GT Asia: Sawa and Mok make it three wins for 2014 at Sepang

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#3 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 drivers took their third round win of the season during race two.

Two-time GT Asia Series champion Mok Weng Sun and 2014 co-driver Keita Sawa took their third round win of the season during race two at Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia, in the process, reducing the points deficit to Clearwater Racing team-mates Rob Bell and Hiroshi Hamaguchi to just 11-points, however they retain their position at the top of the championship points table.

In the end the race came down to the team that was best able to manage their Yokohama tyres, such was the heat and intensity of competition at the front of the field. With three sets of tyres available, some teams gambled in the opening 60-minute race to change four-tyres at the compulsory pit stop [CPS], whilst others elected to take that option in race two.

The ‘success’ parity incurred by Saturday’s three podium place-getters also had an impact, with race winners Frank Yu and Stefan Mucke, second-placed Davide Rizzo and Anthony Liu, and third-placed Bell and Hamaguchi all incurring an additional penalty during their CPS, something which provided Mok and Sawa all the motivation they needed to challenge for the round win.

We had a game plan going in,

Mok Weng Sun

“We had a game plan going in,” Mok explained. “We knew that with car 37 [Liu/Rizzo] and car 32 [Hamaguchi/Bell] having a success penalty during the pit stop that it was a really, really good shot for us, and my goal going in was to not let Anthony [Liu] run away too quickly. The game plan at the beginning of the race was to stay within five seconds of him because we knew that they had nine seconds extra during the pit stop.

“I think we were fortunate that he [Liu] got bottled up a little bit by the Porsche at the start. We had a race pace that was really quite good in my stint and I managed to keep within two to three seconds of Anthony. We knew that after we made our stop we would come out in front. We saw that the other podium finishers from yesterday were a bit further down the order, so we focused on car 37 and nobody else, and I think it worked out right.”

Despite their advantage, the battle came all the way down to the wire, with NB Team’s Max Wiser crossing the line just over a second behind Sawa, with compatriot Davide Rizzo third, the Italian recovering from a slow pit stop which Liu felt may have cost them their third round win of the year.

“I had the race tyres on from the second half of yesterday, so it was difficult to overtake the Porsche on new rubber,” Liu admitted. “We lose everywhere on the high speed sections as a result, but what really cost us victory was a wheel-nut problem during the pit stop. I think we lost more or less 20-seconds..”

Whilst Liu hit the pits as race leader, it was Thailand’s Vutthikorn Inthrapuvasak who initially held the lead from pole position in the AAS Motorsport Porsche GT3-R, the team’s DNF in race one allowing them to fit new tyres for both stints, whilst Liu battled with tyres that had already completed 15 hot laps of the 5.54-kilometre Sepang circuit in race one, with a setup that didn’t suit the car.

Ultimately the Ferrari driver made it to the front, with Vutthikorn retaining P2 as Mok settled into third place ahead of Dilantha Malagamuwa in the Dilango Racing Lamborghini and Kane Jiang in the NB Team Aston Martin.

Behind them round seven winner Frank Yu had made a strong start from P9 to storm past team-mate Daniel Bilski who missed the start because he couldn’t see the light.. “The rear wings on these things are huge, and I just missed the initial jump and a couple of cars - Frank included - got past me.”

After a stunning qualifying effort that saw him starting from the fifth row, GTM Class points leader Thomas Fjordbach retained the class lead but at one point found himself overtaken by a number of cars on the main straight as the Taiwan Top Speed Racing Ferrari 458 Challenge dropped into ‘limp-mode’ as a result of the intense heat. He reset the systems and continued, entering the pits third in class to hand over to George Chou, however the points leaders struck more trouble with Chou retiring the car on lap 17 with mechanical problems.

“It was disappointing not to finish and keep out strong podium run this year alive,” Fjordbach admitted. “Especially after our first win of the year in race one, but we’re still leading the championship [on joint points with 2012 champion Jacky Yeung] and will come back here in a month and look to take another win!”

As the pit-stop window opened many of the ‘amateur’ drivers pitted early to hand over to their professional partners, MIKE Racing’s Michael Chua one of those, handing driving duties to Mercedes favourite Bjorn Wirdheim.

After suffering an alternator failure in race one, the team were hoping for a strong result, especially with the newly found pace Chua was showing, but it wasn’t to be, the gorgeous orange and black Mercedes in the end pitting five times as the team looked to assess a vibration in the rear of the car.

“When I took over we had a bit of a vibration and we had to come in and look at the right rear suspension and just make sure everything was okay,” Wirdheim explained. “By the time we sorted what the issue was, I was able to return and our pace was good. I think towards the end of the race we were on par with the leaders, and that's where we really should be with this car. I think it was quite encouraging overall considering we are new to the championship and I’m looking forward to getting back behind the wheel here again in a month’s time.”

As the 30-minute mark of the race approached, Liu hit the pits for his CPS, handing the car to Rizzo, but whilst they were keen to get out and take the fight to the leaders, an issue with the right front wheel cost them valuable time.

At the same time Mok, Jiang, Hamaguchi and Frank Yu all elected to pit, with Sawa leaving pit lane with an eight-second advantage over Max Wiser, whilst Rizzo fell back into the clutches of points leader Rob Bell in the Clearwater McLaren.

Sawa put in a number of blistering laps to try and open up as big a lead as possible, but behind him Wiser was doing everything in his power to catch the Japanese driver, the pair trading fastest lap times. Rizzo meanwhile managed to pull away from the McLaren - which was continuing to suffer in the high heat and humidity - but he could do little about the leaders.

As the clock wound down to 60-minutes, Wiser closed, but Sawa had done enough, crossing the line just a second clear of the Italian for the Clearwater duo’s third win of the season. Rizzo held on for third, whilst Bell managed to take fourth by less than a car length after Fuji sensation Christopher Mies charged through the closing laps in the Absolute Racing Audi to claim fifth place.

Jonathan Venter claimed sixth for Craft-Bamboo Racing, a position he inherited not long after the stops were completed when team-mate Stefan Mucke came into contact with the Thai Porsche. Piti had taken over the Singha AAS GT3-R and was running sixth after a slow pit-stop, when Mucke caught him at turn seven.

The Porsche had taken an unusual line all weekend through the turn 7-8 complex, something Mucke had not witnessed, and he tried to dive down the inside between the two corners, unaware that was the Porsche’s preferred line. Piti too appeared to be suffering an issue, traveling much slower than the car had been early in the race, and Mucke was forced onto the brakes hard...

“He caught me completely by surprise,” the German admitted. “I was going for a run up the inside, and he seemed to move across to block me. He was slow into the turn too, so I hit the brakes hard to avoid him, but got off them to avoid the spin, and hit him. It was my fault, and I lost about six seconds as a result, and let Jonathan [Venter] and the Lamborghini through.”

In the end Mucke recovered for seventh, with Nathan Antunes in the Lamborghini home eighth, the brilliant blue Lamborghini wearing signs of a battle with Craig Baird in the third Clearwater car. “It was a tough race,” the Australian admitted. “The car was better but still not 100% right, we certainly need to test before an event like this again. I had a great battle with Craig and could see he was quick, but I wasn’t moving over, I wanted that eighth position!”

The final car home in the top ten was Rui Aguas, the Portugese driver fittingly the fastest man on the circuit as he had been through both Thursday and Friday practice.. “How lucky is that,” he explained with a wry grin. “I was lucky Thursday, lucky Friday, lucky to lead into turn one yesterday and all the way to the pit stop, and lucky to be fastest today..”

The AAS Singha Porsche recovered to finish 11th, ahead of the ailing B-Max Nissan which which had struggled all weekend. Samson Chan and Naoki Yokomizo were 13th in the Ford GT and last car on the lead lap.

Alex Yoong and Phillip Ma recovered for 14th after an issue mid race that cost them valuable time, whilst Takuma Aoki and Ken Urata took a well deserved victory in GTM and 15th  overall.

“I am very happy, especially as I did not come to the track until Saturday morning where I drove the car in heavy rain,” Aoki admitted with a smile. “I am very happy for the team, and my team-mate.”

Urata had completed all of practice on Thursday and Friday, ultimately helping the team to the top qualifying position for the class in the wet, but until the driver interviews no-one could quite understand why he was so excited on exiting the car at race end.

“I have been driving for many, many years, and this is my very first race win, so I cannot thank my team-owner Dilantha Malagamuwa, and my partner Takuma Aoki enough, I am just so happy..!”

Second in GTM was reigning class champion Wayne Shen, with 2013 title-rival Francis Tjia in third place.

The championship now enjoys a four week break ahead of event five on the 2014 calendar, right back at Sepang International Circuit (September 12-14) where many of the drivers will contest the MMER Sepang 12-Hour in two weeks time, including reigning 12-hour champion Mok Weng Sun..!

Quotes from the winners of GT Asia Series Rnd#8

1st - Mok Weng Sun, #3 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3: “We had a game plan going in,” Mok explained. “We knew that with car 37 and car 32 having a success penalty during the pit stop that it was a really, really good shot for us, and my goal going in was to not let Anthony [Liu] run away too quickly. The game plan at the beginning of the race was to stay within five seconds of him because we knew that they had nine seconds extra during the pit stop.

“I think we were fortunate that he [Liu] got bottled up a little bit by the Porsche at the start. We had a race pace that was really quite good in my stint and I managed to keep within two to three seconds of Anthony. We knew that after we made our stop we would come out in front. We saw that the other podium finishers from yesterday were a bit further down the order, so we focused on car 37 and nobody else, and I think it worked out right.”

“Our focus is the home run now, wins are a bonus. The key is to finish high in the points. I’m going to have plenty of seat time because we have the Sepang 12-Hour here in two weeks time. I think we have the car dialed in pretty well now. No-one has a particular advantage at this circuit, it’s home to just about every single team, and a lot of people drive here, so it’s going to be interesting next round. This championship has evolved to a stage where you’ve got maybe six or seven cars that can win, and that’s great. We’re looking forward to a good month ahead, and hope to have a good points haul before we head up to Shanghai.”

1st - Keita Sawa, #3 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3: “This morning we spoke about this being our best chance to win the race today. Yesterday, P4 was the best we could do with the success penalty we carried over from race two at Fuji [P2]. Mok did very well, so when I took over, I just tried to do my best. My stint was about 15-laps, so I calculated what I needed to do with the gap we had. The first five laps I pushed the car, in the middle part of the stint I conserved the tyres, and the last five laps I was talking to the team about the gap and kept pushing all the way to the flag, and I used everything the tyres had.”

2nd - Max Wiser, #9 NB Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3: “We’re happy to be on the podium again. Yesterday for us was a very unlucky race, because someone took me out in the first lap, and then Kane had contact with one of the GTM cars, but today he did a nice job during the start and pushed to stay with the first three cars. After I did my first six or seven laps very hard, I pushed a lot because I saw Sawa not far ahead of me, but in the end my tyres were too hot and I couldn’t get close enough to overtake him.

“We are faster than the Ferrari in the fast corner, but slower than them out of the hairpin and the slower corners, so we have to try and get better traction out of those corners, then maybe we can fight a little closer at the next event here in September.”

2nd - Kane Jiang, #9 NB Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3: “Yesterday was not lucky, but today I had a good start, but Dilantha [Malagamuwa] was in front of me, and I knew my lap time was faster than him, but it took me four laps to get past, and then I lost more time getting around some of the lapped GTM cars, so that cost us a little bit of time before the pit stop.”

3rd - Davide Rizzo, #37 BBT Ferrari 458 Italia GT3:  “At the beginning of the stint I pushed hard because we knew we had to close the gap to the leaders, but we had some dramas in the rear and the car was becoming undrivable. The most important thing though is that we made the podium and scored more important points in the championship.”

3rd - Anthony Liu, #37 BBT Ferrari 458 Italia GT3:  “I had the race tyres on from the second half of yesterday, so it was difficult to overtake the Porsche on new rubber. We lose everywhere on the high speed sections as a result, another big reason was that our car was dialed in for the rain. There was not enough time, and too big a risk to go back to the dry settings, so our car was like a van to drive from turns five to 12.. basically no grip, but I found a way.. but what really cost us victory was a wheel-nut problem during the pit stop. I think we lost more or less 20-seconds, but racing’s racing and we’re here again in four weeks time, and we’ll do it again.

“I saw more blue flags today, so traffic was better. I made those comments yesterday on behalf of all the drivers, not just myself.”

Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia

Race#2 (60-minutes)

1. 3. Keita Sawa/Mok Weng Sun (Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) - 27-laps
2. 9. Max Wiser/Jiang Xin (NB Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3) +1.021
3. 37. Davide Rizzo/Anthony Liu (BBT Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) +17.987
4. 32. Rob Bell/Hiroshi Hamaguchi (Clearwater Racing McLaren MP4-12C) +19.847
5. 7. Christopher Mies/Jeffrey Lee (Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra GT3) +20.098
6. 99. Jonathan Venter/Daniel Bilski (Craft-Bamboo Racing Aston Martin) +28.724
7. 24. Dilantha Malagamuwa/Nathan Antunes (Dilango Gallardo FL2 GT3) +53.776
8. 12. Craig Baird/Richard Wee (Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) +53.888
9. 97. Stefan Mucke/Frank Yu (Craft-Bamboo Racing Aston Martin Vantage) +59.303
10. 38. Rui Aguas/Nasrat Muzayyin (Spirit of Race Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) +1:16.906

GT Asia

 

 

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About this article
Series GT
Event GT Asia: Sepang
Sub-event Sunday race
Track Sepang International Circuit
Drivers Keita Sawa, Stefan Mücke, Frank Yu, Mok Weng Sun, Davide Rizzo, Anthony Liu
Article type Race report

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