Spanish driver Pepe Oriola in the #74 fought hard from eighth to claim an incredible second place on the podium. His teammate Sergey Afanaysev also proved his prowess on track by finishing third to claim the final podium spot. Jordi Gene secured seventh after encountering some small heat related technical issues that prevented him from extracting all of the SEAT Leon Racer’s performance, but will still start on pole for Sunday’s race. This is a monumental result for the entire team in their first TCR international series race and sets the tone for an exciting season.
After a nail biting start at the Sepang International Circuit that saw many drivers jostling for positions into the first corner, Pepe Oriola was able to fight his way through the first lap and move up three places into fifth. His teammate, Sergey Afanaysev started from seventh but his flying first lap allowed him to move up four places into third, while his teammate Jordi Gene was also able to make progress by moving up a position into ninth.
Oriola continued his march upwards on the second lap where he made a brilliant move up the inside of both Morbidelli and Gleason to advance up to third place. Sergey too was able to continue Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil’s podium charge by picking off another challenger and taking second. Oriola had found his rhythm and began to nip at the heels of Afanaysev in lap three, and after some good racing between teammates Oriola was able to move ahead into second.
The #74 SEAT Leon Racer of Oriola showed the strong pace of the Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil Seat’s, posting two consecutive fastest laps on lap six and seven. Meanwhile, Afanaysev was starting to struggle with his tires towards the end of the race but held his nerve under heavy pressure to thwart any attempts by the trio behind him.
Unfortunately for Jordi Gene, while fighting among the pack he suffered some overheating issues and lost power which prevented him from truly challenging the rest of the field. Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Frank Yu in the #99 car had a difficult start spinning on the opening lap, but was able recover and put in some consistently quick lap times that allowed him to finish 11th out of the 17 competitors.
The second race will begin on Sunday, March 29th at 12.30 local time (06:30am CET) before the Formula One.
Pepe Oriola #74
“All of us wanted to do the best. I have had my opportunity during the race to improve my position and I have not missed it. I wanted to catch Comini but he had too much distance on me as I started from 8th. I’m very happy because the most important thing is that I have been on the podium and I have enjoyed it a lot in the first race of Sepang. I start third tomorrow and it would be nice to finish the weekend with two podiums, but all of us will be very competitive on the track and it will be difficult, but I will try it”
Sergey Afanaysev #77
“It was an amazing first race and everyone did a fantastic job, SEAT and Craft-Bamboo Lukoil did a great job of preparing the cars for the race. I am delighted to be on the podium in the first race and I will make sure to give Pepe a good battle next race.”
Jordi Gene #88
“The race was average, a little bit like the whole day. The start was ok but I was involved in an incident in the first corner so I had to slow down. I managed to get through a couple of cars, but I was fighting with a pack of five cars with good rhythm but the temperature of my car was high, so my engine went into safe mode and I lost power. I had to get into clear air and let it cool down, until I could pick up speed for the last couple of laps.”
Frank Yu #99
“Had a moment at the start at the first corner under braking, something the whole day wasn’t right about the brakes and we were still playing around with the bias. I touched the brake and it just snapped, I managed to save the car but I lost a minute and a half. I am happy with myself because I completed my fastest lap during the race and I’m within two seconds of the leaders pace. Hopefully I will have a better race tomorrow.”
Richard Coleman, CEO of Craft Bamboo Racing
“Obviously qualifying was a bit disappointing, we went slightly the wrong way on set up, so we were all pretty dejected about that. Delighted to show good race pace of all three cars and we made the best of the opening laps. We are very happy to come away with a double podium in our first race and we have a good starting position tomorrow. Who knows, we may come away from here leading the championship.”
“I made it into Q2 which was very important, but unfortunately couldn’t capitalize and find the pace to perform better in Q2. My sector times were all good but linking them together just didn’t happen in this session. Hopefully I will be able to gain some places at the start of the race.”
Sergey Afanaysev #77
“I had an issue in Q1 with traffic and then there was a yellow flag and then red flag so I only completed one lap and then another. This was more than enough as I got P4, this was good for the main but I needed to be quicker in Q2. With the amount of different manufacturers in the top 10 this means that the series is very competitive, and I’m very excited.”
Jordi Gene #88
“It was a bit disappointing because we had pace all weekend, except for when we needed it most. We weren’t using the full potential of our car, we lost some time in sector one which hurt us. We are on reverse pole for Sunday so I think we still have a good chance.”
Frank Yu #99
“We made a change on the car which I wanted to try and obviously this didn’t go as planned, this combined with old tyres caused me to spin due to the unstable rear. We replaced the tyres and I only had one lap, so pushed hard and spun again. It was a tough session but im looking forward to the race.”