Darryl O' Young and Alessio Picariello scored a double pole position for Craft-Bamboo Racing and Mercedes-AMG during Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia qualifying at Buriram earlier today, while class honours went to BMW Team Studie's Takayuki Kinoshita and iRace.Win's Ringo Chong.
Two laps good enough for Race 1 pole ensured O' Young and Craft-Bamboo made the perfect start to GT3 qualifying.
Championship leader Tanart Sathienthirakul was the first to set a meaningful time before OpenRoad Racing debutant Philippe Descombes bettered it. However, a sensational Am pole position against the Pros was denied by O' Young who initially moved half-a-tenth clear before extending the final margin to 0.157s.
Descombes Porsche lines up alongside the Mercedes-AMG but has been switched from Am/Am to Pro/Am status following such a strong qualifying performance.
Sepang pole-winner Yuan Bo starts right behind in Absolute Racing's #912 Porsche after the Chinese driver edged team-mate Sathienthirakul by just 0.008s. Two more Absolute-run entries, the Audi Sport Asia R8 LMS GT3 driven by Weiron Tan and Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak's Panther/AAS Motorsport Porsche, share row three.
The Solite Indigo Racing Mercedes-AMG and HubAuto Ferrari will be hoping to make ground from seventh and eighth, while Piti Bhirombhakdi's ABSSA McLaren and Alex Au's VSR Lamborghini complete the top-10.
GT4 arguably provided greater drama despite its fewer number of cars and potential pole candidates, although it was still a familiar name that emerged on pole.
BMW Team Studie's Takayuki Kinoshita didn;t have things all his own way thanks to Brian Lee who rebounded from an early track limits infringement to claim provisional pole. His Japanese rival soon responded, and although the GTO Racing with TTR driver improved, it wasn?t enough to deny Kinoshita back-to-back poles. 0.164s separated them at the session?s conclusion.
Frank Yu?s last gasp effort helped Craft-Bamboo?s Mercedes-AMG pinch third from Setiawan Santoso after the pair had battled throughout, while debutant Angelo Negro beat Munkong Sathienthirakul to fifth.
The star of GT3?s second qualifying session was undoubtedly Alessio Picariello who set not one but three times fast enough for pole. His best of 1m32.731s was 0.737s quicker than anyone else, while the same margin as first to second also covered positions second to 11th!
With Craft-Bamboo?s #88 Mercedes-AMG seemingly in a league of its own, the rest of the Pros were left scrapping for second. Panther/AAS Motorsport?s Alexandre Imperatori looked most likely to achieve that before one final flying lap helped Triple Eight?s Jazeman Jaafar circulate just 0.024s quicker.
Imperatori?s Porsche starts behind the two Mercedes-AMGs and alongside local star Kantasak Kusiri whose Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing Audi out-qualified team-mates Franky Cheng and Martin Rump. The three R8s completed the top-six.
The Porsches of Chris van der Drift (JRM) and championship leader Philip Hamprecht (Absolute Racing) share row four while Manuel Metzger and Benny Simonsen also start inside the top-10.
In GT4, Ringo Chong beat Sunako Jukuchou and Jean-Marc Merlin to pole following a fantastic scrap that saw all three separated by only 0.195s.
iRace.Win?s Chong set the early pace before lowering his benchmark to 1m44.718s, which Jukuchou was unable to match following a track limits infringement. The BMW Team Studie M4 ended up 0.041s adrift, while Merlin also suggested Craft-Bamboo?s Mercedes-AMG will be in the mix after matching his co-driver?s position.
Tony Fong starts fourth in the GTO Racing with TTR Mercedes-AMG, while Alan Yeo and Preeda Tantemsapya completed the top-six.
MG Choi and Manuel Metzger secured theirs and Solite Indigo Racing’s maiden Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia victories by winning the weekend’s first race at Chang International Circuit this afternoon.
The Mercedes-AMG duo beat Absolute Racing’s Tanart Sathienthirakul and Philip Hamprecht by nine seconds thanks, in part, to the Porsche’s Success Penalty, while Weiron Tan and Martin Rump completed the podium aboard their Audi Sport Asia Team Absolute Racing R8 LMS GT3.
In GT4, Craft-Bamboo’s Jean-Marc Merlin held off Sunako Jukuchou to claim his and co-driver Frank Yu’s first victory since winning the class championship at Zhejiang in 2017. GTO Racing with TTR’s Brian Lee and Tony Fong finished third.
GT3: INDIGO FINALLY ADD FIRST WIN TO PODIUM STREAK
Indigo have a reputation for racing better than they qualify. Indeed, only one of the Korean team’s five podiums in the last six races was achieved from a top-three starting position. And they were at it again this afternoon when Choi hustled his way from seventh to second during the opening stint.
However, there was nothing he could do about Sathienthirakul who initially jumped from fourth to second before passing pole-sitter Darryl O’Young at Turn 3 on the opening lap. The gap initially remained fairly small but had opened up to six seconds by the time the Thai driver made way for Hamprecht after 30 minutes.
The duo’s 15s Pitstop Success Penalty for winning at Sepang ensured the German re-joined eight seconds behind Metzger after Choi pitted later in the 10-minute window. The gap ebbed and flowed thereafter as both encountered traffic at different points but ultimately remained almost unchanged by the time Metzger – who missed Sepang through injury – maintained his 100% podium record after also twice finishing on the rostrum at Ningbo last season.
Behind, Hamprecht saw off Rump who spent much of the second stint trying to lap Alexandre Imperatori after the Panther/AAS Motorsport Porsche was delayed early on. The Estonian, whose co-driver Tan pitted from seventh, finally elbowed his way past with less than 10 minutes remaining, by which time HubAuto Corsa’s Andre Heimgartner had made it a three-way podium scrap.
The grandstand finish never quite materialised, though, largely thanks to Hamprecht remaining just out of arm’s reach. His and Sathienthirakul’s second place sees them drop behind Choi at the top of the standings, albeit with the caveat of having a five-second shorter Pitstop Success Penalty tomorrow.
Absolute’s other Porsche driven by Jono Lester and Yuan Bo finished 10s behind the Heimgartner/Sakamoto Ferrari after the latter lost two places at the start, while VSR’s Alex Au and Frederik Schandorff completed the top-six following TSRT’s late retirement.
The Lamborghini crew also scooped Pro/Am honours ahead of T2 Motorsports’ David Tjiptobiantoro and Rio Haryanto, who finished seventh overall after starting 14th. JRM’s Li Chao and Chris van der Drift made an even better recovery from 17th to complete the top-eight.
Many of those performances partly came at the expense of both front row starters. Craft-Bamboo’s O’Young and Christina Nielsen were handed a stop/go penalty for a short pitstop, while Philip Descombes and Francis Tjia’s OpenRoad Racing Porsche faded to ninth.
Further back, Vattana Motorsport made use of their local knowledge to win the Am Cup class. Chonsawat Asavahame and Akihiro Asai came home eight seconds ahead of AMAC Motorsport’s Ben Porter and Andrew Macpherson who took second from B-Quik’s Daniel Bilski and Henk Kiks on the final lap.
GT4: YU AND MERLIN ROLL BACK THE YEARS
It had been a long time coming. 14 races in fact. But Craft-Bamboo’s Frank Yu and Jean-Marc Merlin finally followed up their Zhejiang victory in October 2017 with another in Buriram this afternoon by denying BMW Team Studie a third-straight win.
Yu started third, dropped to fourth and worked his way back up to second behind Takayuki Kinoshita by the time the pit window opened after 25 minutes.
The BMW and Mercedes-AMG’s 15 and 10-seocnd Success Penalties initially allowed GTO Racing with TTR’s Tony Fong to lead after the stops. However, he was quickly reeled in and passed by Merlin, who had emerged ahead of Sunako Jukuchou.
The Japanese driver also relieved Fong of second soon after but couldn’t match Merlin’s pace over the closing stages. 2.6s separated them at the finish.
Fong and TTR co-driver Brian Lee rounded out the podium, while tomorrow’s pole-sitting iRace.Win Mercedes-AMG shared by Ringo Chong and Setiawan Santoso was restricted to fourth after picking up a penalty.
Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak resisted late pressure from Yuan Bo to claim his and Panther/AAS Motorsport team-mate Alex Imperatori’s maiden Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia victory on home soil at Buriram today.
The two Porsches took the chequered flag 0.9s apart after a late Safety Car period helped Absolute Racing’s Bo close in. However, he and Jono Lester were denied a podium when their car was found to be underweight post-race.
That promoted HubAuto Corsa’s Yuya Sakamoto and Andre Heimgartner to second, while TSRT’s David Chen and Andre Couto ensured two Chinese teams finished in the top-three.
In GT4, BMW Team Studie’s Takayuki Kinoshita and Sunako Jukuchou took victory by only 0.4s from GTO Racing with TTR’s Tony Fong and Brian Lee who just missed out on a first series win.
GT3: INTHRAPHUVASAK AND IMPERATORI WIN A RACE OF TWO HALVES
If ever there was a race of two halves then this was surely it. Craft-Bamboo’s pole-sitter Alessio Picariello had established a seven-second lead over the three-way battle for second featuring Triple Eight’s Jazeman Jaafar, Imperatori and JRM’s Chris van der Drift by the time all four pitted at mid-distance.
The two Mercedes-AMGs and two Porsches then converged once their respective Ams climbed aboard. However, AAS’s decision to pit a lap earlier meant Inthraphuvasak was up to speed by the time the others re-joined, which proved decisive when taking second from Jefri Ibrahim.
The quartet was then halved when Picariello’s co-driver Jeffrey Lee collided with Ibrahim exiting Turn 3, which sent the Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG spinning. That also left Inthraphuvasak out front ahead of a charging Bhurit Bhirombhakdi and Li Chao, whose own chances faded when the JRM Porsche stopped with little more than 10 of the 60 minutes left.
Meanwhile, Silver-graded Bo had been busy picking off the Am drivers and was up to second by the time a Safety Car period was required to deal with Chao’s stranded 911, slashing Inthraphuvasak’s lead from 10 seconds to two. Bo duly closed in on his Thai rival once racing resumed with five minutes remaining but was powerless to prevent a popular home victory.
The #912 Porsche’s subsequent exclusion handed second overall and Silver Cup honours to HubAuto Corsa’s Heimgartner and Sakamoto who, having pitted from 12th, also enjoyed a strong second stint.
It was a similar story behind for TSRT’s Audi crew of Chen and Couto who made amends for yesterday’s late retirement by scoring a deserved overall podium despite pitting from 16th. Chen took the chequered flag just 0.7s behind Sakamoto.
VSR’s Lamborghini driven by Frederik Schandorff and Alex Au came through to claim their best finish so far in fourth, while MG Choi and Manuel Metzger overcame their 15s Pitstop Success Penalty for winning yesterday’s race to follow the Huracan home. The result for Solite Indigo Racing’s Mercedes-AMG ensured five different manufacturers finished inside the top-five and that Choi retained his overall championship lead.
Singha Plan-B’s Bhirombhakdi and Kantasak Kusiri finished third in Pro/Am after beating OpenRoad Racing’s Philip Descombes and Francis Tjia to sixth overall. The Porsche finished ahead of Craft-Bamboo’s #99 Mercedes-AMG, which was handed a 40s post-race penalty for an insufficient pitstop time.
That promoted ABSSA Racing’s McLaren to eighth despite Keita Sawa’s spin on lap one, while Am Cup winners Daniel Bilski and Henk Kiks finished an impressive ninth overall in their B-Quik Audi. Absolute’s Tanart Sathienthirakul and Philip Hamprecht completed the top-10.
GT4: STUDIE RESIST TTR
BMW Team Studie resisted Brian Lee’s late-race charge to win the GT4 class at Buriram after overcoming a 10s Pitstop Success Penalty, while Craft-Bamboo’s Frank Yu and Jean-Marc Merlin added a third place to yesterday’s victory by passing Team iRace.Win’s #111 Mercedes-AMG on the final lap.
Ringo Chong started on pole but was immediately pushed back to third by Sunako Jukuchou and Merlin. The trio circulated together for much of the opening stint before the BMW and Craft-Bamboo Mercedes-AMG’s respective 10 and 15s Pitstop Success Penalties plus the late Safety Car brought Lee’s TTR Mercedes-AMG back into contention.
Indeed, Lee was right behind Kinoshita when the pair took the chequered flag, while Yu finished three seconds further back and only 0.1s ahead of Setiawan Santoso.
Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia now moves on to Suzuka for the first of two Japanese rounds in three weekends on June 22/23.