4 Hours of Sepang - Qualifying Report
Derani and Spirit of Race on pole for the 4 Hours of Sepang.
The final round of the Asian Le Mans Series was set to be intense, with Championships and invitations to the 24 Hours of Le Mans all still on the line. With every available point crucial, claiming pole position was never more important.
The first qualifying session was for the GT cars and with the possibility of the #11 Car Guy Ferrari winning the Championship by claiming the point for pole position, qualifying became even more important. It was not to be their day though, with a blistering lap from Dries Vanthoor, in the TianShi Racing Team Audi claiming pole position.
In the week leading into this round, the TianShi Racing Team’s Audis have been updated and are now running the 2019 evolution of the Audi R8 LMS GT3. The pole lap from Vanthoor also gave the new car its first ever pole position globally.
LMP3 qualifying was hit by post-race drama with a penalty for Nigel Moore in the #65 Viper Niza Racing Ligier JS P3 for wearing non-homologated boots in qualifying. This handed pole position, and the very important associated Championship point to Wayne Boyd in the #2 United Autosports Ligier JS P3.
The #2 currently sits in 2nd position, now just 7 points behind the class leader, the #13 Inter Europol Competition who will start 4thin class. The sister United Autosports #3 Ligier JS P3 and the #79 Ecurie Ecosse / Nielsen Racing also still remain in contention for the championship win. The #79 will start at the rear of the grid after a problem saw them miss the qualifying session.
Pipo Derani and his Spirit of Race team missed the 4 Hours of Buriram, but he left a mark on his return. In a tightly fought battle between him, the two Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JS P2 Judd entries, and the Championship leading #22 United Autosports Ligier JS P2. It was Derani that put in a last-minute flyer to claim pole position outright. Second fastest was Phil Hanson behind the wheel of the #22 and Andrea Pizzitola in the #24 Algarve Pro Racing. Fourth fastest, and the fastest LMP2 Am Trophy entry was Anders Fjordbach in the #25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier.
LMP2: #8 Spirit of Race - Pipo Derani: It is great to be back, unfortunately we had to miss one race, which took us away from the championship fight. The team did a fantastic job to put this car together. We had a small issue in FP2, so we weren’t sure what was going to happen, but we have managed pole, which is a good way to start the weekend! Unfortunately, with all the different line ups, we know it is going to be difficult. One thing for sure, we will fight from the beginning to the end, like we did in Shanghai. If we come out here with a podium, or even a win, it would be fantastic.
LMP2 AM Trophy: #25 Algarve Pro Racing - Anders Fjordbach: I am pretty happy with my performance. We dedided not to use our second set of tyres and save them for tomorrow. It was a bit tight to use two sets. For tomorrows race, we think we have a good package with our three drivers and are pretty comfortable.
LMP3 #2 United Autosports - Wayne Boyd: I’m very happy to have been promoted to pole position for the final race of the Asian Le Mans Series. We needed that point for the championship challenge. I feel sorry for Nigel obviously as it wasn’t a performance issue, but we will take the results all the same.
GT #88 Tianshi Racing Team - Dries Vanthoor: Qualifying went well, we are on pole, so that is always nice. It is a good start for tomorrow, but it is a four race, so anything could happen. Sepang is a tricky circuit, so it took me a little while to get my lap. It is also a very good day for Audi, as this is the first event they have run with the Evo kit in South East Asia, and it will start on pole. Hopefully we will do a good job tomorrow and see where we can end up after the four hours. It is very hot, so it will be quite an intense race.
4 Hours of Sepang - Race
Second place in the 4 Hours of Sepang was good enough for the #22 United Autosports Ligier JS P2 Nissan of Phil Hanson and Paul De Resta to win the outright Championship in the 2018/19 Asian Le Mans Series. The #24 Algarve Pro Racing team of Andrea Pizzitola, Harrison Newey and Ate Dirk De Jong gave it their all, winning the race and finishing second in the Championship.
In the LMP2 Am Trophy, ARC Bratislava finished 4th overall and 1stin class in the 4 Hours of Sepang to claim the Championship win. Driving the ARC Bratislava entry were Miro Konopka, Ling Kang and Darren Burke. Their main title rivals, the #23 United Autosports Ligier JS P2 Nissan suffered a gear box problem that saw them retire from the race. The #25 Algarve Pro Racing entry also retired from the race, securing the championship for ARC Bratislava.
The fight for the LMP3 battle was intense throughout the race, but ultimately it was the #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P3 driven Jakub Smiechowski and Martin Hippe that won the race in dominant style to claim the LMP3 Championship title. In 2ndplace was the #7 Ecurie Ecosse / Nielsen Racing Ligier JS P3 and third was the #2 United Autosports Ligier JS P3. Third place was good enough for the team to secure 2ndplace in the Championship for Chris Buncombe, Garett Grist and Wayne Boyd.
In GT Japanese team Car Guy of Takeshi Kimura, Kei Cozzolino and James Calado capped off a fantastic season by making it four race wins from four starts in their #11 Ferrari 488 GT3 to win the GT Championship! It was not a simple exercise as they were forced to withstand significant pressure from the pole sitting #88 TianShi Racing Team Audi R8 LMS. The #88, raced by Xu Wei, Chen Wei An and Dries Vanthoor finished the race second and the #51 Ferrari of Alessandro Pier Guidi, Ozzy Negri Jr and Francesco Piovanetti finished 3rd, and claimed 2ndplace in the Championship.
The GT Am title went to the second TianShi Racing Team Audi R8 LMS, the #66. Their race unfortunately finished in the garage with a DNF.
On top of the added pressure of it being the Championship decider, the race was run in very high temperatures and humidity making for one of the toughest races of the season. This made the success of the winning teams all the more sweet.
Champions crowned and four invitations for the 24 Hours of Le Mans confirmed!
2018/19 Asian Le Mans Series Champions:
LMP2: #22 United Autosports Ligier JS P2 Nissan
Phil Hanson /Paul De Resta
LMP2 Am Trophy: #4 ARC Bratislava Ligier JS P2 Nissan
Miro Konopka / Ling Kang / Darren Bourke
LMP3: #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P3
Jakub Smiechowski /Martin Hippe
GT: #11 Car Guy Ferrari 488 GT3
Takeshi Kimura / Kei Cozzolino / James Calado
These four teams will also receive and invitation to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The full entry list for the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans will be announced by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest on Friday the 1st of March 2019.