Victory at Seang erased by a grid infringement.
It was the highest and lowest of days for Craft-Bamboo Racing in Sepang International Circuit as the team claimed a GT Asia Series round ten win only to have it revoked at the end of the day for a grid infringement – for not having its tyres on during the five minute warning – a decision the team feel is controversial, but has accepted. In the end, both car #97 and #99 had thirty seconds added to its final time, relegating #97 to third and #99 to twelfth.
Nevertheless, it was a sensational drive by Frank Yu (HKG) in the #97 Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3 on a drying track. Yu and a handful of other drivers opted to start on slicks as the rain slowly stopped half an hour before the race, causing a mixed choice in tyres by teams. It was the opposite for Daniel Bilski (AUS) in #99 as he chose to run with wets and suffered as the track dried out, looking for wet patches to cool the tyres.
At the start, Yu managed a brilliant getaway, taking the inside line at turn one and maintaining his position for one lap before starting to make his move. As his tyres warmed up, Yu was able to set the pace and took a couple of nail-biting manoeuvres for the lead. Just three laps from the pit-window, he claimed the lead and extended an eight second margin.
After a perfect pit-stop, Stefan Mücke (DEU) took over the car and maintained the lead all the way to the chequered flag, opening up an 18 second gap to the second placed car.
At the post-race press conference, Yu said “we made the right choice using the slicks, and with the extra formation lap my tyres got warmer, but the first three laps were still quite hairy. A few cars passed me but I knew that lap times were going to drop when the tyres came on so I pushed as hard as I could, starting to take cars one by one and then with three laps to go, I took the lead.”
Mücke had a far less stressful drive, “Yeah, Frank did all the work today and he did an absolutely amazing drive. The track conditions were difficult, but we made the right call on the tires.
“My job was to bring the car home but I was still pushing to open up a gap because we knew we were under investigation and I managed to open close to 20 seconds. The car was running well and the team did a great job on the setup.”
Meanwhile in car #99, Bilski began to struggle halfway through his stint as the track dried. He managed to climb all the way up to fourth from 9th before the tyres started to heat up causing him to drop down the order. By the time he handed the car to his partner, Jonathan Venter (AUS), they were down in 11th.
Said Bilski, “I just didn’t think the track would dry as quickly as it did, I got a great start and then I muscled through and got myself up to fourth from ninth on the grid, so I was really happy with my start. But it all went a bit pear-shaped from there. Once the tyres got too hot, I tried to keep them cool on the wetter lines but a number of cars were coming through on the dry lines so I had to defend on the dry line, but it just got worse. I dropped right down the field.”
Venter tried hard to pick up some spots, but the gap to the front was too big for him to catch and he was only able to bring the car home in eighth. Venter did however display his abilities when he maintained his position ahead of the Super GT pro Naoki Yokomizo, who was behind him for the entire stint.
Said Venter, “It was always going to be harder when the track is a little bit wet and you are starting on cold slicks, but the tyres warmed up pretty quickly and the track warmed. By the time the Ford got behind me, I was already in a rhythm so from there it was just staying consistent. A few laps I had to really hold him off, it was a good race.”
On Saturday, though...
On Saturday it was #99’s day. Venter started the race in eleventh after an extremely close qualifying which saw the top 12 drivers within two seconds. The 18-year old Aussie was just pipped by former Formula 1 driver, Alex Yoong, putting him just outside the top ten.
It was a fight from the green light for Venter, whose great start saw him up to ninth at the first turn and from there, he was in an all-out fight till the end. The youngster was fending off a number of professional GT drivers during his stint, showing great maturity and mental strength. He changed positions several times and at one point was caught up in a five way battle with various professional drivers. Venter kept it clean and handed the car over to Bilski in eighth.
Then it was the Hong-Kong based Aussie’s turn to continue the run, however just three laps into his stint and running in sixth, Bilski was tapped into a spin by the NB Team’s Aston Martin. He dropped two spots down the order but made a great charge to re-claim his lost positions, which included a two lap battle with Samson Chan, whom seemingly had the straight line advantage. Bilski kept his head down and brought the car home in a fantastic sixth.
Said Bilski, “I am happy with my drive today and I had to be aggressive to hold off the quicker cars. I got sharp elbowed a couple of times, but I am really happy with the results and the race.”
At the end of the day, Venter added, “It was a great race, we had a strong package, we did a good job to finish sixth, especially with Dan having contact. I think we learnt a lot this weekend, we both drove the best we could and we can be happy with that.”
Mistake in the pits
The #97 suffered a blow in round nine, when the team made a mistake during the pit-stop session. Car #97 was parked at an angle instead of straight, causing them to lose time and positions. In the end, the team had to retire the car early after finding an issue with the car.
Craft-Bamboo Racing will take a short break until the start of round 12 & 13 at Shanghai International Circuit in October.
Craft-Bamboo Racing was formed as the result of a merger between two renowned race teams - GT and endurance winners Craft Racing AMR and WTCC Independent champions Bamboo Engineering - to form Craft-Bamboo Racing. The partnership was announced early April, prior to the team’s first outing at the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) in Europe.
In the 2014, Craft-Bamboo Racing competes in three renowned race series from around the world - in Europe with the FIA World Endurance Championship, and in Asia with the GT Asia Series and the Asian Le Mans Series. The team also enters a variety of endurance races, including the 24 Hour of Le Mans, the Sepang 12 Hour and also the 24 Hours Dubai.