Photo: TCR Media

Pepe Oriola dominates in Craft-Bamboo 1-2-3

Pepe Oriola won the first race of the day at Valencia, Spain. The home hero retained the lead from pole position and never looked back, while Craft-Bamboo Lukoil team-mates Sergey Afanasyev and Jordi Gené completed the podium.

At the start all three Target Competition SEAT León Racers had a difficult start, with Andrea Belicchi unable to stop Sergey Afanasyev and Jordi Gené from overtaking him. An incredibly good start from Mikhail Grachev’s Audi TT took him from 13th on the grid up to fifth at the end of the first lap, as the Russian managed to overtake several cars out of the second corner. Behind him were Target’s Stefano Comini and Michel Nykjaer.

Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Franz Engstler was soon out of the race, most likely due to an early contact in the opening stages of the race, as Gianni Morbidelli lost one place and dropped down to eleventh.

Oscar Nogués fought hard in the early stages, but slipped down the order subsequently. Morbidelli started making up ground and eventually reached eighth after a long battle with Bas Schouten’s SEAT León Racers.

Meanwhile the race was full of battles, as Gené tried to attack team-mate Afanasyev, just like Comini started getting bigger and bigger in Grachev’s mirrors. It was however Andrea Belicchi who pulled off the most serious attack with four laps to go, at turn 2, but Gené defended his third place and actually started opening a gap from the Italian, even getting closer to his Russian team-mate and attacking until the flag was waved.

Pepe Oriola drove an absolutely perfect race to win by a 4.6s margin over team-mate Sergey Afanasyev and Jordi Gené. Despite his efforts, Belicchi could not make up for the bad start and finished in fourth, while Grachev successfully defended his fifth place for Liqui Moly Team Engstler from an aggressive but fair Comini. Target Competition team-mate Nykjaer came home seventh by a huge margin over former championship leader Gianni Morbidelli’s WestCoast Racing Honda. Bas Schouten and Lorenzo Veglia completed the top ten.

In the championship standings Comini is still in the lead on 81 points, but Oriola is just 2 points down, with Morbidelli a further three behind.

Next up for the TCR International Series is Race 2, which is scheduled for 14:05.