Andrea Caldarelli on his GT3 debut topped both sessions.
Whilst it was billed as an unofficial practice day at Korea International Circuit, there was plenty to play for during the two 75-minute sessions that opened the 2014 GT Asia Series, and the big teams were going all out to set a target time, but in the end it was Italian star Andrea Caldarelli on his GT3 debut that topped both sessions.
Driving for the new Chinese Aston Martin Racing ‘NB Team’, Caldarelli was too just too quick for his new rivals, all of whom were coming to grips with their first laps of the 5.615 kilometre circuit.
In the end Caldarelli topped session one with a best of 2:10.995, then improved again in session two to drop the mark in the dying stages of the session to record a best of 2:08.223, three quarters of a second clear of Keita Sawa in the 2013 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 he shares with dual GT Asia champion Mok Weng Sun.
Baird - like everyone else in the GT Asia field - was new to Korea International, and the ‘journeyman’ driver admitted that he was impressed with the facility.
“I’d have to say this is one of the best circuits I’ve ever driven on. It certainly rewards the driver, so you can have a real big go and be rewarded for it - I’m really looking forward to the two races, it’s going to be interesting with the caliber of drivers entered.”
Fourth fastest was former Formula One pilot Alex Yoong who was back in an Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS, although this time with rising young open-wheel star Matthew Solomon alongside. Solomon starred in the Zhuhai round of GT Asia in 2013 alongside another former F1-star, Mercedes favourite Mika Hakkinen in an Erebus Motorsport SLS AMG. Doing double-duty this weekend with his debut in R8 LMS Cup, Solomon matched almost to the hundredth of a second Yoong’s best, the duo though not 100% happy with the setup and were looking for a better balance ahead of Friday’s first official practice session.
Former Carrera Cup Asia drivers Anthony Liu and Davide Rizzo made a strong impression on their GT Asia debut, taking the BBT Ferrari 458 to the fifth fastest time overall, splitting Absolute Racing team-mates Yoong and Marchy Lee, Lee like Solomon doing double duty with Audi Cup and happy to be just two tenths shy of his team-mates.
“We ran around on old rubber all day, to find a good balance and also work out the circuit,” Marchy explained. “Like everyone else here it’s my first time at the circuit. It’s a good circuit, and very busy to drive, I like it.”
Rob Bell set the pace in the third Clearwater car - the McLaren MP4-12C that Weng Sun had taken to third place in the 2013 championship, the team explaining that they were suffering from a pace issue they were looking to resolve ahead of the weekend’s two one-hour races.
CRAFT bamboo Racing were also turning laps to get a good balance on their two Aston Martin Vantages, Warren Luff setting the pace for the team, although the Australian GT Championship regular admitted that he’d been caught up on his hot lap on fresh rubber.
“I didn’t get the best of it on the one lap I really pushed, on the data we were good for a low nine, but I lost over a second in traffic and just didn’t quite get a clear run. Overall we’re pretty happy.”
Former Formula Gulf champion Natasha Seatter who was sharing driving duties with local star Kim Tacksung in the car Frank Yu took to the runner-up position in the 2013 championship admitted she was taking a little time to come to terms with the bigger GT car during her series debut. “The pace isn’t the big surprise, it’s the physical size of the car,” she explained. “With each lap I’m getting more comfortable, but you don’t have the visibility that an open cockpit car gives you..!”
The teams will go away overnight and consider all the data they collected today and prepare for two 45-minute ‘official’ practice sessions tomorrow, but for the series regulars, apart from old rivalries, they now have a whole new group of contenders to deal with which will fire things up ahead of Saturday’s opening round. Stay tuned!!
GT Asia Series - unofficial practice (15 May, 2014)
Korea International Circuit, South Korea
Combined times (2x 75-minute sessions)
1. Andrea Caldarelli/Fu Song Yang (NB Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3) - 2:08.223 [P2]
2. Keita Sawa/Mok Weng Sun (Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) - 2:08.997 [P2]
3. Rui Aguas/Nasrat Muzayyin (Spirit of Race Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) - 2:09.273 [P2]
4. Alex Yoong/Matt Solomon (Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra GT3) - 2:10.309 [P2]
5. Anthony Liu/Davide Rizzo (BBT Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) - 2:10.387 [P2]
6. Jeffrey Lee/Marchy Lee (Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra GT3) - 2:10.519 [P2]
7. Hiroshi Hamaguchi/Rob Bell (Clearwater Racing McLaren MP4-12C) - 2:10.672 [P2]
8. Warren Luff/Frank Yu (CRAFT Bamboo Racing Aston Martin Vantage) - 2:10.763 [P2]
9. Jiang Xin/Max Wiser (NB Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3) - 2:11.657 [P2]
10. Craig Baird/Richard Wee (Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) - 2:11.849 [P1]
GT Asia Series