It was another outstanding day at the Suzuka Circuit where the Porsches showed their dominance, leading the race from the start but penalties changed the order of the winning 997 GT3R, leaving China’s Peter Li Zhi Cong to claim the win for Asia Racing Team. The Series is in Japan as part of the Autobacs Super GT Round 5, 41st International Pokka 1000km race.
At the start it was Hisao Shigeta that had the best start, taking the lead from the pole Ferrari 458 GT3 of Mok Weng Sun. Mok was also passed by Hisamori Hayashi while Dilantha Malagamuwa in the Lamborghini LP560 GT3 dropped to fourth and Li propelled himself to fourth from eighth.
Frank Yu in the Ford GT3 dropped one spot to sixth while being cautious about his gearbox. Yu’s crew worked efficiently, taking apart the gearbox just 20 minutes prior to the start when they found a troubling rattle, putting it back together with just two minutes to spare.
Jeffrey Lee started the race in the Audi R8 LMS Ultra while his teammate Alexandre Imperatori waits for the second stint. Lee dropped one position in the opening lap to the fast starting You Yokomaku in Direction Racing’s GT Master class Porsche 997 Cup 3.8.
At the end of the opening lap, second placed man Hayashi made his move to pass Shigeta for the lead, which he held all the way to the pitstop window where positions changed quickly as numerous drivers made mistakes.
Four drivers had to serve stop-go penalties for not completing the stop within the minimum time, including the two Direction Racing leading cars, Shigeta and Hayashi. Shigeta served his penalty dropping him down to sixth whilst Hayashi was given the black flag for ignoring the penalty. But not before having a great three lap battle with Li for the lead. On lap 14 into 15, Li powered down the straight for the third time, managing to overtake Hayashi at turn 1 into turn 2.
For Li, his day changed for the better but despite the win he was contemplative of his whole weekend. “The weekend was very hard for me because yesterday I had a penalty and during the Qualifying, I overtook on the yellow flag relegating my position down three places to eighth.
“Today was good, I learnt the track well and made good laptimes, managing to pass some drivers to finish in first.
“Today I have a better car, because yesterday I removed 30kg of weight so today I have a better top speed and better performance. I also had new tyres on so the corner speed was faster so I could do well” said Li.
Li currently leads the Championship by six points to Mok, and commenting on the Championship, he said “All I can say is I will try my best in the next race”. Li has no experience at Autopolis, the venue for Rounds 9 & 10, leaving Mok with an advantage. “I have never been to Autopolis so all I can do is try my best” ended Li.
Mok kept his cool throughout the race, maintaining his pace citing he knew that he could not fight with the three lead Porsche’s had it not been for the penalties. He said, “actually I consider this a very lucky second because I didn’t have the pace today but I think Hayashi San and Shigeta San both got stop-go penalties and that vaulted me from fourth to second.
“I have 70 kilos of Success Ballast from yesterday and that certainly made a big difference, I’m dropping about one second a lap from yesterday’s pace. I just couldn’t keep up with the Porsches, if you watch the race you can see them blow right past me on the straight. The best I can do is try to drive consistent and hope something good happens. Lucky, I am lucky to finish P2. It was a very good weekend”.
“I think the Championship will be down to the wire all the way to the end”. Mok also mentioned that he will have a packed schedule the week before the race with work and to get to the Autopolis weekend will be a task but, “with this position in the Championship, I’ve got to do whatever I can to get to Autopolis. Carrying the weight we are carrying into the next weekend will not be easy but we will keep our fingers crossed”.
After a stunning race yesterday, starting from the pit-lane with gearbox problems and making it all the way through the pack to finish fifth, Yu once again had a good day in Suzuka. He said he drove like a ‘madman’ in yesterday’s race but enjoyed the challenge. “Today again we had a gearbox problem, there was a rattling noise. My team took the gearbox apart, 20 minutes before the start and they did a really fantastic job putting everything back together but could not find the problem”.
The team then asked if he wanted to continue or park it in the garage, he replied “lets try it the first few laps” and it turned out to be a good decision. Yu took it easy the first few laps and as the noise went away he pushed, towards the end, he maintained his pace, got a little bit of added luck to finish the race on the podium in third. “I have had some unlucky days and today is my lucky day” he ended with a smile.
Shigeta eventually recovered two spots after serving his penalty to finish the race in fourth. The Japanese driver was happy with the result and thanked his team for giving him the opportunity to join the race when they repaired his car in time for this morning’s race. “My team was great, they did not sleep so that I can race today. I am happy with the race”.
At the pit-stop, Lee passed the car to Imperatori who managed to bring the car up to fifth, collecting points for the team and for Lee’s Championship challenge. When asked to comment on who was the better partner, Imperatori or Marchy Lee, Jeffrey gave a vague diplomatic answer commending both drivers with their individual strengths.
David Lai in the second F458 GT3 finished the race with a consistent pace in sixth whilst Billy Fung handed over Arrows Racing’s Lamborghini LP600 GT3 for Akihiro Asahi to climb to seventh by the end of the race.
Shigeru Terashima found lady luck on his side when his teammate and closest on track rival, Yokomaku dropped down the order to eighth leaving Terashima to claim the win. “I usually race a Ferrari so I just followed Yokomaku’s line and tried to find a way past. So I am really happy that I managed the win today.
He added, “My teammate and I fought all the way, we had the same car, same speed down the straight, same at the corners, it was a good fight. It was sad for my friend”.
Yokomaku interjected, “my friend who did a penalty” citing his mistake at the pit-stop that caused him to receive a stop-go penalty that relegated him down the order from the class lead to fourth in class. He was just behind Hideki Onda, who did not realise he was running in third, leaving a gap for Yokomaku to pass to claim the final podium spot at the end of the race.
For Hong Kong driver, Jacky Yeung, it was a race to remember. Another podium finish and he was happy with the outcme of the day. “What can I say but FINALLY. After yesterday the problem with the bearing that made me miss the third and now I get second back, I’m very happy. The whole race was smooth, I did not make any mistake at the pit-stop, no speeding at the pit-lane. I kept chasing the Porsches but they were just too fast at the straight but I kept it up”.
“When I saw them going in for the penalties, I was ‘ooh, okay I’m in second, I still keep pushing, I didn’t give up” ended Yeung.
Tsukasa Fujita of Direction Racing, Hideo Takahashi in the F430 Challenge, returning GTM Champion Christian Chia, surgeon Shim Ching, Clifford Chen and Kuninari Mori with his driver partner Singo Tenma were the last of the finishers today.
Three cars were given the black flag with Hayashi and John Shen being given the stop-go penalty which they ignored whilst Malagamuwa was in breach of the regulations when he was assisted by the marshalls following his spin into the gravel trap.
The GT Asia Series will continue with Rounds 9 & 10 held at the Autopolis International Circuit on 28-30 September before heading to be a part of the Macau GP at the Guia International Circuit for the Series’ Season Finale on 16-18 November.