It was a clean yet action filled GT Asia Series Round 2 at Twin Ring Motegi where Stefan Mucke claimed the win for Craft Racing in the Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3 after a good first stint by Frank Yu.
Peter Li Zhi Cong started off well in the Porsche 997 GT3 R, taking pole sitter Mok Weng Sun in the McLaren 12C GT3 right as the lights turned green. Li maintained his lead all the way to the pit-window, where he had to serve an extra ten second time added stop from his win in the previous round.
Mok started the race well but was suffering from back pain that slowly crept down his leg during the race. Despite that, he pushed on, maintaining an impressive second place until the pit-stop session. He then completed his stop and rejoined in third, a position he kept all the way to the finish line. However, after the race, Mok was given a 35 second time added penalty for starting his engine while his car was jacked up, dropping him down to fifth, behind the duo of Jeffrey Lee and Marchy Lee in the Audi R8 LMS Ultra. Samson Chan in the Ford GT3 was also penalized for the same infringement.
Down the grid, Dilantha Malagamuwa in the Audi R8 LMS Ultra was battling with Chan, when Chan touched the Sri Lankan, resulting in a spin and end of the race for the Audi. Chan was later penalized with a drive through penalty for the incident.
As all drivers were making their stop, Hisao Shigeta, who did not set a time during Qualifying 2 due to a mechanical issue, had climbed up from the end of the grid to lead the race. He took the opportunity to stay on track and continued to push his Porsche 997 GT3 R hard to create a bigger gap. After taking his pit-stop, Shigeta managed to keep the lead, leaving Li to rejoin in second.
Meanwhile Mok was defending his position in third from Mucke who took over driving duties from Yu. Ro-Charlz took over from Tunku Hammam in Clearwater Racing’s Lamborghini LP560 GT3 and was out in fifth with Marchy Lee replacing Jeffrey Lee in sixth in the Audi R8 LMS Ultra.
From there the battle at the head got heated, Mucke found a way past Mok and immediately began his charge to catch the dueling Porsche’s ahead. At turn 11 of lap 20, Mucke took the inside claiming second from Li and began pressuring the Japanese driver for the lead.
Then on the next lap, with pressure piling from the Aston, Shigeta made a mistake at turn two, spun his car ending his race on the gravel with a couple of laps to go. Mucke was elated at his stroke of luck, as he mentioned that the Porsche had the better straight line speed.
After the race, Yu was happy with the shared win saying, “today everything was as planned, it couldn’t be more perfect. I started the race in P5 and immediately I tried to overtake the two Audi’s but Dilantha is of course a very experienced driver and his car is twice the size so it was really difficult to pass. I think it was lap four that I made a move and took him and then Tunku was behind me.
“Anyway, we were doing about the same pace, I got up to P3 and then the Porsche that started all the way from the back is all of the sudden behind me. It’s got some serious pace on the straight line and there was nothing I can do. Down the hill, he overtook me on the outside. Then I handed over the car to Stefan and he did a brilliant job and everything went as planned.
“At the start I took some risks but they were all calculated. I think I did a good job today, and it was a lot better than yesterday. Yesterday was pretty much a disaster from Qualifying all the way to the race, we had no data with the wet tyres so we had some issues with the handling in the wet” ended Yu before passing on to Mucke.
“Frank did a very good job and handed the car over to me in a very good position. We changed the tyres and had a fresh set of tyres for the last stint and I tried immediately to get some positions. We struggled a little bit with brake temperatures so we had to be a bit careful on the brakes but it was alright, I managed to overtake some cars” said Mucke at the Post Race Press Conference.
“Then the lead car spun in front of me which was quite nice and made it easy for me” he said sheepishly. “We finished in P1 and we are really happy”.
When asked about the upcoming race in Okayama, Yu continued for the duo, “fortunately both Stefan and I have driven at the Okayama circuit before so the drivers will not be new to the circuit but the team will be”.
Li, the young Chinese driver, was happy with the results of the day. Claiming his second podium for the weekend, Li was grateful to his Asia Racing Team for a good set-up. He went on to speak of his race saying, “I had a good start and overtook the McLaren for first and from there I just tried to push a lot. The laptime on the first part of the race was quite consistent. When we got to the pit-stop, I had to wait an extra ten seconds, it was time added from the win yesterday. Because of that when I went back out on track I was in second.
“I tried to overtake but Shigeta has the new engine and has a better speed on a straight line. Towards the end, I think my tyre pressure was too high and there was a lot of oversteer. Then the Aston overtook me.
“I was lucky that Shigeta made a mistake and spun up ahead, giving me second” he ended with a smile.
For Hammam, climbing on the podium was unexpected as his teammate, Mok, crossed the line in fourth. But the penalty given to Mok propelled them to third for a podium finish. After the race, the Malaysian spoke of his race saying, “It wasn’t too bad at the start, I started in seventh position. I made a move at the first turn and I passed Samson but then after that I don’t know what happened and Samson hit me and I lost back that position to him. Then I chased him back and took him at turn three and had Frank in front with Dilantha up ahead. This followed for another lap before Frank made a move on Dilantha and I followed suit.
Four laps later “the handling of the car deteriorated plus me as well” he said with a laugh before continuing “the car did not feel that good so my pace dropped a little bit but I kept going before passing it to Charlie”.
Ro complimented Hammam on a great drive and agreed that the car was not as perfect as it could be. “Tunku is right, the balance of the car wasn’t exactly where we wanted it. It was our first time with the Lamborghini and we only got our hands on it on Thursday. We still have a fair bit to learn about it, its doing a great job for us but we need to maximize it in the dry.
“Hammam did a good job and brought the car to me in fifth but we had time added to our stop from our results yesterday and when we came out we were in seventh. Then I managed to pick my way back through a couple of guys and picked up a few positions as we went along. Then one of the Porsche’s spun up ahead moving us up.
“It was a bit of a surprise, it is good for the points. We crossed the finish line in fourth and were informed after that Weng had an issue so third was a surprise for us”. Despite bumping their teammate off the podium, the duo was happy with the extra points for their Championship.
Finishing the race sixth was the pairing of Francis Hideki Onda and Alex Yoong in the Audi R8 LMS Ultra. The duo suffered from a clutch problem at the start of Qualifying 2 and had to start the race at the tail end. Onda made a good start, slowly making his climb up the ranks and was able to get the car up to seventh by the pit stop. Yoong rejoined the race in eighth and had a hard second stint as the leading pack was too far ahead to catch after the stops. He could only improve the pace and by the end of the race managed to get close to the battling drivers ahead but ran out of laps to overtake them. Yoong crossed the line in sixth, ahead of Chan.
In GTM class, the race was also a tough one, the weather was perfect for the cars making it very competitive with all the drivers pushing. For the Japanese newcomers from Age Age Racing, the race weekend went on quite well for them. Tohjiro Azuma managed to push their Ferrari 458 Challenge at the start of the race to build a gap allowing Naoryu to keep a clean race and maintain their advantage all the way to the chequered flag.
“I was just trying to keep the pace and push the car to open up a gap as I started in P1 for GTM and we also did a perfect pit-stop. There was no pressure at all” said the young driver confidently.
Naoryu then added “Tohjiro kept a good pace until the driver change and gave us a great advantage, so all I had to do was keep the pace which Tohjiro got. I am very grateful to be in P1. A lot of friends came today, giving me the confidence and support. I would like to thank my family, my wife, our friends and team for this”.
Billy Fung started the race off well for the Hitotsuyama Racing Audi R8 LMS. Mingling amongst the GT3 drivers at the start, he got off well and maintained a steady pace all the way to the pit-stop window. From there Asai Akihiro took over driving duties before taking them to second place.
“This was a phenomenal result for me. I had a pretty good start, overtaking several cars at the first corner and although I was a bit slow I managed to keep it steady as we had good weather unlike yesterday. Because of the tyres and the weather, I was able to maintain my laptime” said Fung after the race.
“We dropped a little bit in position at the pit-stop but soon I got up to third and then second. I then caught up to the leading GTM car at the last lap but we didn’t manage to take him. It was really close, but at least we are on the podium for the team. Billy did a great job and he kept a gap, so we were there. I am really happy” ended Akihiro.
In third was Francis Tjia in the Porsche 997 Cup 3.8. He was expecting a better result with the improved track conditions but had to settle with third on the podium. “The race was good, especially the first few laps were very exciting. I really was hoping for a little bit more to be honest, after qualifying well and getting a good laptime out of the car but it was much more difficult to get a better laptime out of the car today. I’m happy with third, my goal was to be on the podium and I got that but frankly speaking I would have liked to have done a little bit better. I think I lost second place with five laps to go but the car just wasn’t as quick as it was yesterday”.
John Shen in the Porsche 997 Cup 3.8 finished the race in eleventh, ahead of the Team Tiger Racing’s Lamborghini Gallardo GT driven by 2012 GTM Class Champion, Jacky Yeung. Two other Porsche 997 Cup 3.8 finished the race, with Shim Ching in thirteenth and Wayne Shen fourteenth. Shen was not able to recover and had a tough catch up race after spinning his car early on in the race.
The GT Asia Series continues with Rounds 3 & 4 at the Okayama International Circuit on 28-30 June.