It was a tremendously exciting season opener for the 2013 GT Asia Series held today where Peter Li Zhi Cong claimed the win in his Porsche 997 GT3 R on a very wet Twin Ring Motegi circuit.
He was followed across the line by reigning Champion, Mok Weng Sun in the McLaren 12C GT3 in second and Tunku Hammam, who paired up with Ro-Charlz in Team Clearwater Racing’s Lamborghini LP560 GT3 in third.
Craft Racing’s Stefan Mucke started the race from pole in the Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3 and opened up a considerable gap, having the advantage of a clear view ahead whilst Li started the race in second. Li kept up a good pace, managing to fend of two charging Audi R8 LMS Ultra of Marchy Lee in third and Alex Yoong who, after a great start moved up to fourth from seventh.
Throughout the race, the shower was constant, sending sprays throughout the track making visibility low and causing most of the grid to be cautious in the first few laps to avoid incidents. Positions changed up and down the order with a number of drivers that spun out before rejoining the pack.
As the pit-stop window opened, there were further changes in order, with Li having to serve a drive through penalty for having outside assistance when his engine ceased. Jacky Yeung also had to serve a penalty, a one second stop-go penalty for being under the 75 second stop rule. Yeung, who drove the Team Tiger Racing’s Lamborghini Gallardo GT, ended up finishing the race in 14th.
Mucke led the first half of the race and at the pit-stop, handed the car over to teammate, Frank Yu. Yu continued to maintain a steady pace at the lead but despite his efforts, Li charged his way through the leaders from fourth after serving his penalty, all the way to claim the chequered flag.
“The race was very good this weekend, I’m very happy and its my first time here.
“During the race I had a little bit of a problem with my pit-stop. I could not restart the car so my mechanic pushed my car and I was lucky that I could start the car again but then I got the drive through penalty” said Li at the Post Race Press Conference.
“After taking the drive through, I dropped to fourth but I had a good pace and managed to catch up and slowly took the Audi and then the Lamborghini for first. It was a really good race and I really would like to thank Asia Racing Team and my family for this”.
When asked how he managed to see the track, the 20 year old replied, “In the car I cannot see anything, so I was counting the brake indicator boards and counting the curbs, just basically looking around left and right to count the curbs, telling myself to brake here. Earlier in the race I was braking too early, I lifted the brake and brake again, always making mistakes in the first two laps” he said with a laugh.
Singaporean driver Mok claimed second for Clearwater Racing after overtaking both Hammam and Yu on the last lap of the race. “First of all, its good to be back racing and out of the office. It was a lot wetter than all of us anticipated. It was challenging.
“The start of the race was the first time I got in the McLaren in the wet. I had no idea what to expect, you know, traction control settings, ABS settings, throttle positioning sensors, everything was new to me and also it is the first time on the circuit, with the wet it was all about learning the first few laps. I was way off the pace and I dropped badly back from the group. It probably took me a good six to seven laps to start getting on pace and by that time they had all disappeared.
“The goal here was just to keep consistent, not make any mistakes at the pit-stops and hopefully towards the end of the race, if I can keep lapping at a consistent pace I’ll be able to catch the cars”. Gradually Mok did maintain a consistent pace and caught up to start overtaking drivers, one by one to take second in the final lap. He said, “It was really exciting overtaking the last few cars”.
“I’m hoping for a dry race tomorrow, I’m on pole and I’ve got a nice, clean new set of tyres so we will see if I can put my head down and pull out a gap”.
Hammam took third for him and teammate Charlz. The young Australian driver started the race off well for the pair and handed the car over to Hammam in a good position for the second half of the race. “We got an alright start, it was very wet and very difficult to see anything so I dropped a few places actually at the start to the Audis. I think I was being a little bit cautious since it’s the first time in these cars, first time we’ve run it and our first race in the wet so I just wanted to be a bit careful with everything” said Charlz at the Post Race Press Conference.
“They were quite aggressive and were fighting among themselves and I managed to fight them back off as the race went on. Then I closed down on the front couple of cars so we were having quite a good battle up at the front, we were quite close.
“Then as the cars went into the pits, I got up to second and start fighting with Mucke in first then we made a pit-stop and I handed over to Hammam” he ended.
For Hammam, being on the podium was a nice way to return to the Championship. “Well its my first time as well after two years of not racing and it was in the wet. I must admit, I do not have the pace yet and it was wet so I was driving cautiously.
“Actually I caught up with Frank and with the spray of water, I could not see the sign so on turn one I braked a little bit too late and I went off into the gravel. When I came back, he had quite a good lead and I caught up slowly. But the pace wasn’t as quick as those boys running at the front.
“So in the end, I think it was on the second last lap, I managed to catch Frank, passed him without realising that Weng was right next to me but I knew it must be my teammate because I saw the red and chrome colours. I did not want to have any collision with him, admittedly he was a faster driver, so its better for him to be in front of me” ended Hammam.
After the race, Yu admitted that he made a mistake when he saw the white Lamborghini, thinking that it was a back marker and left a gap allowing Hammam a clear path to pass. The Aston Martin crossed the finish line in fourth ahead of Philip Ma who took over driving duties from Franky Cheng Cong Fu. Cheng had an off with his Team Audi R8 LMS teammate, Alex Yoong, at the start of the race that caused suspension damage to the shared Audi of Yoong and Francis Hideki Onda.
Wayne Shen finished sixth ahead of Craft Racing’s Samson Chan in the Ford GT3.
W.Shen managed to overcome low visibility, fierce competition and faced a lot of small battles before winning the race in the GTM class.
“Car felt very good but the conditions were horrendous, I could not see anything the first few laps. I was driving in the blind but it was really fun.
“I had a great start, I think I passed two or three cars. Then into T1 the two Audis up ahead braked a little bit early but then I think everyone was driving a little bit conservatively, so one or two cars passed me back. After that, I was just trying to establish my braking points and also the GT3 cars in front of us were throwing quite a bit of spray, we couldn’t see where we were going.
“But it was a long race, so I decided to take it easy and to pace myself. I was making up good time and I could tell that Francis was in front of me that I had a better set-up than him so I was being patient. Then I think coming out of the last corner he spun right in front of me and I almost hit him” he said with a dramatic gasp and a laugh. “Both of us went off the track and two cars passed. After that it was a fun battle passing everybody back. So I had great fun!”
His close friend, Francis Tjia, who is also driving the Porsche 997 Cup 3.8 finished the race in second ahead of the Japanese duo, newcomers to the Series, Naoryu and Tohjiro Azuma.
“Very happy with the podium, I think it’s a great testament to the team who prepared a really good car. It was all good and it was a fun race.
“It was really tough, visibility was the toughest part especially in the beginning behind the GT3 cars and their big wings, you literally couldn’t see anything. I almost got motion sickness because I had no visibility and the car is moving” said Tjia with a laugh.
Naoryu took the start of the race and also found the conditions to be treacherous in the middle behind the GT3 cars. “This was a tough race because of the heavy rain, especially at the start where the water sprayed on the windscreen and I was a little scared to push. But I managed to keep my position all the way to the pit-stop window when I passed the car over to Tohjiro who took it to third for us.
“I am very happy and would like to thank the team, my wife and my family”.
Second driver Azuma, kept the Ferrari 458 Challenge on pace all the way to the chequered flag for Age Age Racing. “Thanks to Naoryu, I just had to try my best to keep the car as close to the leaders. I managed to overtake the car in third for the podium. It was my first race in the rain so it was a very difficult race for me but I overcame the difficulties and I am really happy about the podium”.
John Shen crossed the line in tenth in his Porsche 997 Cup 3.8, ahead of Dilantha Malagamuwa in the Audi R8 LMS Ultra of Dilango Racing, the pairing of Jeffrey Lee and Marchy Lee in 12th, GTM pair Billy Fung and Asai Akihiro in 13th in Hitotsuyama Racing’s Audi R8 LMS and Team Tiger Racing’s Jacky Yeung completes the finishers for the race.
GT Asia Series continues with Round 2 held on Sunday, 12 May 2013 at 12.10pm local time.
The 2013 GT Asia Series is supported by Yokohama ADVAN, Graham Timekeepers, KW Automotive, AutoArt, Tunewear and RaceRoom and is jointly organised by Motorsport Asia and Supercar Club Hong Kong.