Pepe Oriola believes he had the upper hand in the first TCR International Series race of the season in Bahrain, saying that the WestCoast Racing Hondas weren’t as fast as the Craft-Bamboo Racing SEAT Leóns.
Oriola won the opening race of the season in Sakhir from fifth on the grid, benefitting from a good start to move into second before passing team-mate James Nash further around the opening lap.
When the Honda Civic TCR of Gianni Morbidelli eventually got into second position with three laps to go, the Italian simply didn’t have the pace to catch Oriola.
The Spaniard says he was pleased with the result in the opening race, although he lamented the amount of practice time available as a result of supporting the Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain.
“It’s definitely a good way to start the season,” said Oriola. “It was a pretty good race for me, although not easy. I did only one mistake at the beginning, when I attacked too hard my team-mate James Nash.
“Other than that, the only real trouble is that the tyres started to get consumed by mid race, which brought massive understeer. That allowed Gianni to close the gap a bit, but I don’t think he was as fast as us today.
“It is a really enjoyable experience to be racing here at Bahrain within the F1 Grand Prix, although it means less practice time.”
Morbidelli himself, who took second, conceded that Oriola was correct in his assertion that he didn’t have as much speed as the 2015 championship runner-up.
“Pepe is right: we are not as quick as the SEAT cars,” said Morbidelli. “It is clear that we have to work a lot to catch up, but the race was very useful to understand where we are and to see our strong and weak points.
“There was some good fighting along the way too, that’s nice too, but the most important was that I could score good points for myself and WestCoast. Second today is a very good result towards the championship.”