Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Pepe Oriola posted the fastest time in testing for the TCR International Series in Sochi, finishing ahead of team-mate Jordi Gené and Mikhail Grachev.
Spanish duo Oriola and Gené rose to the top of the times in the second half of the 45-minute session, with Oriola’s time of 2:21.349 being eight tenths faster than second-placed Gené.
“It was a good testing session, with already a good initial set-up in my SEAT,” said Oriola after posting the fastest time. “The track has not yet much grip, but this will evolve. I find the track quite interesting and exciting, it’s fun to drive, although the marshals will have to be very attentive with the respect of track limits, because you can gain quite a lot playing with those…”
Local racer Grachev is the only driver to have previous experience of the circuit around the Olympic Park in Sochi, with the Liqui Moly Team Engstler man focussing on the set-up on his SEAT León car.
“Knowing well the circuit, I could focus on working on the car,” said Grachev. “We have a good set-up to start from, but there is quite some room from improvement.”
Series newcomer Alexei Dudukalo was fourth fastest in his SEAT, ahead of compatriot Sergey Afanasyev, meaning Russian drivers finished fourth, fifth and sixth fastest at home.
Championship leader Gianni Morbidelli was only seventh fastest in his Honda Civic, with the Italian professing to find the circuit uninteresting.
“I am a little bit puzzled by the track, I don’t find it very interesting, with all these corners very similar one to the other and all these walls,” explained Morbidelli. “There is only one real fast corner, but which poses no challenge with our cars. Still there is a lot of work to do on the handling, so we will focus on that.”