Hammam Claims the Championship on the Final Lap In a nail biting ending to the GT3 Asia 2009 season, the Championship was won and lost right on the final lap of Round 12. Melvin Choo claimed another spectacular win, this time from pole to flag...
Hammam Claims the Championship on the Final Lap
In a nail biting ending to the GT3 Asia 2009 season, the Championship was won and lost right on the final lap of Round 12.
Melvin Choo claimed another spectacular win, this time from pole to flag and was followed across the finish line by Siu Yuk Lung and Tunku Hammam.
Choo drove a clean and consistent race and was rewarded with his second win of the weekend. The Singaporean driver was happy with the results and is looking at the possibility of joining the Championship for the whole season next year.
"I think I got lucky today. I was in the lead and managed to get clear laps in front of me and clocked some good times to pull a lead, after that I just maintained my pace.
"The rest of the drivers were battling behind me which kind of slowed them down, so I was lucky I had a clean track in front.
"I really enjoy driving here and if it fits in my schedule, I will join the season next year, but it will be a very busy year for me" said Choo at the post race press conference.
It was a battle all the way for six of the top seven drivers in the first part of the race. Choo opened up a gap early on in the race leaving the battle from second to seventh to Tunku Hammam, Francis Tjia, Eddie Yau, Frank Yu, Eric Cheung and Siu Yuk Lung.
The positions changed throughout the race with Yu taking both F.Tjia and Hammam on lap three and picking up the pace to chase race leader, Choo. Behind them, F.Tjia made his move on Hammam to take third leaving the Malaysian to defend his position from Yau and Siu Y.L.
Then on lap nine, Siu Y.L. took Hammam for fourth leaving the Malaysian to defend against the fast approaching Yau for fifth.
As the race neared the end, all eyes were focused on the battle for second between the Ginetta of Frank Yu and the Ferrari of Francis Tjia. Unbeknownst to F.Tjia, if he finished the race in third he would have won the Championship but he tried one last time to take Yu before the finish. They touched and spun, leaving the trio of Siu Yuk Lung, Tunku Hammam and Eddie Yau to pass.
Yu managed to recover after the spin to reclaim one spot but was unable to finish on the podium while F.Tjia managed to rejoin further behind to finish in tenth. This meant that F.Tjia lost what would have been his Championship victory thereby leaving him as overall Runner-up.
"I feel a little bit deflated. I think the issue is that there is a military base nearby and we are not allowed to use the pit-to-car radio. So all I knew was that I was ahead of Tunku but I didn't know how many positions or points.
"So in my mind I still need to go for every single point and with two laps to go, Frank and I had a little touch. It was a relatively soft touch but unfortunately we both spun and that was it, Tunku went by".
Although dejected, F.Tjia still looked at the 2009 GT3 Asia season positively "I'm second, my teammate Wayne is in third. Its mostly part to the great team we've got. Freddie and Pierre have done a great job and the whole team always made sure that the cars were running and fast and ready. Racing is a team sport and you need the whole team to get to where we are. I'm very happy" he ended. Yu finished the race in fourth, followed by Yau in fifth and Wayne Shen, whose team managed to fix his drive shaft in time, in sixth.
Finishing the race in second place, Siu Yuk Lung, did not have a good start, dropping two places to seventh and was in a closely fought battle with four drivers before the last lap incident that propelled him to into second.
"In the first few laps I just followed the cars in front, then I took a chance and managed to overtake one car and then another. Actually I am lucky today because the two cars in front had a spin, leaving me to take second.
"This year the GT3 Asia is really good because there were many great competitors and we managed some wins alongside the losses. It was a good season" ended a very happy Siu Y.L.
A surprised Hammam was glad at the turn of events which awarded him with third place and cited he was fortunate to win the Championship despite a handling problem.
"My pace wasn't there today because I was carrying a lot of ballast and the car was ill handling, I don't know what went wrong.
"I am pleased to get third because it means that I've won the GT3 Asia Challenge Championship" said Hammam at the post race press conference.
When asked if he realized that he nearly lost the championship, he replied, "I actually didn't realize it. I thought if he was just two places in front of me that I would still win the Championship. That's why on the last two laps I was trying to take Siu. But in the end it turned out well.
"I'm definitely joining the Championship next year but I am not sure what car yet but it has to be something very competitive" said the newly crowned Championship winner.
They were followed by Shogo Amamoto, one of the three Japanese guest drivers, who claimed the win for the GT4 category.
The gruff looking man broke into a smile as he said "This is my first time here in Autopolis and frankly I didn't expect to be here on the podium but its just great to have the three Japanese drivers on the podium today. I really hope to be back in the series again in future".
Amamoto's Direction Racing teammate, Akira Mizutani crossed the line in eighth, ahead of the second of the Ginettas, driven by Eric Cheung and F.Tjia.
For Mizutani "this weekend was brilliant. One of the best experience for me. First of all, an all Japanese podium is great and Amamoto and I have been teammates for two years, its great to have him on the top step of the podium".
The third of the GT4 category podium finisher, Gen Emoto, finished the race in eleventh followed by the remaining finishers, John Shen, Noel Becker, David Lai, Sasha Chu, Marce Tjia and Siu Tit Lung.
Emoto said during the press conference of his third place finish "In the race yesterday I had a puncture and it burst and I went out. Today I spun in the second lap and I almost gave up, but it turned out well for me finishing third. I didn't expect it and its just amazing for me".
The race ended with two non-finishers including the GT4 category Championship winner, Christian Chia and Samson Chan. Adrian Fu was the only non-starter of the day when his car suffered some mechanical problems before the start of the race.
This is the final race of the GT3 Asia Challenge 2009 season but drivers in the series will be joined by other guest drivers in Macau during the Macau Grand Prix on 20-22 November 2009 for an invitational race before the Championship presentation dinner.