Martin Kodric and Dennis Lind extended their Blancpain GT Series Asia championship lead by claiming a first victory aboard their FFF Racing Team Lamborghini in Suzuka’s second race earlier this morning.
The duo took advantage of a bizarre incident involving HubAuto’s Leo Ye Hongli who pitted from the lead by mistake at the third and final Safety Car restart. Edoardo Liberati and Florian Strauss came through from 15th to second in their KCMG Nissan, which finished ahead of Markus Pommer and Patric Niederhauser’s GruppeM Mercedes-AMG.
The final Safety Car period also impacted on GT4, which was won by GruppeM Racing’s #666 Mercedes-AMG shared by Reinhold Renger and Ryuichirou Ohtsuka after the final caution negated their 10s pitstop success penalty. Ringo Chong and Gilles Vannelet’s Team iRace.Win Mercedes-AMG finished second, with Craft-Bamboo’s Frank Yu and Jean Marc Merlin completing the podium.
The consistency of three podiums had helped Lind and Kodric top the GT3 standings prior to round six, but the duo finally broke their victory duck in today’s 60-minute race to extend their overall advantage at 2018’s halfway mark.
However, their win also owed much to the woes of HubAuto Corsa whose two Ferraris controlled the opening stint. Nick Foster was particularly impressive out front after leading away from pole, managing an early Safety Car period and then establishing a small but comfortable advantage over team-mate Tim Slade.
That was until the #28 Ferrari collided with Daniel Au’s GT4 McLaren at the final chicane, which put both entries out on the spot and necessitated a second Safety Car period that coincided with the pit window opening.
At that point Foster led GruppeM’s Raffaele Marciello, FFF Racing’s two Lamborghinis of Marco Mapelli and Kodric, plus Niederhauser in the second Mercedes-AMG. Foster’s co-driver Ye Hongli duly emerged in the lead, while Lind’s 5s pitstop success penalty was sufficient to drop the Huracan behind Pommer, who moved up to fourth.
The new top-five also featured two Am drivers – Alexander Mattschull and Hiroshi Hamaguchi – who played their part in the final outcome. Pommer’s desperate attempts to overtake the Japanese opened the door for Lind to pass both drivers on the same lap before also relieving Mattschull of second and setting off after Ye Hongli.
2.4s separated the top-two when the day’s final Safety Car period – the result of Martin Rump beaching his Audi when Juwon Seo made contact – had the biggest impact of all. When the race went green Ye Hongli’s Ferrari was nowhere to be seen after the Chinese driver followed the Safety Car into the pits. Instead, it was Lind who exited the final corner with clear track ahead of him before going on to claim victory by 2s.
Behind, KCMG’s Liberati and Strauss fought through from 15th on the grid to take their second podium in three races. Strauss drove a clean opening stint amongst the hustle and bustle of the midfield and made up a couple of places before pitting. Liberati then emerged in seventh and used the remaining 30 minutes to move further forwards by passing Pommer, Hamaguchi, Mattschull and Seo.
Pommer finally found a way past FFF Racing’s Hamaguchi who drove brilliantly on home soil against the professionals to claim Pro/Am honours and fourth overall with Mapelli. Shae Davies and Sandy Stuvik made up five places between them en route to fifth aboard their Craft-Bamboo Porsche, which finished ahead of Mattschull/Marciello, Mitch Gilbert/Aditya Patel’s OD Racing Team WRT Audi (which started 20th), and Shaun Thong/Alex Yoong who served an early drive-through penalty for jumping the start. Their eighth place came at the expense of Absolute Racing’s #37 Audi, which was penalised 30s post-race for contact with Indigo Racing’s #97 Mercedes-AMG.
Am Cup honours went to ARN Racing’s Hideki Nagai and Shinji Takei who became the first crew to beat KCMG’s Naoto Takeda and Takuya Shirasaka this season.
Victory could have gone to any one of three crews during a fraught final 10 minutes. However, it was GruppeM who celebrated hardest after the third Safety Car period brought Reinhold Renger and Ryuichirou Ohtsuka back into play.
BMW Team Studie’s Sunako Jukuchou led the opening stint from pole but was unable to break clear of Reinhold Renger and Gilles Vannelet’s pursuing Mercedes-AMGs.
However, success penalties for Team Studie and GruppeM – whose cars pitted together – allowed Team iRace.Win’s Ringo Chong to lead Craft-Bamboo’s Frank Yu, Taiwan Top Speed’s George Chou and TTR Team SARD’s Brian Lee. While the top-two broke clear, Ohtsuka found a way past both Porsches before setting his sights on second. The gap appeared too large without assistance, which arrived when the final late Safety Car bunched the pack.
Ohtsuka duly completed the job by passing Chong and Yu, who came home second and third respectively. The erstwhile leading BMW shared by yesterday’s winners Jukuchou and Takayuki Kinoshita battled back from its maximum success penalty to finish fourth ahead of Taiwan Top Speed and Team Studie’s second BMW, which benefitted from
TTR’s 30s post-race penalty.
Next up it’s Fuji Speedway, which hosts rounds seven and eight on July 21/22.
Martin Kodric, #19 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3: “We knew it would be a tough race starting from P5. I did everything I could: I made a really good start and was alongside my team-mate Marco [Mapelli], but obviously we didn’t want to do anything silly so I backed off and focused on maintaining the pace. We were well positioned at the pitstops but knew the penalty would cost us time, so Dennis [Lind] did a great job to move up the order. Then, when the Ferrari pitted again, I couldn’t believe it! Dennis was catching him anyway but it’s tough to overtake here. We’ve come close to winning a few times so we’ll definitely take it!”
Ryuichirou Otsuka, #666 GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4: “Yesterday, we started from pole and after some contacts and accidents I dropped to fifth and climbed back up. Today we started from fifth and after serving a success penalty during our pitstop we won the race. It was not an easy weekend, but all the drivers were being fair and we had a good fight. Personally, I am very happy to have taken pole position yesterday and win the race today. So yes, it was a great weekend for me!”