FIST Team AAI wins again in GT
In a highly eventful second round of the 2017/18 Asian Le Mans Series, the #8 Jackie Chan DC Racing x Jota Sport Oreca 05 Nissan (Stephane Richelmi/ Harrison Newey/ Thomas Laurent) has claimed victory in the 4 Hours of Fuji!
They did not have things all their own way however, having to chase down and pass the #37 BBT Ligier JS P2 (Anthony Xu Liu/ Pipo Derani/ Davide Rizzo) in the final hour. In third place was their sister car, the #7 Jackie Chan DC Racing x Jota Sport Oreca 05 Nissan (David Cheng/ Jazeman Jaafar).
In LMP3 it became a battle of attrition, with a number of problems hitting the teams during the race. For the #6 Jackie Chan DC Racing x Jota Sport Ligier JS P3 it was a strong and consistent performance from both Patrick Byrne and Guy Cosmo, along with incredibly quick laps from Guy in particular.
The #66 Audi Sport Customer Racing Asia by TSRT (Massimiliano Wiser/ Peng Liu/ Weian Chen), was quick off the line, strongly leading the GT class for his stint, however it was once again the FIST Team AAI pair that ultimately fought for the lead in the later half of the race. After looking strong all weekend it was the #90 Ferrari 488 GT3 (Lam Yu/ Ollie Millroy/ Marco Cioci) that beat the #91 BMW M6 GT3 (Junsan Chen/ Chaz Mostert/ Jesse Krohn) to claim victory in the GT Class of the 4 Hours of Fuji.
Glorious sunshine and a magnificent view of the spectacular Mount Fuji greeted the teams and drivers as they arrived at the Fuji Speedway in the morning of the race!
With the sunshine warming the track up, the teams and drivers were still aware of the need to ensure their car and tyres were warmed up.
The teams run the same compound of Michelin tyres at all rounds of the Asian Le Mans Series which means they have to deal with everything from the very high track temperatures at the peak of the day in Sepang, to the bitter cold they experienced yesterday during the cloudy qualifying session yesterday. This demonstrates the standard of performance the Asian Le Mans Series demands of its partners.
The 4 Hours of Fuji got off to an exciting start with the two Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport LMP2s and the BBT entry fighting hard for the leading positions positions. In LMP3 it was the # 1 WIN Motorsport Ligier (Philippe Descombes/ William Lok/ Richard Bradley) that got the best start and was up to 4th from the fourth row of the grid into turn one!
There was a very close tussle off the start line between the #8 BBT Ligier JS P2 entry of Anthony Xu Liu, and the two Jackie Chan DC Racing x Jota Oreca 05 Nissans with the #8 Oreca with Stephane Richelmi behind the wheel taking the lead.
A spin on lap 1 for the BBT Ligier after the softest of side to side contacts e with the #7 Oreca of David Cheng saw Liu drop to the back of the field. While the car looked to be ok it meant there was a big battle ahead for the BBT team to recover the lost ground – a fired up Anthony Xu Liu though set about the task immediately.
Out in front Richelmi had his head down and was setting some cracking times – opening a lead of 14 seconds after just 6 laps. Behind him, the sister car was being pressured by the #4 ARC Bratislava entry being driven by Rik Breukers.
In a very impressive performance, by the end of lap 2 the #66 TRST Audi R8 LMS was up to 8th place overall! Massimiliano Wiser was driving exceptionally well, holding the #6 Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport Ligier JS P3 behind him. He held this position well into the first hour of the race.
Anthony Xu Liu pushed hard and worked his way back to the tail of the David Cheng car and the pair were locked in a tight battle. Liu just managed to get by and set about chasing the ARC Bratislava Ligier in 2ND place.
Meanwhile in LMP3, after their fantastic start WIN Motorsport had been passed by the class pole sitting #18 KCMG Ligier (Josh Burdon/ Louis Prette/ Neric Wei). In the GT class the Team AAI entries were locked in a fierce battle with the Ferrari out in front but the BMW was all over the rear!
There was early trouble for the Japanese #99 TKS Ginetta LMP3 entry with Asian Le Mans Sprint Cup runner up Shinyo Sano behind the wheel. An extended pit stop ended with the car being pulled into the garage for what proved to be a 10 minute stop, the team finally diagnosing the issue as a broken electrical connector on the steering wheel. That impacted heavily on the team’s ability to be competitive for the rest of the race, however they did not give up!
After the half an hour mark, Rik Breukers in the ARC Bratislava Ligier passed David Cheng in the #7 Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport entry.
At the one hour mark terminal trouble hit the #1 WIN Motorsport Ligier JS P3, the car pitting only to be pushed into the garage with what would prove to be a major engine problem. Retirement was then inevitable, a disappointing end to what had been an excellent start to the race from the Hong Kong based team.
BBT pitted after their first stint with Brazilian star Pipo Derani climbing aboard. Derani able to set blindingly quick times almost immediately – but with a 56 second gap to close down the leading #8 Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport with Richelmi behind the wheel it would require speed and consistency. In the early stages of his charge back, outright pole sitter Derani was able to close the gap by 2 to 3 seconds a lap setting quicker and quicker fastest laps for the race as he went.
Ahead of their first pit stop, the TRST team in the Audi R8 LMS had pulled out over a minute gap back to their GT rivals in Team AAI.
The TKS Ginetta meanwhile was having more problems, returning to the garage for more work – this time the team was dealing with suspected clutch problems.
The leading #8 Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport saw Harrison Newey installed to continue their battle with the hard charging Derani. After the massive double stint from Derani, he held the lead and the gap between the two had increased to 20 seconds after both cars had stopped.
Drama hit just before the half way point of the race with the leading car in LMP3, the #18 KCMG Ligier JS P3 stopping on the track with a suspected broken driveshaft. The car pushed behind the barriers into retirement, a bitterly disappointing end for the KCMG team who had looked set to build on their Championship lead earned with a win at Round One at Zhuhai.
For their next routine stops, the two leaders pitted at the same time. For BBT it was the end of an 87-lap stint for Derani, replaced by Davide Rizzo in the #37 Ligier and in the Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport it was FIA WEC Rookie of the year Thomas Laurent that replaced Harrison Newey. They returned to the grid with BBT leading by 23 seconds.
The battle for the Class victory in LMP3 was heating up with side by side racing between two Ligier JS P3s - the #11 Taiwan Beer GH Motorsport with Hanss Lin and the #6 Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport now with Guy Cosmo behind the wheel. After a storming drive, it was Guy that came out on top and started to pull out a gap.
Out in front the see-saw battle between the #8 and the #37 continued, this time with Thomas Laurent reeling in the BBT car that was out in front. Laurent able to close the gap, taking the lead in commanding fashion as the pair went either side of the TRST Audi.
With 45 minutes to go, the #11 (Hanss Lin/ Shaun Thong/ Ye Hong Li) received a drive through penalty for a pit lane infringement, meaning Guy Cosmo extended his lead in the LMP3 class, a disjointed day getting much, much worse less than half an hour later as the #11 ground to a halt out on the circuit, mechanical woes ending the day for another car that looked set to score a podium finish.
That left the way clear for Guy Cosmo to bring home the #6 Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport Ligier to claim victory from the #65 Viper Niza Racing entry (James Winslow/ Douglas Khoo/ Dominic Ang).
And in a crazy turn of events, after struggling with issues all weekend, it was the Japanese team, TKS with their #99 Ginetta LMP3 that claimed the final podium position at their home track
In GT, as it has been for much of the season, it was again the Team AAI pair fighting neck and neck for 1st and 2nd in Class. Leading the way was the BMW M6 with Jesse Krohn behind the wheel, however this was all to change when the #91 received a 2 second stop and go penalty for a violation of mandatory pit stop time. This then left the #90 Ferrari 488 GT3 in clear air to claim victory for Team AAI in the GT Class.
In third place was the #66 TRST Audi R8 LMS, the Audi trio putting in a spirited display for the whole race.
In LMP2 Laurent pulled out a lead over the BBT of Rizzo to claim the #8 Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport Liger JS P2’s second victory in Asian Le Mans Series this season. BBT came home second with the #7 Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport Liger JS P2 coming home in 3rd place.
Behind the leading trio there were other dramas, the #4 ARC Bratislava and #33 Eurasia (Yoshi Mori/ Marco Asmer/ Scott Andrews) Ligier JS P2 Nissans had tussled over 4th place for much of the race, but there was disaster for the Eurasia effort in the dying minutes, the car pitting into retirement with a suspected broken crankshaft. ARC Bratislava would claim 4th.
The #25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier (Dean Koutsoumidis/ Ate Dirk de Jong) meanwhile woukld see the two LMP2 rookies lap steadily throughout, bringing the car home in 8th place overall to a win in the Bronze Cup.
Winning driver quotes
LMP2: #8 Jackie Chan DC Racing x Jota Sport Oreca 05 Nissan
Stephane Richelmi: “It was of course our target to pass the Ligier in front of us as quick as possible, and with a good start I was able to pass him around the outside. I didn’t see what happened behind but for sure I was able to open a gap. With fresh air it is quiet easy – especially with no traffic – so I was able to open quiet a gap. I was a bit concerned about tyre degradation, but it went really well and maybe I could have pushed a bit more to build a bigger gap for my team mates. Thanks to them and to the team – it has been a great performance and we will keep going!”
Harrison Newey: Stephane did a great job, to be honest when I stepped into the car I didn’t focus on whether I was chasing or leading, I just got in and drove. As Stephane said the Michelin tyres held on better than we expected – I even had the team on the radio telling me to ‘use all of the tyres’, but I was already pushing as hard as I could! I then gave the car to Thomas and he did an amazing job.
Thomas Laurent: My teammates did a really good job at the start of the race, I was around 20 or 30 seconds behind the BBT car in front of us. I was able to close the gap and pass him in my first stint and I tried to manage our tyres for the rest of the race while managing my lead. The team did a really good job to maintain the cars as well as possible. A big thank you to my team mates and my team!”
LMP3: #6 Jackie Chan DC Racing x Jota Sport Ligier JS P3
Patrick Byrne: “We battled a lot with managing the tyre pressures throughout the race, but everything worked out well and we went from 5th to 2nd – I got out, Cosmo got in and just demolished it! He went up to first and had a huge time gap so we knew that we were comfortable for the pit stops. So for me it was an enjoyment to watch! An enjoyment to be with the crew, a great team, great mechanics – we just go out there and drive, they are the ones that are working hard and staying late. And thanks to the Asian Le Mans Series as well – it is a great series.
Collecting points is the way you win Championship points so as long as we keep finishing on the podium I see it as being within reach!
Guy Cosmo: "This was a great event for us! It is a big adventure for us to come here from the United States! We have always wanted to race in Asian and learn new circuits, and experience new cultures so this has been great for us. But I guess we show up at a disadvantage not knowing these circuits. We unfortunately missed all of P2 during to an issue so we were really behind on track time, and learning the circuit and tuning the car, so we didn’t have the outright pace. But come race time, Patrick did what Patrick always does and regardless of how things had gone before, when the green flag drops, this kid goes! It is a pleasure to work with him, coach him, and see him flourish when the pressure is on! To get into a car that has no damage, and still in great condition, I just got in and did the best I could making sure I could manage the tyres as we were double stinting. As it turned out everyone around us started having issues so the gap got larger, and then we had an exhaust issue and I was concerned for over an hour that the engine might let go, and as the sun was setting it got really hard to see! But it was great and it all fell our way - we are very thankful for that! The team is phenomenal, and we expect more and more stiff competition in the next two races but we are looking to improve ourselves."
GT: # 90 FIST- Team AAI Ferrari 488 GT3
Lam Yu: "The Ferrari is very quick in the first and third sectors, but the BMW is very strong in the second sector so we need to really push in the third sector. It has a nice balance for the race."
Ollie Millroy: "I did one race in the new Ferrari when it was really new so the car feels quiet a lot different now! I think we drop a bit to the BWM on the straight but then we gain a lot under brakes, the Ferrari’s strongest point is braking. The race was really tough – we were all having to push 100% all of the time – it feels like 100% qualifying laps! The race was really good! It was a good close race though and hopefully that continues! Hopefully Buriram should really suit us."
Marco Cioci: "Thank you – I am really happy to be back here in the Asian Le Mans Series and back winning – it is fantastic! Seriously my team mates did a great job because they were fighting! It is never easy to race for four hours and make no mistakes while to be pushing like you do in qualifying. I am a new comer. I propose something and they trusted me, it is a big responsibility but I like it. I think we have made a big step forward. I am sorry they had this problem but it is a part of this race, they deserve maybe more because they did a great race. In the meantime, we deserve it as well!"
4 Hours of Fuji — Round 2
1 #8 Jackie Chan DC Racing x Jota Sport Oreca 05 Nissan
2 #37 BBT Ligier JS P2 Nissan
3 #7 Jackie Chan DC Racing x Jota Sport Oreca 05 Nissan
1 #6 Jackie Chan DC Racing x Jota Sport Ligier JS P3
2 # 65 Viper Nisa Racing Ligier JS P3
3 #99 TKS Ginetta LMP3
1 # 90 FIST- Team AAI Ferrari 488 GT3
2 # 91 FIST – Team AAI BMW M6 GT3
3 #66 Audi Sport Customer Racing Asia by TSRT Audi R8 LMS
LMP2 Bronze Cup: #25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan
GT AM: #66 Audi Sport Customer Racing Asia by TSRT Audi R8 LMS
Asian Le Mans Series