Ferrari teammates Davide Rizzo and Anthony Liu sweep the weekend in Korea.
The opening event on the 2014 GT Asia Series programme has come to it’s conclusion and you couldn’t blame some of the series regulars for scratching their heads and wondering where it all went wrong because it is two GT Asia rookie teams that lead the points after the opening two rounds in Korea - and in the end, they did it pretty comfortably..
Starting from the front row courtesy of race one winner Anthony Liu’s pace in Q2 on Saturday morning, the race one winner controlled the start to lead into turn one. Behind Liu carnage ensued as a train of cars five wide tried to filter through the tight opening turn, Matt Solomon one of those that was forced out in the battle for position.
Liu by that stage was in front and a sequence of good solid laps gave the ‘Spirit of Race’ Ferrari a strong advantage as Solomon made his way through on Frank Yu and on to the tail of Hiroshi Hamaguchi.
Hamaguchi had the pace for a number of laps, but ultimately fell to Solomon ahead of the compulsory pit stop. Behind the leading trio came a string of Aston Martins with Frank Yu on old rubber doing an outstanding job under the circumstances to keep the second CRAFT bamboo Racing Aston of Natasha Seatter at bay. Seatter meanwhile came under attack from Jiang Xin in the NB Team Aston, the trio swapping positions over a number of laps before Seatter ultimately spun on the dirty part of the circuit whilst closely following her team-mate and continuing to apply pressure.
Behind the leaders Takuma Aoki picked up where he left off in race one by leading comfortably in GTM, the former motorcycle star pitting comfortably in front to hand over to Dilantha Malagamuwa. Malagamuwa was not scheduled to join the GTM field, however overnight the Dilango Racing team discovered the reason for his lack of pace in race one - a broken fifth gear ring.
In the end the former GT Asia series champion made his way back through the field, only dropping to fourth before catching and passing Jacky Yeung and Thomas Fjordbach late in the race to present Aoki with back-to-back wins.
“I am so happy,” Aoki beamed post race. “I did not expect this result at the start of the weekend, so I must thank my mechanics, my family, and of course Dilantha for asking me to join his team. I felt a lot more comfortable in the car today and actually had the chance to race with and pass a number of cars. It was a very good day.”
Whilst GTM had been settled with a result that mirrored race one - an identical podium - GT3 presented a slightly different story.
Liu was one of the first to pit, handing the car to Rizzo, whilst Solomon continued to circulate punching out a sequence of very competitive laps to pit and hand the car to Alex Yoong with a big advantage over the field.
By virtue of finishing outside the top three in race one, and therefore not incurring an additional time penalty during their stop, Yoong emerged in the lead, but was soon under fire from Rizzo.
Hamaguchi too had stopped on the same lap as Liu, and he too was charging hard after his stop, but was ten seconds down on the battle for the lead.
Rizzo looked quick and he was soon onto the tail of Yoong, however the Audi driver was enjoying fresh rubber after a change during the stop, and a string of solid laps allowed the former F1 pilot to stretch out a three second lead. On lap 21 though, just ten minutes from home, he returned to the pits where the Absolute team worked feverishly to assess a problem that both drivers had reported. In the end it was discovered that the car had a broken upright in the left front as a result of contact at turn one on the opening lap, the end result - retirement.
“It’s pretty frustrating to be honest,” Yoong admitted. “Last year we had a win in the series, but it was almost gifted to us, but this one we’d worked for all weekend and were leading on our own merits. The car was quick, perhaps not as quick as the Aston and the Ferrari in a straight line, but across the full lap, we had great mid-corner speed, and that really put us in a position to make the podium. If things had played out as we’d planned, we were looking good for the win!”
The Absolute Audi wasn’t the only casualty either, four laps before their demise Thursday pace-setter Andrea Caldarelli had come into the pits after setting a blistering 2:07 as he worked his way forward in the field, but the Aston was retired almost immediately afterwards, an engine failure the diagnosis.
“We don’t know exactly what’s happened, but there has been a mechanical failure somewhere in the engine,” Caldarelli explained. “It wasn’t major, but certainly forced our retirement. It was disappointing not to finish the race, but our goal this weekend - our very first race - was to gain experience and give Song Yang and Xin some valuable laps and we achieved that.
“An engine failure in an Aston is rare, so we’ll go away and do some research before Autopolis and be ready to go again there.”
With Yoong pulling out just ten minutes from home, the ‘Spirit of Race’ Ferrari was again gifted the race lead and they put it to good use, Rizzo holding out the hard charging Rob Bell to take the win, the team’s second in 24 hours.
“We always prepare hard before a new season, and this year was no different,” Rizzo confirmed. “This is our first race in GT Asia and we knew it would be hard against such experienced teams, and we weren’t sure what to expect so we just concentrated on our race program and it worked. We’re very happy.”
Second in the end was all the Clearwater McLaren team could recover, Rob Bell dripping in sweat post race, admitting that he had never driven harder. “There was nothing left.. not me, not the car, we did everything we could.”
Team-mate Hiroshi Hamaguchi admitted that he was disappointed, and felt perhaps he could have put the team in a position to win, but from where they’d started the weekend the result was almost as good as a victory.
“The bottom line is that it’s good championship points, and that’s what counts,” Bell admitted. “The other good thing is that in two weeks we get to do it all again, but we will have some work to do before Japan to make sure we’re right in the mix and fighting for the win.”
With a two-day crowd of just on 12,000 paying fans through the gates, the GT Asia Series organisers admitted that despite the late date change and the impact that had on entries, they were happy with the overall result of the series first foray into Korea.
The second event of the 2014 GT Asia Series is just two short weeks away at Autopolis in Japan (30 May - 1 June).
Race Two Results (60-minutes)
1. Anthony Liu/Davide Rizzo (Spirit of Race Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) - 27-laps
2. Hiroshi Hamaguchi/Rob Bell (Clearwater Racing McLaren MP4-12C) -1.986
3. Jiang Xin/Max Wiser (NB Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3) -22.488
4. Keita Sawa/Mok Weng Sun (Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) -23.582
5. Warren Luff/Frank Yu (CRAFT Bamboo Racing Aston Martin Vantage) -29.700
6. Craig Baird/Richard Wee (Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) -52.753
7. Jeffrey Lee/Marchy Lee (Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra GT3) -1:03.792
8. Rui Aguas/Nasrat Muzayyin (Spirit of Race Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) -1:39.412
9. Natasha Seatter/Kim Tacksung (CRAFT Bamboo Racing Aston Martin) -2:10.796
10. Takuma Aoki (Dilango Racing Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 GT3)* - 26-laps
11. George Chou/Thomas Fjordbach (Taiwan Top Speed Ferrari 458 Challenge)*
12. Jacky Yeung (Tiger Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3)*
13. Scott Miau/Sungeun Park (Taiwan Top Speed Ferrari 458 Challenge)* - 25-laps
DNF. Alex Yoong/Matt Solomon (Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra GT3) - 21-laps
DNF. Nick Edwards/Terry Fang (Taiwan Top Speed Ferrari 458 Challenge)*
DNF. Andrea Caldarelli/Fu Song Yang (NB Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3) - 17-laps
DNF. Keo Chang/Joe Hsu (Taiwan Top Speed Ferrari 458 Challenge)*
DNS. Michael Chua/Joseph Chua (Mike Racing Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT3)