Photo: TCR Media

Pepe Oriola leads Craft-Bamboo SEAT 1-2 in Thailand Race 1

Craft-Bamboo Racing driver Pepe Oriola took his fourth win of the 2016 TCR International Series season, leading team-mate James Nash in an all-SEAT 1-2 to extend his championship lead.

The Spaniard made the best use of his pole position to lead into Turn 1, while WestCoast Racing’s Gianni Morbidelli held station from second on the grid.

James Nash meanwhile had a lightning start from sixth on the grid in his SEAT, zipping past the B3 Racing SEAT of Mat’o Homola and then running through the middle of the two Leopard Racing Volkswagens of Jean-Karl Vernay and Stefano Comini to pinch third.

Vattana Motorsport’s Jack Lemvard would be the first retirement of the race after drama at Turn 3 in his SEAT León Cup Racer, while championship contender Mat’o Homola’s race ended on lap five due to a broken driveshaft.

The new Subaru WRX STi TCR’s race also ended soon afterwards, with Luigi Ferrara grinding to a halt at the exit of Turn 4, with the car recovered under yellow flags.

The battle in the top five heated up on lap five, as James Nash made his move and passed Morbidelli for second at Turn 3, just as behind them Jean-Karl Vernay tried to line up a pass on Comini at Turn 4 for fourth, but the Swiss driver had the inside line for Turn 5 and held the position, and would keep it until the end of the race.

There was trouble at the end of the race for Mulsanne Racing, with Petr Fulín crashing out hard into the barriers at Turn 3, with his Alfa Romeo Giulietta most certainly unable to make the start of Race 2.

Oriola would go on to win the race by 1.3 seconds over Nash, with Morbidelli completing the podium.

“I was a little bit worried at the start, as the Hondas (usually) have a better start than us, but I had my best start of the year,” said Oriola.

“I’m really happy for my team as we did a 1-2 and for my championship it’s the best way by winning the race.”

Oriola’s lead in the drivers’ standings is now 15 points over Comini, who finished fourth, with Nash 18 points behind in third.

A number of drivers are under investigation for exceeding the track limits at Turn 4 when the yellow flags were out for the recovery of Ferrara’s car, including Mulsanne Alfa driver Petr Fulín and Leopard Volkswagen’s Jean-Karl Vernay.

Race 2 follows at 14:05 local time with WestCoast Racing Honda driver Mikhail Grachev starting on pole position.