Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil scored a commanding victory in race two when James Nash stormed to his first ever TCR International Series win at the Estoril Circuit in Portugal. It was a challenging weekend for the team though, with Pepe Oriola and James Nash carrying success ballast, which was then further compounded by the BOP difference between other competitors. All three drivers were able to collect a solid amount of points in the first race, with Sergey Afanasyev finishing in P5, followed by James Nash in P6 and Pepe Oriola in P8.
After a great start in race two, Nash led the race from the first corner and took his first ever win in commanding fashion, while Afanasyev finished P4 and Oriola P10. The Spaniard suffered contact during the start, damaging his car and preventing him from challenging for a top result. Nash now trails the drivers’ championship lead by only one point, with Oriola third and Afanasyev fourth. Team Craft-Bamboo Lukoil continues to lead the teams’ championship by a 46 point margin heading into the next round at Spa.
All three drivers managed a clean start and filed into line after the opening few corners with Afanasyev leading the trio in P6, Nash in P7 and Oriola in P8. From there, the Russian driver went on the attack and was able to take another position by the third lap, while teammate, Nash, was also able to take another position and move into P6 on lap four. By the race’s midpoint, Oriola was beginning to come under attack from those behind and it was clear that the 30kg of success ballast was affecting his performance. “I knew it was going to be really hard with 30kg of extra weight and it was but I managed to score some points that keeps me close in the championship,” said Oriola. “Hopefully I can do better in race two with the reverse grid.”
The Spaniard remained unfazed though and showed great skill in defending his position against the competition. Still running in P6 and P7 respectively, Afanasyev and Nash had been able to create their own gap and were closing in on the leaders during the last few laps of the race. Afanasyev gave it his all on a last lap attack but he was unable to get ahead and finished the race in P5, followed by Nash in P6. Oriola had held off his opponents in a great show of defensive driving and crossed the line in P8.
Nash got off to a flying start from P2, driving straight up the inside and taking P1 after the first corner. Oriola was also off to good start and began to charge up the middle with considerable speed but unfortunately made contact with Loris Hezemans, which would go on to affect his performance throughout the race. Afanasyev took the outside line and after several battles settled into P5 behind teammate Oriola who was running in P4.
As Nash began to extend his lead out in front, Oriola was starting to feel the effects of that first lap contact as Afanasyev made an easy pass down the pit straight on lap four. The Spaniard was doing all he could to defend his position but was unable to keep the other cars at bay, slipping down to P8 by lap five as he struggled to deal with his damaged SEAT Leon.
Afanasyev made a small slip up that cost him P4 but the Russian driver gave chase and was able to retake the position in the closing stage of the race with another smooth pass down the straight. Oriola was doing his best to battle both his opponents and his damaged car but had slipped down to 10th. As the final lap came to an end, Nash crossed the line with a commanding lead courtesy of his perfect drive from lights to flag. This secured him his first ever TCR International Series win in only his second race weekend. Afanasyev took P4 and a good chunk of points, while Oriola managed to fend off the rest of the field and take home the last championship point in P10.
“It was probably the best start of the season for me and that helped so much,” said Nash. “I skipped free practice to save tyres and that allowed me to push quite hard in the first part of the race and build some advantage. It was a stressful gap though, because at the end of the race I struggled with the tyres. Still, everything went well and now I am enjoying a good position in the championship, only one point behind Gianni Morbidelli. Too early to say anything, the championship is still very long and it will be about consistency.”