the front of the field and was holding strong in P4, just unable to catch the back of P3 ahead of him. After 11 laps of racing, it was Nash who would take P4, followed by Afanasyev who had been working hard to climb the order and managed to fight his way up to P7.
Race Two Quotes
James Nash, Driver #54
“Started P4 so I was expecting to be able to make the most of it and even compete for the win. I wasn’t able to take as many positions as I had hoped but had some good fights with the competition. Walking away with fourth again is a good result and it keeps me in a good spot in the championship.”
Pepe Oriola, Driver #74
“Race two I had a good start and was going well until I had a small touch with Borkovic, which allowed Comini to have a good fight with me and get in front. Unfortunately, in the last laps I had an issue with my steering direction and couldn’t finish the race. So it is the holidays now and we will see everyone again in one month in Buriram.”
Sergey Afanasyev, Driver #77
“I really focused on making a good start this time and then I began to fight to move forward, and in the end I was in a good position to hopefully follow up just behind my teammates. I fought hard and was able to finish in P7 and score some more points. I am looking forward to returning after the summer break and continuing the fight for the championship.”
Richard Coleman, CEO of Craft-Bamboo Racing
“We had excellent speed in the car this weekend and were consistently quick through all the practice sessions, slightly unlucky to miss out on pole but we have been the best performing SEAT team all weekend. James drove well having two fourth place finishes, but unfortunately picked up a penalty which I judge to be very harsh. We are where we are and happy that we are still leading the teams’ championship and we are only 1 point off the lead. I am sorry for Sergey who had a difficult home race but all the boys will refocus for after the summer break when the championship resumes in Thailand.”