26 cars took to the grid for the penultimate race of the 2016-2017 Asian Le Mans Series, held in Buriram, Thailand.
Jackie Chan DC Racing are back at the top of the podium having won the 4 Hours of Buriram. The #35 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 03R Nissan came out on top, ahead of the #25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JSP2 Nissan and the #24 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JSP2 Judd. The #4 ARC Bratislava Ginetta LMP3 took the win in the LMP3 class, which gives Ginetta their first victory in the series, and the GT class win went to the #5 DH Racing Ferarri 488 GT3
26 cars took to the grid for the penultimate race of the 2016-2017 Asian Le Mans Series, held in Buriram, Thailand. After a visit from His Excellency Patrick Simiyu Wamoto, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary from Kenya, along with Mr.James Nyongesa, his First Secretary on the Sunday morning, the teams got ready for the main event of the weekend, the 4 Hours of Buriram.
The race got off to a clean start and saw Ho-Pin Tung in the #35 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 03R Nissan create a gap from the beginning. This was lost when the safety car had to come out to retrieve the stranded CN car, but then was quickly regained. Despite a drive through penalty for overtaking under yellows, the #35 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 03R Nissan, shared with Thomas Laurent and Gustavo Menezes, managed to hold onto their lead and finished with a gap of over a minute and 20 seconds ahead of the other LMP2 cars. During the race, it looked hard for any of the others to catch up, which isn’t to say that they didn’t try.
Algarve Pro Racing completed the podium steps, with the crew of the #25 Ligier JSP2 Nissan finishing second, with Matt McMurry, Andrea Roda and Andrea Pizzitola. Tacksung Kim, Michael Munemann and Mark Patterson were third with the #24 Ligier JSP2 Judd, which is a great result for a fully bronze line-up. The #8 Race Performance Oreca 03R Judd came 4th, after suffering from a few technical issues towards the end of the race. This means that the provisional standings see Jackie Chan DC Racing in the lead, but the gaps are close enough that we could see an Algarve Pro Racing crew win the LMP2 title in Sepang in a few weeks time.
The LMP3 class saw its first Ginetta victory of the season with ARC Bratislava claiming both top spots. The #4 ARC Bratislava Ginetta LMP3 with Miro Konopka, Darren Burke, Mike Simpson were first in the class, finishing 9th overall, and only 0.177 ahead of the sister car, the #7 ARC Bratislava Ginetta LMP3 driven by Neale Muston and Konstantins Calko. Once the two cars had made it to the head of the LMP3 field by the end of the second hour, they kept a hold of it.
Third went to the #85 G-Print by Triple 1 Racing Ligier JSP3 with Hanss Lin, Shaun Thong Wei Fung, Ryuichirou Ohtsuka. It had also been a strong race from the #67 PRT Racing Ginetta LMP3, shared this time only between Ate De Jong and Charlie Robertson - early on, they were racing at the head of the pack and even led overall for a lap. They crossed the line in 4th in class. It had also been a strong race for the #99 Wineurasia Ligier JSP3, with Scott Andrews, William Lok, and Aidan Read, who finished fifth.
The other LMP3 teams had a couple of issues this race. The #1 Jackie Chan DC Racing Ligier had a few problems with the car that affected their performance, meaning that James Winslow, David Cheng and Hiroki Yoshida finished 6th in class. After an issue early on which forced them to pit for 20 minutes, the pole sitting #26 Tockwith Motorsports Ligier JSP3 that had been leading the LMP3 points didn’t manage to find the pace it had had the day before. Nigel Moore and Phil Hanson struggled with engine problems for the whole race, but still managed to finish 7th in class. The #69 Aylezo Ecotint Racing Ginetta LMP3 also had issues; for them it was their starter motor that failed, causing them to lose time in the pits, and so they ended 8th in class.
The GT class looked to be dominated by DH Racing this weekend, as the two cars claimed the top spots. The #5 DH Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 took the win, finishing 5th overall, with Stephane Lemeret, Michele Rugolo and Matthieu Vaxiviere sharing the wheel, passing their sister car at the very end to claim the class win. Unfortunately, they were penalised after the race for driving unnecessarily slowly in the fast lane in the pits and received a 24 second penalty, costing them the win. This left the #3 DH Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 to get their best result so far this season, finishing second, and so are now promoted to first, with drivers Rino Mastronardi, Alex Riberas and Olivier Beretta.
They faced off strong competition from the rest of the GT field, especially from class pole sitters, the #37 Team BBT Ferrari 488 GT3 with Anthony Liu, Davide Rizzo and Alessandro Pier Guidi sharing the third step on the podium, making it a Ferrari 1-2-3. After the penalty, the #37 received second place points . FIST-Team AAI were also very strong this race, coming in 4th and 5th in class. The #90 BMW M6 GT3 took home fourth with Jesse Krohn, Akira Iida and Tom Blomqvist at the wheel and the #91 FIST-Team AAI BMW M6 GT3 of Jun San Chen, Ollie Millroy and Philipp Eng fifth. We also saw a good performance from the crew of the #51 KCMG Audi R8 LMS GT3. Despite starting from 24th on the grid, they managed to make it to the front of the GT pack for a few laps. The trio of Go Max, Toru Tanaka and Tetsuya Tanaka finished 10th in class.
The #6 VS Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 had to abandon in the pits mid-way after suffering from electronic connection problems. The #86 OD Racing Best Leader Team McLaren 650 GT3 had some back luck and less than 15 minutes before the end of the race, the car started to smoke, forcing them to retire in the pits.
The CN entry, the #68 PS Racing Ligier JS53, with local drivers Tira Sosothikul and Medhapan Sundaradeja, didn’t get past the 6th lap of the race, stopping on the side of the track at T5, which brought out the race’s only safety car.
The GT Cup entry, Asian LM Sprint Cup regulars Team NZ had a consistent race with their #77 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, with drivers Graeme Dowsett, John Curran and Paul Kanjanapas sharing the drive, showing that they can last the time of an endurance race as well as they do sprint races.
There is only one race left to decide the champions of the 2016/2017 season, and it is still wide open, so the teams still have it all to play for in the final round in Sepang, held very soon from the 20th to 22nd of January.
1st overall - #35 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 03R Nissan
Ho-Pin Tung: “It was a very clean start. Great to get the whole field going at once. I had a really good run in the beginning and pulled a good gap in the first 6 laps until the safety car came, which was a shame because that brought the gap to zero. But the car was very good, in free practice and qualifying and today in the race as well. We had to change the strategy for the driver time for Thomas and Gustavo, but it all worked out very well. They both did a fantastic and very mature job, and it’s great to be standing here with the championship lead.”
Thomas Laurent: “My first stint was really good. I had a problem with the radio so I couldn’t check how the car was with the team, I didn’t know if I was first or second, so I did my best and kept pushing. In my second stint, I had a problem with my arm, but I kept on pushing and gave the car to Gustavo who finished the race. Thanks to my team mates and the team.”
Gustavo Menezes: “First of all, big thanks to Ho-Pin and Thomas who did a very good job, as well as the team. We’ve been mostly at the top the whole weekend, and Ho-Pin and Thomas created a massive lead which helped considering the small mistake that caused a drive through which was a bit of a shame. At the end, the car was fantastic the whole weekend. The team guided me to the end. Shame for that Algarve had the stop and go, as Pizzitola was driving very well. We had a small issue with the seat moving around, so I was a bit sore in the car. But got it home safe and got a lot of points so we can go into the last round leading the championship.”
2nd overall - #25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JSP2 Nissan
Andrea Roda: “I started the race. It was a good start for me. It’s the second time in my life that I’ve done an endurance race. I had difficulty to warm the tyres in the first few laps, but after that I had a good pace. It was really good to fight with them. For most of the race we fought side by side, it was good.”
Matt McMurry: “My stint went pretty well. The whole time they (the #35) were twenty to thirty seconds ahead of us, so I was just putting in laps, trying to catch them up as much as I could. We were struggling a bit with motor issues and it wasn’t getting any better. I tried as hard as I could but the car wasn’t helping the matter.”
Andrea Pizzitola: “I’m going to be honest, I’m frustrated with our penalty. I think when you’re side by side with a driver and you’re overtaking him, to give him space and go off track does not gain you an advantage. In my situation I was avoiding contact. Apart from that, the race was good. I pushed on the first stint and the second stint was a bit boring as I was saving fuel, so that was it. But congrats to DC Racing on their win.”
3rd overall - #24 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JSP2 Judd
Mark Patterson: “They asked me to take the start of the race, get the old guys out of the way first. It was nice to race with these cars and drivers. We did ok. We had a minor problem with a cut out on turn 3 and turn 12, which was a pain, losing about half a second on each lap. But we did fine and just stuck to our guns and one of the other teams had a disadvantage and that’s how we’re sitting here today.
Tacksung Kim: “I had a good race, though I had problem with the radio communication and couldn’t pit in until the last minute. The rest of the team did a fantastic job, so I’m very happy with that.”
Michael Munemann: “It was warm. The first session was fine, we fixed the problem at a pitstop. Then I got into some brawls with a few GT cars that kept crossing in front of me on the straight, so I might have a few tyre marks on the side of my car. But that’s racing. We survived, we had fun. It was a nice race.”
LMP3 Class Winner - #4 ARC Bratislava Ginetta LMP3
Darren Burke: “It was a great opportunity to start the race at such a fantastic circuit. It was a little bit hectic coming out of turn two into turn three, but everyone seemed to file through nicely. I just kept my head down and made up a few positions, as we’d qualified a bit further down the pack. Made up a few positions and by the end of the stint we were sitting at a good position, I think we were third at the end of the first hour. I was very happy with the pace of the car, an improvement on qualifying. A credit to the team for making such good changes.”
Miro Konopka: “I think it was very nice weekend for us to get the double victory. We had a good setup in practice and qualification. In the race all was ok. We were lucky this weekend and I hope so for the future.”
Mike Simpson: “It was a pretty easy race. Darren and Miro did a good job. We had a good gap to the Ligier in third, and our sister car was in second. Probably the easiest 55 minutes of racing I’ve ever had. What’s also nice is that we’re a true pairing of Gold-Bronze-Bronze. So it’s nice to beat some of these kids which are graded differently. Well done to the team. They worked very long hours, and the car was very strong, and we had practically a photo finish with the cars in 1st and 2nd. Looking forward to the next race and maybe the championship.”
GT Class winner - #5 DH Racing Ferarri 488 GT3
Stephane Lemeret: “The start of the race was good because I started in 7th, but I took some positions. I was happy to see that the car was more competitive than it was in qualifying. I didn’t have the opportunity to follow Alex Riberas really fast. This was the opportunity to stay behind, as car #3 was stronger than #5, and we’re in the same team, but we needed the points for the championship. All in all, the team did what was important for this new sponsor, new team in motorsport. It’s an incredible achievement for their first season in motorsport. They are doing a lot to help us and support us. It’s really great to give them this title even before the end of the season.”
Matthieu Vaxiviere: “I think Stephane said everything. I’m really happy for DH Racing, and to finish P1. The team did a very good job for us. Congratulations to DH racing, and I’m really happy for everybody.”
Michele Rugolo: “I don’t really have anything to add. I’m really happy with the result. It’s great for the team. Car #3 had a few issues in the previous races and finally could achieve a podium, so that’s great for the team. I think Stephane described perfectly our race. We don’t really start in the best way possible but we are able to make the right changes to the car. We’ve improved the car a lot to get this result.”
GT Cup class winner - #77 Team NZ Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
John Curran: “It’s nice to be back again. I took the start. After the first six laps, there was a lot of traffic and that repeated again after the safety car. Just kept my head down and kept out of trouble.”
Graeme Dowsett: “It’s good to be back. Especially that I’m used to endurance racing. Our team did a good job, the car was spot on. It’s been a good weekend.”
Paul Kanjanapas: “It was a fun race. It was a very good race, all the cars are very fast and the drivers are very good. It was happy that I didn’t ruin anyone’s race.”
Asian Le Mans Series