Martin Kodric and Dennis Lind prevailed in a thrilling second Blancpain GT Series Asia race at Shanghai earlier today to lead home a FFF Racing Team Lamborghini one-two and take the championship lead with just one round remaining.
Their team-mates Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Marco Mapelli came home just 1.2s behind after Alexander Mattschull spun out of the lead on the penultimate lap while under intense pressure from both Huracans. However, the GruppeM Racing driver recovered to claim the final overall podium position with co-driver Raffaele Marciello.
In GT4, BMW Team Studie’s Sunako Jukuchou and Takayuki Kinsoshita blew the Drivers’ title wide open by winning for the fourth time this season and taking advantage of Reinhold Renger’s retirement. The squad’s #82 BMW driven by Max Chen and Ken Urata finished second while Brian Lee and Tony Fong’s TTR Team SARD Porsche completed the podium.
GT3: KODRIC AND LIND WIN THREE-WAY BATTLE AT SHANGHAI
Martin Kodric lined up on pole but was immediately swamped on the run to Turn 1 by front row starter Raffaele Marciello and FFF Racing team-mate Marco Mapelli. Indeed, the #19 Lamborghini had dropped to sixth by the end of lap one after also being passed by Alex Imperatori’s KCMG Nissan, the HubAuto Ferrari of Tim Slade and Nico Bastian’s GruppeM Mercedes-AMG.
Martin Rump initially fell back from third but had moved Absolute Racing’s Audi up to fifth before the pit window opened at the expense of Bastian and Kodric, who also cleared the Mercedes-AMG to remain sixth. There was also a change for third when Slade passed Imperatori.
By that point Marciello had established a small but consistent 1.5s advantage over Mapelli who continued to track the leading Mercedes-AMG before the stops began after 25 minutes. Both pitted late in the 10-minute window in order to maximise their Pro stint before Am co-drivers Alexander Mattschull and Hiroshi Hamaguchi climbed aboard.
Further back, FFF Racing opted to pit Kodric at the start of the window. And that strategy paid off when Dennis Lind emerged in fourth. That quickly became third at the expense of Morris Chen, who’d taken over HubAuto’s Ferrari from Slade, before the Dane focused on reducing his 11s deficit to the leaders.
He arrived on Hamaguchi’s tail with five minutes remaining and duly took second through Turns 1 and 2. But Mattschull, who was just ahead at that point, proved far harder to budge and as the trio encountered traffic on the same lap a three-wide battle broke out down the back straight. Hamaguchi initially led before running wide at the hairpin, which gave Lind another shot at GruppeM’s Am driver.
Mattschull’s dogged defence was finally undone halfway around the penultimate tour when, under intense pressure from both Lamborghinis, the rear of his Mercedes-AMG broke away and sent the German spinning. Lind just avoided him as they negotiated the high-speed Turn 7 before going on to beat Hamaguchi to the chequered flag.
Mattschull recovered to come home 10s behind and just 0.7s ahead of Franky Cheng whose Absolute Racing Audi ran fifth in Rump’s hands before the pitstops. GruppeM’s erstwhile championship leader Patric Niederhauser claimed fifth alongside Bastian while Edoardo Liberati and Florian Strauss’ KCMG Nissan battled through from 11th to complete the top-six.
Yesterday’s winners Nick Foster and Jono Lester finished seventh despite their 15s pitstop success penalty, Craft-Bamboo’s #911 Porsche again fought back from a lowly grid slot to claim eighth courtesy of Shae Davies and Sandy Stuvik, and KCMG’s second Nissan of Yuke Taniguchi and Imperatori finished ninth. Chen and Slade’s Ferrari completed the points-scoring places.
All of that means Kodric and Lind carry a 12-point advantage into Ningbo’s season finale on October 13/14, while Foster is another eight points behind Niederhauser in third. A maximum of 50 are up for grabs across both 60-minute races.
Elsewhere, KCMG’s Naoto Takeda and Takuya Shirasaka wrapped up the Am Cup title with a race to spare in their Audi by beating rivals Andrew Macpherson and Ben Porter. It was actually Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing’s Jingzu Sun and Bhurit Bhirombhakdi who scored class victory but the Japanese duo’s second place was enough to build an unassailable lead over their AMAC Motorsport rivals.
GT4: TEAM STUDIE MAKE THE MOST OF GRUPPEM’S RETIREMENT
Sunako Jukuchou and Takayuki Kinoshita put themselves squarely in this season’s GT4 title fight by claiming theirs and BMW Team Studie’s fourth win of the season at Shanghai earlier today. It means the Japanese pairing head to Ningbo’s season finale 11 points behind Reinhold Renger whose GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG retired with a battery issue just after the pitstops.
The two title protagonists enjoyed a fierce battle during the opening stint when pole-sitter Jukuchou resisted intense pressure from the German behind. Time and again Renger looked for a way past but couldn’t find one before the window opened after 25 minutes.
The scrap looked set to continue after the stops but was cut short by the Mercedes-AMG’s retirement. Instead, Kinoshita cruised to a 35s victory over team-mates Max Chen and Ken Urata despite serving a 10s success penalty for finishing runner-up yesterday.
Third place once again went to TTR Team SARD’s Porsche, which claimed its third podium in four races. Tony Fong and Brian Lee finished 1.8s behind the #82 BMW and comfortably clear of Dean Koutsoumidis and Justin McMillan who debuted M Motorsport’s KTM.
However, Ringo Chong’s title hopes were dealt a setback when his co-driver, Alex Au, was hit by another GT4 car early in the first stint. Team iRace.Win worked hard to repair the Mercedes-AMG, which at least salvaged some points for finishing seventh in class and fifth of the full-season entries.
Ningbo hosts the final round of this year’s Blancpain GT Series Asia campaign on October 13/14.
Dennis Lind, #19 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3: “It was a bit scary, really! We were very close, and it’s always especially nerve-wracking when it’s with your team-mate, but that’s what we’re here for. Everything was very fair – we had a few touches but when you’re racing through corners at these speeds it’s bound to happen. So I’m happy that everyone emerged relatively unscathed! It was good fun racing with Hiroshi and Alex.”
Sunako Jukuchou, #81 BMW Team Studie M4 GT4: “The match up with Reinhold Renger was really fun. I think we really enjoyed each other’s company. He is a very clean driver, and even when we got really close to each other, he and I would both give each other enough racing room. So I really enjoyed the race and tried hard to keep #666 at bay.”