The first half of the 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia saw Craft-Bamboo Racing realize the potential of the Mercedes-AMG GT3, finishing in the top-three on several occasions including two outright GT3 victories in Sepang and Suzuka. It has also been a strong first half of the season for the sole GT4 entry, with the team having scored four podiums including a class victory in Buriram. The team heads to Fuji Speedway with high expectations for Rounds 7 & 8, in the foothills of the iconic Mt. Fuji.
The Season So Far
#55 Mercedes-AMG GT3
Daniel Au and Melvin Moh have made progress with each passing round in the first half of the 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia season. With 2019 being Au’s rookie season in a GT3 car, AMG Academy instructor Melvin Moh was drafted in to speed up the learning curve. Good teamwork and guidance meant that the Singaporean-Malaysian pair have made significant progress with each race weekend, and will be looking to continue their climb up the field in Fuji.
#88 Mercedes-AMG GT3
Taiwanese GT driver Jeffrey Lee and Belgian young gun Alessio Picariello have been on top form in the first half of the season, taking two victories in the first 3 weekends of the season. Their first taste of glory came at the first race of the season in Sepang when Picariello stormed through the field to take the win, and the second in Suzuka where Lee produced a defensive masterclass to stay in front of the faster pro drivers. The pair will be looking to carry their momentum into the second half of the season, with sights set on fighting for the Pro-Am championship.
#99 Mercedes-AMG GT3
The Silver Cup pairing of three-time Macau winner Darryl O’Young and two-time IMSA Champion Christina Nielsen have also shown their strong form and capabilities with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 this year. The #99 pair not only finished on the podium in Malaysia, but also have often demonstrated their potential by consistently fighting at the front. Nielsen’s racecraft has given the pair many opportunities to fight back later on in races and O’Young’s overtaking prowess has also shone through, when the Hong Kong race driver went from 5th to 1st in a daring first lap overtake in Sepang. Expect more from the #99 pair in the latter half of this season, as the pair’s dynamic continues to improve throughout the 2019 season.
#77 Mercedes-AMG GT4
The 2017 GT4 Champion pairing of Frank Yu and Jean-Marc Merlin have had an incredible first half of the season, scoring 4 podium results including a class victory in Thailand. For the upcoming round in Fuji, experienced Hong Kong race driver David Pun will replace Frank Yu. Pun is no stranger to GT Racing; he has multiple years of single seater experience and is currently competing in the in the 2019 Ferrari Challenge. The pair will be looking to take the fight to the leaders in GT4 class, and the slight balance-of-performance adjustment this weekend should see Pun and Merlin given the best chance of a podium result.
Craft-Bamboo Racing currently sit 2nd place in the Teams Championship, and 3rd in the GT4 class.
The #88 J-Fly Racing pair of Jeffrey Lee and Alessio Picariello have moved up the table P5 in the outright GT3 Standings. The #99 entry of Darryl O’Young and Christina Nielsen are in P10 overall, with the #55 pair of Daniel Au and Melvin Moh in P23. Frank Yu and Jean-Marc Merlin are currently in 2nd place in the GT4 class after a run of great performances in the first half of the season.
The Weekend Ahead
The conditions in Fuji are set to be challenging, with heavy rain and fog expected throughout the sessions over the weekend. Temperatures are fairly stable, ranging from 21 to 24 degrees celcius, but gusty winds and consistent heavy rain throughout the weekend will undoubtedly test the teams and the drivers’ confidence in these tricky conditions.
- Fuji Schedule
Friday [5 July]
1240 – Free Practice 1
1555 – Free Practice 2
- Saturday [6 July]
0800 – Official Practice
1025 – GT4 Qualifying
1112 – GT3 Qualifying
1545 – Race 1
- Sunday [7 July]
1305 – Race 2
Alessio Picariello | Driver #88 Mercedes-AMG GT3
“Obviously we left Suzuka on a high, and we’re looking to continue that level of performance here in Fuji. The weather will make it interesting but i think it may play to our strengths. We’ve had success here in the past, and I always love racing in Japan, the fans are the best!”
Jeffrey Lee | Driver #88 Mercedes-AMG GT3
“Having had two wins in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia this season, I’m really looking forward to starting the second half! I’ve got plenty of experience here at Fuji, and getting on track on Friday in mixed conditions will be challenging but rewarding.”
Christina Nielsen | Driver #99 Mercedes-AMG GT3
“I’ve heard a lot about this circuit, and I’m really looking forward to getting on track on Friday! I’ve been doing lots of driving at high speed circuits in the past few weeks and I think that will help here with the fast sweepers. Great to be back in Japan this weekend, and hopefully we can continue our progress that we’ve made over the past few rounds!”
David Pun | Driver #77 Mercedes-AMG GT4
“I’m very excited to be in the Mercedes-AMG GT4 this weekend! It will be a weekend of many firsts; first time in the Blancpain GT World Challenge, at Fuji Speedway, and with Craft-Bamboo Racing! I’m hoping for a good result with the very experienced Jean-Marc Merlin too.”
Jean-Marc Merlin | Driver #77 Mercedes-AMG GT4
“Really happy to be back at Fuji Speedway, plenty of good memories here and the fans are always so welcoming! I have a new temporary co-driver for this round, and I think David will have no problem getting up to speed quickly as he’s already driven the GT4 car in other championships!”