2014 GT Asia series is 'wide open' heading to China
With Sepang over, championship will go down to the wire.
After an epic tenth round at Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia, the GT Asia Series will go all the way down to the wire at Macau in November, with just eight points separating the top three teams heading to Shanghai next month.
Saturday’s ninth round saw a return to victory lane for two-time champion Mok Weng Sun and Keita Sawa (in photo) - their fourth win of the year - which moved them to within three points of Clearwater Racing team-mates Rob Bell and Hiroshi Hamaguchi. They further reduced the margin during round ten despite having to come from the rear of the field after a spin by Mok on the opening lap.
Up front though, it was all Craft-Bamboo Racing, with Frank Yu and Stefan Mucke making a risky but brilliant tyre choice to start Yu on slicks in the damp conditions, allowing him to work his way through the field to hand Mucke a big lead during the compulsory pit stop [CPS], a lead the German would extend to 20-seconds by the flag.
Unfortunately though the Craft-Bamboo team were penalised 30-seconds post-race for an infringement on the grid (they were judged not to have had all four wheels fitted by the 5-minute board - the team’s second car suffering a similar fate), dropping them back to fourth. That handed the win to the #37 BBT Ferrari team of Davide Rizzo and Anthony Liu, although they too were penalised post-race by officials for having four crew work on the car during their CPS (maximum of two are allowed), dropping them back to fifth.
Clearwater gets the win
That ultimately handed the win to series debutante Alessandro Guidi and car-owner Richard Wee in the #12 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458, a result which could be attributed to Wee’s brilliant drive in the opening stanza of the race after they too decided to run slick tyres.
Rain had fallen quite heavily immediately ahead of round ten, stopping just half an hour ahead of the scheduled start. That created bedlam in pit lane as teams were forced to predict what the weather would deliver during the coming 60-minute race.
Pole-sitter Anthony Liu (his second of the year) elected for wets after race officials gave teams a sighting lap to determine what tyre to use. That made the decision for NB Team’s Max Wiser who elected to match Liu, whilst young Akash Nandy in the Dilango Racing Lamborghini made a similar decision.
Off the line it was Nandy who made the most of his first start in the GT Asia Series to dive down the inside of Liu into turn one, but the BBT Ferrari driver was having none of it, closing the door as behind him Nandy and Wiser bumped doors on the run into turn two.
Whilst the drivers on wets managed to open up a strong early lead, those teams that chose slicks were struggling in the slippery conditions, the opening lap claiming Phillip Ma and the high profile scalp of Mok Weng Sun as a result, the round nine winner spinning on the exit of turn 14 despite being on wets, the Clearwater Ferrari going backwards into the infield barrier, although fortunately without significant damage.
That gave Hiroshi Hamaguchi all the momentum he needed, and the points leader started to push in the McLaren to catch the leaders ahead of the CPS.
Up front though Anthony Liu was on a mission, driving the wheels off the BBT Ferrari as he worked to open as big a gap as possible before the teams on slick tyres started to turn the advantage their way.
Yu hard to beat
In the end though he could do little about Frank Yu, the Craft-Bamboo team boss taking the lead just minutes out from the CPS window opening, Wiser - who had conserved his wets better in the NB Team Aston - following suit shortly after.
Behind the leading trio Richard Wee was doing a brilliant job to work his way through the field, ultimately passing Wiser for second before his stop to hand over to Guidi.
Guidi rejoined third, immediately ahead of Rizzo who fired past him on the run to turn four. They then set off in pursuit of Guerrero who held station for a number of laps before finally succumbing to the Ferrari assault with 15-minutes remaining, the two Italians taking the NB Team Aston at turn 15 as Guerrero came up to lap the GTM class Porsche of Marcel Tjia.
Behind the leading quartet, Fuji sensation Christopher Mies was charging after a great opening stint by car owner Jeffrey Lee, the Absolute Racing Audi R8 driver across the line fifth, but ultimately claiming fourth in the post-race reshuffle.
Mucke crossed the line 20-seconds clear of Rizzo, with Guidi classified third, but ultimately elevated to victor with a delighted Richard Wee, whilst the ever improving NB Team claimed their second podium of the event, and their third straight podium at Sepang. Mucke and Yu were ultimately relegated to third, ahead of Mies/Lee and Rizzo/Liu.
Keita Sawa drove the wheels off the Clearwater Racing Ferrari to get the best of a closing stint battle with title rival and team-mate Rob Bell to claim one more valuable championship point on the McLaren team, the two chrome Clearwater cars crossing the line sixth and seventh.
Naoki Yokomizo was one of the stars of the round in Samson Chan’s 2011 Ford GT, the Japanese SuperGT regular crossing the line eighth after pushing many of the 2014-spec cars to the limit in both races.
Ninth was Bjorn Wirdheim in the MIKE Racing Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT3, and in great news for the team, car-owner Michael Chua made impressive gains across the weekend to be battling some of the series regulars during his stints behind the wheel.
There are just three races remaining in the 2014 GT Asia Series, two of them coming at Shanghai International Raceway on October 9-11 with the final round scheduled for the annual Macau Grand Prix in November (14-16).
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