It was an exciting end to the Japanese leg of the GT Asia Series when the Audi R8 LMS Ultra claimed a one-two finish at Fuji International Circuit for Round 6 today. Marchy Lee took the car home for a win after Jeffrey Lee passed the car to him during the pit-stop. He was followed across the line by teammate Alex Yoong who took over driving duties from Francis Hideki Onda.
The duo battled throughout their stint leaving their team wrought with tension at every turn. The Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3, which Stefan Muecke took over from Frank Yu, caught up with the duo with a few laps remaining and immediately piled the pressure on, but Yoong kept his position despite almost losing it at the end when Muecke tapped him, causing panic in the Audi pit when the rear of his car started to smoke. But as he turned the last corner and saw the chequered flag, the pit erupted into loud cheers.
Muecke finished the race in third for Craft Racing AMR, capping off a hard weekend with a podium for Craft Racing AMR.
The race started well with Akira Iida in AAI-RSTRADA’s McLaren 12C GT3 starting from pole and the second McLaren, from Clearwater Racing with Mok Weng Sun, alongside him. But as they went into turn one, it was a three way battle with Yu taking the inside line bunching them all together.
Yu got past to take the lead but A.Iida reclaimed it at the next turn, whilst Li Zhi Cong in Asia Racing Team’s Porsche 997 GT3 R, found his way past into second. Yu then had Mok behind him whilst Samson Chan in the other Aston was up one position to fifth.
Not long after, on lap 5, the battling duo of Tunku Hammam in the Lamborghini LP560 GT3 and the Audi R8 LMS Ultra driven by Phillip Ma collided as they battled for position into turn one. Both drivers rejoined the race but the GTM Ferrari 458 Challenge driven by Naoryu was a casualty, when he avoided a collision with the duo and picked up some debris which ended his race with a high speed rear puncture sending him straight on into the run off at Turn 1.
Keith Vong was also later a casualty a few laps later when also suffering from a puncture caused by debris that he hit on the main straight leaving the Safety Car on track a little longer.
The Audi’s benefitted from the melee and a perfectly timed pit-stop to come out ahead of both the McLaren 12C GT3’s and the Aston Martin’s, a position that they maintained all the way to the chequered flag.
For race winners, J.Lee said at the post race interview, “We did not have such a bad start but the Lamborghini had a better start. But I passed him on the second lap and I managed to keep the pace behind the second Aston until the Safety Car session that pulled the gap closer to the leading pack. So we used that advantage to come in and let Marchy finish the job.
“I didn’t know that the Safety Car was going to be out for so many laps so we were just waiting there and got ourselves ready, prepared” said J.Lee.
For M.Lee it was definitely not a quiet race, saying, “My race was exciting. Once I started up the car, after just ten seconds off, the car was smoking in the back. This time I was smart enough to turn it off and start it again and the smoke was gone.
“Once I started the race I could see that my teammate, Alex, was right there. So we raced each other quite a lot these few years so I know his pace is fantastic so I just had to keep it together. Alex was giving me pressure and I think he was faster than me but of course we respect one another and he did a good job.
“For me, in the lead I just maintained my pace. This season has been tough so far but the car was good and it was a fair race. I did make a mistake at the last corner, I pulled out too much then I knew Alex would come but he respected me and didn’t make any moves. Then on the radio I heard that the Aston was coming but they also told me to just focus on keeping the lead.
“I have to thank Audi China, the team and my teammates”.
Second placed finisher, Onda was all smiles after the race despite a tough start. “I’m a royal screw-up basically” said Onda with a laugh. “I started in eighth but I had a few GTM cars that just blasted by me. But I took the Ferrari out fairly quickly and continued to race my way upwards. Then I was behind one GTM car, Wayne’s I believe, then the Safety Car came out and things got really slow.
“Then as the Safety Car went in, I saw the Aston go out and there were a few incidents involving cars up in the front and we ended up in position two, as the pits were done. It’s unreal, unbelievable. The two Audis did fight and could have destroyed each other or it could have ended as we did now. So it was a thrilling race”.
Yoong had the more exciting stint between the duo, saying, “We decided not to change tyres because with the tight confines of the pits we may have lost some time during the pit-stop. I think that was a good call because we went out really nicely in first and second. And with the Aston having the Compensation Time they had a longer pit-stop so I knew that they would be behind us. But I also knew that the will be catching fast. So there was a lot of communication between us. They were about five tenths of a second faster so we had to push.
“Marchy and I were doing about the same time but as my race wore on, I think my tyres were a bit better so I could be a little bit closer. I knew I could have a go at him so I had a couple of go’s but we gave each other room. And after I did that I could see that the Aston was closing in so from that point on it was a case of consolidating second. Because one and two for us, Audi and everyone involved was fantastic.
When asked about the last lap nudge and subsequent smoking of his car, Yoong replied, “Stefan would call it a ‘Love Tap’, he just gave me a little kiss. But it was a worry, the team was telling me there was smoke coming out and I could feel the car oversteering badly through the right handers in the last sector. I was worried the tyres were going down so as I went on to the straight and saw the chequered flag, it was a nice sight”.
When asked what the situation was like at the pits when watching M.Lee and Yoong battle at the end, J.Lee said “it was quite tense with me and Francis in the pit watching them race. We tried to give tips to both Marchy and Alex but it was a good fight”.
Francis added “we were all screaming but mostly concerned for the two cars who are both professional athletes who first and foremost have a lot of respect for themselves first so they will battle. But thank God that Marchy and Alex raced together in the LMS cup so they know each other so well. Of course I wanted Alex to win”.
Third placed finishers, Yu and Muecke were happy to be on the podium again after the 30 second time added penalty that relegated them down to fourth yesterday. Yu said of the race, “It was definitely really exciting. Going into turn 1, I knew that the two McLarens will start passing each other so I took the inside line and the braking point was perfect and I took the lead. But then one of the McLarens, Akira I think, was just right on my tail and I saw that his car was half on the grass, so I could have stayed in that position but I did not want any accidents to happen to him so I gave him room and he passed. While doing that the Porsche got me as well, but I was alright. The plan was to be in the three car train and so when I hand over to Stefan he will do his Sunday job, which is to take the win.
A miscalculated pit-stop cost the team a lot of time and Muecke only managed to come back out behind the Audis, where he stayed despite trying for second, to the chequered flag.
Stefan “We changed tyres, that was our strategy. It was close and I think we lost a little bit of time there and because of that we stopped a little bit longer than the Audi. The gap was actually quite big. I tried everything to catch up, managed that and it was also nice to see the battle in front of me. I was also hoping that they would make some mistake and actually they did, going offline twice. So I was really able to catch them but we ran out of time.
“I was behind Alex in the last lap, he made a mistake down at the hairpin and went a bit wide, so I tried to get a nose in but he came back so I braked a little harder but I still gave him a little ‘kiss’. I’m sorry about that Alex. It was a good fight at the end and this time we were third”.
The third Audi pairing, Philip Ma and Cheng Cong Fu finished the race in fourth, ahead of the brilliant duo of Samson Chan and WTCC driver, Darryl O’Young, in the Aston Martin who also lost out from a mistimed pit stop. Akira Iida ended the race sixth, ahead of Li Zhi Cong, Mok and his driver partner Hiroshi Hamaguchi who suffered heavily due to the safety car closing up the field just before the pit stop, which meant that the compensation times from the previous race positions took them out of contention. The troubled pairing of Hammam and Ro Charlz collected ninth.
Finishing tenth, Wayne Shen was vindicated when he claimed the GTM class win for Round 6 after he was disqualified from the race yesterday. The trio of Porsche 997 Cup 3.8’s with W.Shen finishing ahead of Taiyou Iida and good friend Francis Tjia, with whom he battled after the pit stop sessions.
“We did not make any mistakes today, so its nice to just enjoy the race. In the beginning it was a bit hectic there were a couple of cars that spun so I had to avoid some people and then there was some confusion over the safety car issue. But after that it was quite a steady race and I just drove at my own pace” said W.Shen.
He then continued, “before the pit-stop, Francis was right behind me and because of the traffic ahead, I was just keeping an eye on that. I thought my tyres were a bit strange, I was worried that I had a puncture but then the tyres came back and it was a fairly easy race after that”.
For T.Iida the weekend was an interesting experience, competing against fellow Porsche racers, saying, “It was a nice and clean fight with Wayne and Francis. They are both Porsche Carrera Cup Asia drivers and I am a Carrera Cup Japan driver, so it was a very gentlemanly battle we had. It was very interesting. I am happy with the weekend.
Tjia was happy with the outcome of the race but felt a little lonely towards the end of the race. He said, “right after the Safety Car it was still interesting, we were trying to make up some time but after the pit-stop, that was it. It was a very lonely race from there so I thought I’ll see if I can go a little bit quicker but it was a bit boring. Compared to yesterday, it was a brilliant race but today it was kind of like doing your own qualifying session”.
Jacky Yeung partnered this weekend with Sri Lankan Dilantha Malagamuwa in Tiger Racing’s Lamborghini Gallardo, finishing the race fourth in GTM. Behind them were Dijon Racing’s Corvette Z06R GT with handicapped driver Aoki Takuma who was partnered with Tsuruta Kazuya claiming fifth ahead of IMS’s Shim Ching and privateer, John Shen.
The top three winners also collected points for the AAMC Macau GT Cup Championship.
The GT Asia Series continues with Rounds 7 & 8 at Sepang International Circuit 13-15 September 2013.