Photo: TCR Media

Pepe Oriola leads Craft-Bamboo Lukoil 1-2-3

Pepe Oriola won the first race at Buriram, Thailand, leading a Craft-Bamboo Lukoil 1-2-3 with Jordi Gené and Sergey Afanasyev completing the podium. The race was led earlier by Gianni Morbidelli, but the WestCoast Racing driver was awarded a drive through penalty due to a jump start and finished tenth.

At the start Morbidelli retained the lead ahead of the Craft-Bamboo trio which had already formed up as it would have finished. Kevin Gleason was fifth in the other WestCoast Racing Honda, with Stefano Comini up to sixth ahead of Target Competition team-mate Loris Hezemans, with Lorenzo Veglia, Tomas Engstrom and René Munnich completed the top ten.

Robb Holland spun on the main straight trying to avoid a collision, as a slow Mikhail Grachev eventually had to stop in the pits. Alain Menu went up to as high as 11th, fighting with his opponents in an encouraging way for the Top Run Subaru WRX STi.

Soon, however, the race was changed completely by the penalty awarded to Morbidelli, who had moved a few inches before the lights went out. The Italian rejoined in 16th, promoting Munkong Sathienthirakul to tenth.

From then on the front runners took no risks, with Oriola, Gené, Afanasyev and Gleason all packed but never trying a move on each other. Stefano Comini remained a distant fifth, but slowly built a gap from Target Competition team-mate Loris Hezemans. A thrilling fight between Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Lorenzo Veglia and Tomas Engstrom, as well as René Munnich’s Honda, resolved in the three not switching positions despite some thrilling moves. Gianni Morbidelli made up a huge eight second gap to pass TCR Asia winner Munkong Sathienthirakul and score a point.

Alain Menu finished the race one lap early due to a technical problem with his Subaru WRX STi.

Race 2 starts at 14.05 local time.