Clearwater Racing claimed their first race win on Saturday for the 2013 season with the McLaren 12C GT3 driven by Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Mok Weng Sun. The duo had a spectacular outing in a battle filled GT Asia Series Round 5 race held at Fuji International Circuit.
Crossing the line in second, the McLaren duo benefitted from a pit-stop infringement penalty imposed on the Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3 duo of Stefan Muecke and Frank Yu. The Craft Racing AMR team were given a 30 second time added penalty at the end of the race, relegating them down to fourth.
Both drivers were clearly disappointed but were still positive after the race, Muecke said “It was a good race, it was very close at the end we just had a 0.2 second gap over the line which was really close. We had good fun, the car was quick again. Unfortunately we had a 30 seconds penalty”.
For Yu, he was happy with the battle he had with Mok at the end when Mok came really close to overtaking Yu a couple of times. “Every Saturday my job is just to drive to the gap and Stefan gave me the car with I think a nine second lead. So all I had to do was to maintain the gap and cross the finish line in first. But then at the last two laps we ran into a chain of Porsche’s battling and I said “woop” (with worry). But anyway i kept my head down and managed to cross the line ahead of the McLaren”.
Despite trying his hardest at the end, Mok just could not gain the lead from Yu. But the penalty called after the race meant that Hamaguchi and Mok were able to claim their first win in the McLaren. “Our strategy was quite simple, I just follow Stefan as much as possible. I was on green tyres and so was he, so my goal was to be within five to six seconds when I pass to Weng but I was about eight seconds when I handed the car over” said Hamaguchi at the post race interview.
“I think I did okay, I think my tyre pressure was a bit too high so at the end of my stint the car was feeling a bit loose. Other than that, I think the car was fine.
“I am so happy to be back here and to win this race with one of my great friends and one of the persons I respect the most, my teammate and my rival, Weng. I am very happy” ended Hamaguchi.
For Mok, the win is a little bittersweet but it was a win all the same. He explained, “first of all, this win is for the team. For the guys that worked so hard all season to get the car right. Everything was perfect, during the qualifying and race, the car was fantastic. So I really want to dedicate this win to the team and it is also the first win for McLaren in Asia and we are really proud to deliver it.
“As Hiroshi said, the strategy was simple, he needed to ‘go-go-go’ and to stay as close to Stefan as possible while mine was to try and catch Frank. When I got the car, I did my best. I think I was closing the gap by about 1 second a lap. I felt that I was going to run out of laps but I caught him at the second last lap and we had a couple of close encounters when I tried to get by, some back markers got in the way on a couple of occasions which slowed me down a little bit. But that said, when we crossed the line we were one or two tenths of a second, we were that close at the end. A win is a win but I would have preferred to have beaten the Aston on the circuit rather than them having that penalty” ended Mok.
Li Zhi Cong fought hard in Asia Racing Team’s Porsche 997 GT3 R. He started the race in sixth but made a steady climb through the battling field to claim second at the end of the race. “I think we did a good job this weekend and the first thing is I would like to thank my team because before the race they worked really hard to change the car for me”.
Li then continued, “I did not have a good start, I lost some positions down to eighth or ninth and I had to catch up. The Porsche has a good straight line speed so I could catch with the cars in front of me fairly quickly. The car worked really well in the race and I am really happy to finish second.
“After the pit-stop, there were a few Porsche backmarkers between me and the Audi’s. The Porsche Cup cars are fast down the straight so I lost a little bit of time overtaking them but I think I did a good job. Maybe tomorrow I will do a little better and have a better position at the start so that I can push a little harder”.
Third place went to newcomer Akira Iida in AAI-RSTRADA’s McLaren. The podium finish was a slight consolation for the team as their teammate, Chen Jun San had to rush back to Taiwan after the demise of his father. “This was a very lucky race for us. This is the first race for our team here and we just had a shakedown with the car on Wednesday. We had some trouble with the car set-up so we were very lucky for this podium.
A.Iida was visibly emotional and dedicated the trophy to his teammate and out of respect, the podium finishers did not celebrate their wins with the champagne shower. “My teammate’s father passed away last night so this is not a happy podium for us. We all hope that his family is okay. We would also like to thank the organisers, our sponsors and the team for this race. I will try hard for the next race. This race is for Jun San’s father.
“Tomorrow I will start at the front and I will try hard for the team” ended A.Iida.
The top three drivers were also awarded the AAMC Macau GT Cup trophies and points were awarded to them for the Macau GT Championship, which will be awarded at the end of the season in Macau.
Fourth place went to the penalised Muecke and Yu while Alex Yoong and Francis Hideki Onda managed to have a great race to finish the best of the Audi R8 LMS Ultra in fifth. Yoong said of their race, “we were pushing every lap, the car is very kind to its tyres. We tried to maintain the times at the end as close to the beginning, pretty much and I can’t complain.
“I had a good first stint, I brought it home in third but we just didn’t have the pace to stay with any of the McLarens or the Astons. We knew coming here that Fuji will be the toughest track for us, we don’t have quite the same power as the other cars but the car is really good. Not much we can do really, but just try and hope for a better race tomorrow and keep it clean like we did today and hope, who knows, maybe we end up on the podium”.
Behind them was their teammate, the pairing of Cheng Cong Fu and Philip Ma, who both drove a clean race throughout their stints. They crossed the line ahead of the Lamborghini LP560 GT3 of Ro Charlz and Tunku Hammam Sulong who were in the lead pack before an early incident with Marchy Lee in the Audi caused them to spin.
Charlz said of his stint, “we had a good start and some good fights in the first lap with Darryl, Marchy and another car and we were in fifth so it was good. Then at turn one, Marchy and I were battling and I took too much kerb and spun. The car took a while to start after the spin so it was good fun” said Charlz with a laugh.
Hammam was comfortably happy with the result, “we struggled the whole week with our top end speed. Maybe because we have too much down-force in this car and we are not able to match the other cars in terms of straight-line speed. We are losing something like 15km an hour down the straight so we are trying to rectify it. Yet we were back to a certain degree. When Charlie passed the car to me we were eighth, I think, and I managed to gain a place for seventh”.
M.Lee then passed the car to his Audi teammate, Jeffrey Lee who brought the car home in eighth.
Francis Tjia finished the race in ninth and claimed the win in the GTM class. He too had a hard race in his Porsche 997 Cup 3.8 to the podium, battling throughout the race first with good friend and teammate, Wayne Shen, staying close on his tail for the first half of the race.
Tjia then benefitted from a drive through penalty and subsequent black flag given to W.Shen, leaving him to lead the race after the pit window closed. He then fought hard, changing positions numerous times with Taiyou Iida but in the end, they kept it a clean race with T.Iida claiming second for Team KRM in the Porsche 997 Cup 3.8.
Tjia said after the race, “I was basically driving flat-out the entire race. I am very happy to win but it wasn’t clear that I would. My start was safe. But throughout the race I was either chasing somebody or being chased, so it was a tough one. Iida San is a very quick driver, after the pit-stops he managed to get ahead of us and I thought it was going to be tough. But luckily a couple of laps later he ended up going a little bit wide at a corner and that’s how I managed to pass him.
“Then I put some distance between us, but towards the end, we neared some back markers and he closed the gap again. Then as we crossed the finish line there was two more seconds on the clock so I went ‘oh no we have another lap and this guy is right behind me’. He then tried to outbrake me in T1 and overshot and that how I maintained my position. So I am very happy with that” ended Tjia beaming.
The Age Age Racing duo was struggling throughout the week with their tyres but managed to hold on to finish the race in third. Tohjiro Azuma and Naoryu, were delighted with the podium finish and were quick to credit their team for a job well done.
Then Azuma added, “We had a problem with the front tyres during the qualifying, so my job was to concentrate on managing the tyres while pushing during the race. It was quite a stressful race for me but I am glad to be on the podium”.
His teammate had an external pressure to be on the podium over the weekend. “Fuji is my home circuit and we have so many friends and supporters here with us this weekend, so we really wanted to win the race for them. However, after qualifying we realised that we could at least get on the podium so we pushed hard and we were lucky to be able to be on the podium today”.
Craft Racing’s second Aston, courtesy of team Arnage Racing who loaned them their car for the weekend, after the Ford GT3 suffered from a blown engine after the practice sessions, finished the difficult race in twelfth. The car and the drivers had the pace but a string of bad luck during the race caused them to drop down the order. But the duo was thankful to the team for working hard to ensure that they were able to race over the weekend.
O’Young spoke of his race, “the start was pretty bad. I don’t know, there were a couple of incidents on track and I kind of had to avoid the incidents, avoiding contact with some cars so I lost momentum and I just had to get them one at a time. It was a really tough first lap. There were a lot going on, on the infield and I seem to have gotten the worst out of every incident. A couple of cars making contact in front and I had to avoid, causing two cars to pass me, just stuff like that” he said with an incredulous laugh.
“Its kind of unfortunate because I really wanted to do a lot better because we had good speed but when we lost the positions and we were stuck behind cars for so many laps. If I could have stayed in the top four, I think we would have had a chance for the podium today”.
After receiving the car from O’Young, Chan said, “the car was good, we got the set-up done and it feels much better. I had a good race. My pace was not bad, I am still learning the car. Towards the end of the session, I saw the Audis then I really tried to catch up because first I thought we were in seventh so I thought ‘no point’ but as soon as I saw the two Audis I said ‘no way, I’ve got to pass them’. I knew my pace was quicker but unfortunately when I passed Jeffrey at turn 4 and 5, he hit me in the rear and I had a puncture so I had to come in and that was about the end of the race for us” he laughed.
Behind the duo was the Porsche 997 Cup 3.8 of Keith Vong who crossed the line ahead of Dijon Racing’s specially modified Corvette Z06R GT with handicapped driver Aoki Takuma and his driver partner, Tsuruta Kazuya. This was the first time out for the duo in the Series and they are impressed at the level of competition in the Series.
Dilantha Malagamuwa shared driving duties with his friend Jacky Yeung for the weekend in the Lamborghini Gallardo GT. The duo had a tough weekend, finishing the race in 15th ahead of John Shen and Shim Ching both in Porsche 997 Cup 3.8’s.
Wayne Shen was disqualified after ignoring a drive through penalty served for being five seconds under the minimum time for his pit stop.