Pepe Oriola, the fruit of a passion

At 24 years old, Pepe Oriola has become the best ranked driver in the history of World Touring Cars. Sixth in the 2018 WTCR Oscaro, he flew the flag for his country, but also for his brand, Cupra Racing, of which he is an ambassador. Created last February, the new entity of Seat Sport let’s him live out his dreams at the highest level.

Sixteen, the number of races that Pepe Oriola needed to give Cupra Racing their first victory in their short history in WTCR Oscaro.

Let’s go a few months back in time, to July 14th, in Slovakia. The Barcelonian wins the first race of the weekend. He gets out of his car, hitting himself on the helmet, celebrating with his team, and goes toward a man. On the top of his one meter and 95 centimeters, Jaime Puig, Director of Cupra Racing, waits for him. The two men hug it out. “He invested a lot in me. Sometimes he’s very hard with me, but for my own good. It’s often electric between us when we work. But when we celebrated that win, it took a big weight off my shoulders“, Pepe says with nostalgia.

The prodigy is 15 years old when he meets his “mentor” for the first time. At this time, in 2009, Oriola was still in go-karts. After some good tests with Montlau Compéticion (A team which Marc Marquez raced for), he tries out for racing in bigger cars and goes to Jerez, to participate in the Seat Léon Supercopa. The result? “I got on the podium. I was only 15 and i drove against experimented drivers. Seat liked what they saw. That’s where our story started.” says Oriola. Today, he is a brand ambassador. He was able to follow the birth of Cupra Racing from A to Z. In recognition, he has only one objective. “Give them a world championship.”

Motorsport revelation

Figuring amongst the world elite of the Touring Car world, Josep Oriola, of his true name, was not destined to do this line of work. At 8 years old, while karting for fun with his father close to Montmelo, the circuit owner, conscient of his qualities, proposes an opportunity to try a competition-level kart. Out of the question for the Oriola’s, Pepe already has his sport. He plays… ice hockey. He remembers: “Motorsports never interested me much, but then Fernando Alonso came into my life.” In 2003, the Spaniard wins his first F1 race, which triggers something in Oriola’s mind. He wants to become a race driver. “I went more and more go-karting, i wanted to do as Alonso. After a while, my dad had me try out a quicker kart. Two days later, i did a race and won. That’s when i understood i wanted to do this.”

Since then, his life revolves around motorsport : “it’s everything for me, my passion, my job… ” says in a smile the 74 of WTCR Oscaro. The race driver dedicates all his time to this sport. Even when he’s not driving, he’s coaching a young 19 y/o Dutch, Danny Kroes, on TCR Europe. Motorsport gives him things that he can find anywhere else :

 

"The adrenaline, the thrills, we are all addicted to it!"

A dad in gold

If Pepe launches himself in motorsports only at the age of 9, one event may unconsciously have guided him towards that world.

Celebrating his first birthday, his dad gifts him a small electric car. “I don’t know why he bought me this. He probably wanted to spoil me and it had to be the nicest gift in the store.” tells Pepe Oriola in good fun. One thing is certain, the little Spaniard does not quit his new toy.I don’t remember well, he says, but my dad told me i followed him everywhere with this little car. We bought bread together, his cigars...” People on the street are surprised to see this little boy, barely walking, driving with such ease.

Without knowing, his dad has given a sense to the life of Pepe. A few years later, he’ll gift him his racing licence and finance his first races when sponsors were missing.

With time the two men become closer and closer, to the joy of the son: “My parents divorced when i was only 2 years old. I am very close to both of them, but my dad has always been there at every race. Up until last year, he followed me to every corner of the earth, that is a lot of weekends together.

The irony of chance, Oriola is maybe one of the best touring car drivers of his generation, but his dad, who helped him to this level, is not a good driver behind the wheel: “He does whatever he wants behind the wheel, he makes me laugh a lot when he drives“, Pepe jokes.

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