– Press Release
It was drama right at the end when the Ferrari 458 of Mok Weng Sun and the then lead Audi R8 LMS Ultra of Jeffrey Lee/Alexandre Imperatori collided allowing Mok, who recovered earlier, to claim the GT Asia Series win today. The drivers faced adverse Japanese summer heat, some charting more than 50 degrees in the cockpit, at one of the hottest races ever in the Series at the famed Suzuka Circuit in Japan.
Akihiro Asai started the race in Arrows Racing’s Lamborghini LP600 GT3, which he partnered with Billy Fung, from pole in perfect form. Maintaining the lead from the fast charging Imperatori right as the lights turned green during the rolling start. The duo pulled away from the pack and started their private battle at the head leaving a two second gap by the end of the first lap.
Behind them, Hisamori Hayashi in the Porsche 997 GT3R of Direction Racing, who started the race in third, was immediately overtaken by his teammate Hisao Shigeta in the second 997 GT3R and Mok. He was also followed closely by Li Zhi Cong in Asia Racing Team’s 997 GT3R who was thereafter kept busy by the fast Sri Lankan, Dilantha Malagamuwa in Dilango Racing’s Lamborghini LP560 GT3.
And just slightly further behind are two GT Master Class Porsche’s from Direction Racing with Tsukasa Fujita and You Yokomaku in a battle for their class win. But their positions changed at the pit-stop window with Yokomaku taking the class lead and keeping it all the way to the chequered flag.
The pitstop window for the mandatory stop caused many changes to positions throughout the grid. It also caused Li, Jacky Yeung in the Lamborghini Gallardo, Christian Chia’s Ferrari 430 Modena and Hideki Onda in the Ferrari 458 Challenge time as they had to serve stop-go penalties for not completing their stops in the minimum stipulated time.
Even the leading Lamborghini was not spared when Asai handed over to his partner, Fung who was given a drive though penalty for speeding in the pit-lane, dropping them down the order. Then as Fung tried to catch back up to the front, he made another error at the chicane, taking the wrong turn and cutting off Shigeta.
The Porsche suffered suspension damage and ended his race there on lap 11 while Fung managed to recover to finish the race down the order in 17th. At the same time, Malagamuwa received a black flag for failing to observe his mandatory pit-stop and was forced out of the race.
Up ahead, the drama continued with Mok putting the pressure on Jeffrey Lee who took over driving duties from Imperatori. Lee held out strong before the last lap incident with Mok that cost him the win. Hisamori Hayashi, who managed a great pit-stop was then close behind them and benefitted from the incident, passing past Lee as he tried to recover at the Dunlop turn, to cross the line in second behind Mok, less than four seconds ahead of Lee.
Race winner, Mok said “I didn’t have a very good start, I got bogged down behind Shigeta San, then Alex and Asai San just pulled away, running out of sight. But I managed to get by Shigeta after a couple of laps and I maintained a fairly good pace until the pit-stops where I switched for another scrubbed set of tyres and I was able to maintain a very good laptime, in the low 7 seconds.
“I was catching up to the leading cars, managed to catch Billy Fung maybe about four laps from the end. I was closing in on Jeffery by about five seconds a lap but he drove very well when I caught up to him. I was behind him for a good two laps and I found it hard to get by” said the Team Clearwater Racing driver.
“On the last lap, I had a run coming out of the Dunlop corner, under braking we got side by side but I guess it was unfortunate we had contact, causing both cars to go into a spin. I managed to continue and Jeffrey picked up shortly after that. I really regret the incident but I felt that it was a really close call.
“In the end, I won the race here, I got a good result. This is my second time in Suzuka, I love the place here. The circuit is very challenging and as we can see today, very hard to overtake”.
Despite the extreme heat, Mok decided to not wear his cool suit in preparation for his upcoming Endurance race in Malaysia. For Hayashi, luck was once again on his side, propelling him up one spot for second. “I started the race in 5th because all of the sudden I was passed by Shigeta and Weng, even Li managed to pass with his light car, leaving me down in P6.
“Then when the pit window opened I went in and did all that I needed to do. When I went out, I did not see anyone in front of me and I realised that cars were going off the road one by one, so all of the sudden I was in P4 but I still could not find anyone in front of me but I was not going to slow my pace down so I kept going faster and I caught on to the front.
“In my mind, I thought I was in P4 but my team said on the radio that I’m on P3 and then I saw the Audi spin and I passed it. I feel like once again I did not have to fight for the position, it was given to me, so I had another very lucky race” he said with a laugh.
“Even the first podium was a lucky win when Weng and Li hit each other, I feel like I should fight it out and win one soon and not being given to me” he said to the laughter of everyone who promised not to give him anymore ‘free’ passes.
For third placed finishers, Imperatori and Lee chalked it up to the unpredictability of racing. Imperatori said, “I didn’t get much laps in before qualifying so I’m still learning more about the car and the track but in the race its quite good, I could manage to stay in second at the start. We are a little bit under power because of the current Balance of Performance, so we know in the straight it’s quite tough.
“Having a Porsche and Ferrari behind, we really had to push hard to stay in second at the start. Luckily the Lamborghini in front, with Akihiro Asai was pushing. We knew we were faster and we got the fastest lap of the race and we managed to pull away from the rest of the pack. We also knew that we were not fighting for victory with the Lamborghini since the second driver will go slower so we were targeting to open the gap as much as possible to the guys at the back, which we did. And then I came in to pit to pass the car to Jeffrey who did a good job. It was unfortunate that at the last lap, we lost the win” said Imperatori at the Post Race Press Conference.
Lee continued “We had a really good strategy today and we performed well also but a race is a race. Tomorrow we will start in position six, so hopefully I can gain a few positions and pass the car on to Alex and he will finish the job nicely.
“He is a very good driver and I have worked with him before, he is very experienced at this track and he is very good with this car so I have learnt a lot from him over the past two days. I have improved my laptimes by about five seconds or so” ended Lee.
Fourth place went to Chinese driver Li who crossed the line 7.1 seconds from Frank Yu. Yu had an amazing race today after an initial stall on the grid causing him to be pushed to the pit to start right at the end of the pack. From there Yu set off in the Ford GT3 of Craft Eurasia Hong Kong and slowly gained position as the laps went by.
The Hong Kong driver was a little upset with the start but was happy enough with the result of the race that showed his and his craft’s ability to handle one of the trickiest circuits well. “I was stuck in reverse, on the grid. After the marshals pushed me to the pit-lane I saw that the reverse cable was caught on my seatbelt. I undid it and started from the pit-lane. From that point onwards, it was lap after lap doing great moves” he said with a big smile.
David Lai in Team Clearwater Racing’s F458 crossed the line in sixth, just ahead of the GTM drivers. Yokomaku managed to pass his teammate at the pit-stop to finish first and was happily celebrating with his teammate and Tomei Sport’s Shigeru Terashima who completed the GTM podium in third.
“This is my home, my course. I did however lose the start to my teammate, he passed me but I passed him on the pit-stop and I carried the pace to leave the marker behind. From there I had a lot of space from the second car”.
Despite the ease at which he made the race seem, Yokomaku said “It was a tough race”. The Direction Racing driver was happy with the result and had a great time battling with his competitors throughout the start of the race before opening up the gap. “At the start there was a lot of pushing, not contact but a lot of battles, nice battles”.
Hideki Onda overcame a car change this weekend to finish an impressive fourth in the GTM class with a road version of the F458. He started in sixth and passed three cars in the first part of the race but a small error, coming in to the pit-lane slightly over the speed limit, caused him to be penalised with a 15 seconds time added relegating him down to fourth at the end of the race.
Clifford Chen, John Shen, Hideo Takahashi, Christian Chia, Singo Tenma and partners Asai and Fung were the last of the finishers. GT Asia Series Round 8 will continue tomorrow, Sunday 19 August 2012 at 9.00am (local time) before the start of the Autobacs Super GT Round 5, 41st International Pokka 100km race.
The GT Asia Series will continue to 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.
The 2012 GT Asia Series is supported by, Yokohama ADVAN, Graham Timekeepers, KW Automotive, AutoArt, Stand21, Endless, Cody Enterprises and RaceRoom.
The GT Asia Series is jointly organised by Motorsport Asia and Supercar Club Hong Kong.
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