Before the Spielberg round of the 2015 TCR International Series, Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing‘s Pepe Oriola set himself the goal of leading the Drivers Championship and following two exciting races, he achieved that target.
Qualifying for the first race, with both Oriola and Jordi Gene carrying success ballast after their points hauls from Sochi, was suggested to be a difficult task, but the team looked to be in a strong position with Sergey Afanasyev qualifying in fifth place whilst Oriola and Gene secured sixth and eighth places respectively.
Race one proved once again that despite having success ballast on board, all three drivers were still fiercely competitive. Oriola spent the distance fighting with Gianni Morbidelli, Stefano Comini and Andrea Belicchi in a four way battle for the lead with positions constantly swapping.
With Morbidelli losing his on track victory due to a penalty, Oriola’s fourth place became third and the points haul increased. Gene made up several places after passing Kevin Gleason whilst Afanasyev lost several places at the start and fought with Gleason during the race. With Oriola finishing in third, Gene in fourth and Afanasyev in sixth, Craft-Bamboo took a good set of points.
Race two saw the first victory for a VW Golf take its first victory, but Pol Rossell was pushed all the way by Pepe Oriola and Jordi Gene who both passed front row starter Mikhail Grachev in the opening laps. Despite constant race pressure, both Spaniards had to settle for Second and Third places on the podium whilst Afanasyev took fourth place.
This now means that Oriola leads the Drivers’ Championship from Stefano Comini with Gene in third. Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing lie in second place behind Team Target Competition in the Teams Championship.
Oriola was happy to have met his own targets during the weekend.
“Really happy to be leading the championship heading into the summer break as it was our goal. Two podiums and the team did a really good job with everything this weekend.”
Gene took with him the positives of the races at the Red Bull Ring.
“Good weekend, it was very tough in the beginning. First race was good, we managed to find a good rhythm and take a few cars so P4 was fantastic. Second race was even better, very good start, the chance to win was there, I really pushed for it and at the end I lost second place because of the will to win. Still happy with third, scoring a lot of points and now third in the championship, one position more towards my goal. Everything is looking good after this weekend in Austria.”
Meanwhile Afansyev is looking forward to the final push in the last quarter of the Championship.
“It was a solid weekend, I managed to get some good points and fight some good battles with my teammate Jordi. After some really busy few months of racing, it will be nice to have a break and come back for the final championship push.”
Team Principal Richard Coleman praised the drivers on their performances in Austria.
“Going into this round we wanted to take the championship lead and we have succeed in this mission with Pepe now leading going into the summer break. The entire team did an excellent job and collected a great deal of points that has us within 14 points of the teams’ championship lead. We are now in a good position take both championships when we return.”