AF Corse, Clearwater dominating.
One year ago Ferrari dominated the Sepang round of the GT Asia Series, with Thailand’s Pasin Lathouras winning the two one-hour races in comfortable fashion. This year Ferrari is on top again, with Italian "customer" team AF Corse assisting Rui Aguas (Spirit of Race) back to the top of the time sheets for the second consecutive day.
“We were just lucky,” Aguas quipped with a wry smile, clearly intent on saying little else. Perhaps, but lucky over four sessions... that kind of luck equates to experience, the very experience that AF Corse provided Lathouras last season.
Second overall - and perhaps the pre-event favourites - were local heroes Clearwater Racing, with Japanese GT3 superstar Keita Sawa (in photo) in the Ferrari 458 he shares with two-time champion Mok Weng Sun, getting to within two tenths of Aguas.
NB Team’s Max Wiser claimed third in the Aston Martin he shares with China’s Kane Jiang, he, like Craft-Bamboo Racing’s European star Stefan Mucke, admitting that he just couldn’t get the power down like the two Ferrari’s.
“The speed of the Ferraris is amazing out of the slower corners, which lead onto the long straights of Sepang giving them an overall outright speed advantage that we just can’t match,” the Italian shrugged with frustration.
“It has a lot to do with the dynamics of the car,” Mucke, an experienced veteran of GT3 competition explained. “The mid-mounted engine of the Ferrari provides a better weight distribution allowing it to get on the power quicker out of the slower corners, an advantage they have over our front-engined Aston Martin that we just can’t make up by the end of the straight.”
A close look at the speed trap at the end of the main straight added weight to Mucke’s argument, the ‘Spirit of Race’ Ferrari clocked at 272 kmh, versus the Craft-Bamboo Aston’s recorded best of 266. Wiser fared marginally better with a best of 269.
“Our rear wing is flat, we can’t adjust the front suspension any more than we have, and we just don’t have the speed of the lead Ferraris, so it could come down to a matter of tyre conservation,” Wiser added.
“Sepang is a real compromise between getting the car right for the slow speed hairpins, and the fast sweeping corners,” Mucke admitted. “We tried a lot of things today to make the car better, and focused particularly on the fast turn five sweeping left-hander - you can make up a lot of time there! Whether that’s enough, time will tell.”
Interestingly the two Ferraris failed to improve on their best times in P2 - which was held in the intense heat and humidity of the early afternoon - however the two Astons, the points leading McLaren of Rob Bell/Hiroshi Hamaguchi, and the Christopher Mies/Jeffrey Lee Audi R8 did manage to find some improvements to leap up the order.
In GTM Class, the Korean round winning Lamborghini of former MotoGP star Takuma Aoki topped the second session, although without the talented former motorcycle rider behind the wheel.. Aoki was competing in an off-road rally in Cambodia and Thailand in an Isuzu, the clash of events keeping the Japanese star from an arrival until just prior to Saturday morning’s opening qualifier. Instead co-driver Ken Urata stepped in to set the fastest GTM time, although he was aided by the hectic schedule incurred by 2013 title rivals Wayne Shen and Francis Tjia who are doing ‘double-duty’ this weekend with Porsche Carrera Cup Asia.
In the end the GTM battle on the timesheets was waged between 2014 title contenders Jacky Yeung (Audi R8 LMS Cup) and Taiwan Top Speed Racing Team regulars George Chou and his team-mate for Sepang, points leader Thomas Fjordbach.
Yeung was ultimately classified second fastest overall, with Chou/Fjordbach third. “We had a number of issues across the day that really impacted our pace,” Fjordbach explained. “If we get those sorted ahead of qualifying, there’s no reason why we can’t take the fight to the Lamborghini, the Audi and the Porsches.”
Saturday will see two 15-minute qualifying sessions begin at 9:30am to set the field for race one and two (rounds seven and eight of the Championship), with the opening 60-minute race scheduled for 1:55pm.