Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Anthony Liu (CHN) claimed his maiden Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS Drivers’ Championship after a nail-biting finish at the Sepang International Circuit the past weekend. After 5 rounds of thrilling action filled with several twists and turns in the championship fight, it all came down to the season finale in Malaysia. Liu came into the weekend leading the standings by a mere 1 point and needed to deliver a strong result in both races to claim his title. Despite having a challenging time throughout the weekend, the duo of Liu and Daniel Juncadella (ESP) managed to do enough in their #37 Mercedes-AMG GT3, claiming a P2 podium finish to hand the Chinese driver his first Overall Drivers’ Champion crown. Craft-Bamboo Racing’s sister car, the #85 Mercedes-AMG, piloted by Jeffrey Lee (TPE) and Maximilian Goetz (GER), also struggled for overall pace despite having a faultless weekend and was unable to claim any points in either of the two races. The Hong Kong team eventually finished P3 in the overall Teams’ Championship.
As the championship protagonists arrived in Malaysia, the clouds parted despite thunderstorm forecasts, and made way for a thrilling final couple of races around the 5.5km Grand Prix circuit. Despite the stakes being so high, both Craft-Bamboo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3’s were struggling to challenge for the top times throughout the practice sessions. In the first part of qualifying, Liu pulled an absolute stunner by securing a much-needed front-row start for the red and yellow-liveried Mercedes-AMG in Race 1. Lee, on the other side of the garage, only managed P20 on his fastest lap, struggling to extract the maximum out of the car due to traffic and track-limit time deletions. The pair of Pro drivers took over the reins in the second qualifying session and placed P12 and P13 in the #37 and #85 Mercedes-AMG GT3s respectively for Sunday’s Race 2.
The Hong Kong squad was aware that the result in Race 1 needed to be maximised in order to have the best chance at securing the Drivers’ Championship title. Liu started the race extremely strong and managed to avoid the carnage going into turns 1 and 2, which proved to be extremely helpful in the championship battle, as one of the cars that were involved was the Porsche in P2 of the standings. The race was neutralized by a Safety Car, followed by a Red Flag due to another incident on track. As it stood, Liu could mathematically claim the championship with a race to spare if the #37 Mercedes-AMG GT3 could win in Race 1. Meanwhile, Lee was making overtakes and gaining ground to score points for the team which was still in the Teams’ Championship fight as well.
The cars pitted under Virtual Safety Car conditions as Juncadella and Goetz took over to finish the race strong. Despite running in P2, the Spanish driver was lacking the pace to challenge the leading Audi in the first part of his stint. Nearing the end, Juncadella managed to claw back 4 seconds and was on the tail of the leader but eventually ran out of time and took the runner-up position when the checkered flag fell. Goetz on the other hand finished P14, with the J-Fly Racing-liveried car making up 6 positions throughout the race. A podium result for the #37 Mercedes-AMG GT3 handed Liu a 19-point lead, which meant that the championship would be decided in the final race of the season.
After countless hours of hard work and months of perseverance, it all came down to Sunday’s race. Liu and Juncadella needed to make up several positions throughout the 1-hour race given their 6th-row start and 10-second success penalty. However, the championship contenders were required to secure nothing less than a victory to dethrone Liu in the final race. The Spanish Mercedes-AMG driver started the race strong and managed to climb up to P7 by the end of his stint while Goetz had also clawed his way to P9 as the pitstop window came about. Liu came out of the pits just outside the points in P11 as Lee was running in P8. The final 25 minutes of the season provided some edge-of-the-seat racing action as Liu tried his absolute best to limit the damage, even spinning his car around halfway through his stint, but managing to keep it on the road and keep going. The Chinese driver eventually drove past the cars in front and took the checkered flag in P10 while Lee finished in P15.
Despite the results in the final race, Liu and Craft-Bamboo Racing had done enough to secure the Drivers’ Championship by 5 points. Liu stood on top of his #37 Mercedes-AMG GT3 as he pulled alongside the victory lane and the team celebrated with a roar, knowing that the season of hard work had finally paid off and they had claimed the title. The Teams’ Championship saw Craft-Bamboo Racing finish P3 after a great season in the Asian series.
Darryl O’Young | Team Director, Craft-Bamboo Racing
“What an amazing season, it was our first year back after the big COVID break and Craft-Bamboo Racing came back with a vengeance taking the Drivers’ Championship title! It was truly a team effort, big thanks to the entire team and to all our drivers for the massive effort. Congrats Anthony Liu on his maiden title, and our drivers Dani Juncadella, Fabi Schiller, Jeffrey Lee, and Max Goetz for the fantastic year.”
Anthony Liu | 2023 Driver Champion, #37 Mercedes-AMG GT3
“We did it! Oh my god, I am at a loss for words! It was no doubt a challenging weekend for us but at the end of the day, we did enough to claim the championship. Big big thanks to the team and to Dani for his expert driving. This has been a long time in the making and to finally stand here and say I am the Drivers’ Champion is something special. This would not have been possible without the hard work that everyone has put in for so many months, this title is for them!”
Daniel Juncadella | Driver, #37 Mercedes-AMG GT3
“It was a great season, we accomplished our goal of performing every weekend. We scored a win or a podium each time we raced so this was very good for the team. In the end Anthony came home with the championship trophy, which rounded up the season very nicely. It was very exciting season and I am glad to have played my role to finish strong. It has been a pleasure to work with Craft-Bamboo and go to so many new tracks. I look forward to doing it again in the future.”
Jeffrey Lee | Driver, #85 Mercedes-AMG GT3
“Although it was challenging and difficult for me and my teammate Max this weekend, I am really happy for the team and for Anthony. This year was about getting back into the rhythm after 3 years off, so I think we made good progress since race 1. Big thanks to Craft-Bamboo Racing for the effort and my goal is to come back stronger next year.”
Maximilian Goetz | Driver, #85 Mercedes-AMG GT3
“It’s been a pleasure working with such a great team and experienced guys. For sure, we expected a bit more throuhgout the season. We were a bit unlucky but we also had a showed great performance over the year – we had good races, good fights and good qualifying sessions. We got a podium in Buriram but we struggled a bit with incidents and damage after that. We recovered quickly from that and I really enjoyed racing in Asia. It was a great experience even though we hoped for more. Jeffrey worked hard and improved a lot througout the year, which was good to see. But most importantly, we claimed the championship as a team – Anthony did a great job. Overall it ended well with a title and P3 in the Teams’ Championship. Hopefully we come back next year, for now we go to Indy and full focus on that.”