Tanart Sathienthirakul and Philip Hamprecht led an Absolute Racing one-two and podium clean sweep for Porsche in this weekend’s first Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia race at Suzuka earlier today.
The Thai-German duo crossed the line 6.2s ahead of team-mates Yuan Bo and Leo Ye Hongli, who held off Yuta Kamimura over the closing laps. The ARN Racing Porsche he shares with Hiroaki Nagai scored its best-ever championship result after coming through from ninth on the grid.
Meanwhile, the GT4 class was turned on its head with 10 minutes remaining when Jean-Marc Merlin made contact with race leader Sunako Jukuchou. The combination of damage and drive-through penalties helped Team iRace.Win’s Ringo Chong and Setiawan Santoso seal victory ahead of Bryan Lee and Tony Fong (GTO Racing with TTR), while Absolute Racing’s Audi shared by Anderson Tanoto and Mark Williamson completed the podium on the team, car and drivers’ GT4 debut.
GT3: ABSOLUTE’S DELIGHT TINGED WITH DISAPPOINTMENT
Porsche’s half of the Absolute Racing garage celebrated a one-two finish on Saturday afternoon, but the Chinese team could have enjoyed a podium clean sweep had a puncture not deflated the hopes of its #12 Audi.
Martin Rump had converted pole position into a six-second advantage when the R8 LMS GT3 he shares with Weiron Tan was forced to make an unscheduled stop just before the pit window opened. That promoted Sathienthirakul into a lead his co-driver Hamprecht never looked like relinquishing.
Instead, the action raged behind where several crews made headway after the pitstops had cycled through.
Darryl O’Young’s Craft-Bamboo Mercedes-AMG was lying second at half-distance but couldn’t keep pace with the chasing Porsches thereafter. Instead, it was Ye Hongli who continued the good work of co-driver Bo by passing Christina Nielsen soon after the second stint began.
Meanwhile, ARN’s charge from ninth benefitted from a combination of pace and penalties. Hiroaki Nagai and Ben Porter initially enjoyed a great scrap over seventh before AMAC’s Am Cup-classified Lamborghini dropped down the order post-pitstops. Not so Kamimura who hounded Hongli all the way to the chequered flag.
Fellow Japanese driver Yuya Sakamoto and HubAuto Corsa partner Andre Heimgartner overcame a 10s Success Penalty to finish fourth in their Ferrari, while Frederick Schandorff set fastest lap during a rapid stint that saw the VSR Lamborghini he shares with Alex Au climb from 10th to fifth.
Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak led the Am challenge throughout the opening stint before pitting from fifth. Co-driver Marco Holzer then did his best to overturn Panther/AAS Motorsport’s 15s Success Penalty but could find no way past the Lamborghini, which finished just 0.7s ahead.
Elsewhere, O’Young and Nielsen slipped to seventh in the final result, one place ahead of TSRT’s Audi driven by David Chen and Andre Couto who also served a five-second Success Penalty.
Behind, erstwhile championship leader MG Choi capped a rollercoaster day by scoring a handful of points, although it could have been so much more for Solite Indigo Racing. The Korean started 21st after crashing in qualifying and was up to seventh by the time the pit window opened after 25 minutes. But an incredible comeback was denied when the team were penalised for unsafely releasing Patric Niederhauser, whose pre-penalty progress had pointed towards a podium finish.
Keita Sawa and Piti Bhirombhakdi’s ABSSA Motorsport McLaren completed the points-paying places, while Rump/Tan battled back from their extra pitstop to finish 11th.
Local team LM Corsa won the Am class thanks to the combined efforts of Kei Nakanishi and Shigekazu Wakisaka.
GT4: CHONG AND SANTOSO PICK UP THE PIECES
Ringo Chong and Setiawan Santoso made the most of a late race clash to claim their first victory since joining forces at the start of 2019.
Their win owed everything to BMW Team Studie and Craft-Bamboo coming together at the Hairpin with 10 minutes left of the clock. The M4 and Mercedes-AMG had earlier pitted seven seconds apart but re-joined nose-to-tail thanks to their Pitstop Success Penalties.
Jean Marc-Merlin appeared the faster of the pair and, after a few laps, made a move for the inside that Sunako Jukuchou covered. The resulting contact spun the BMW around but also caused a left-rear puncture that warranted a lengthy second pitstop.
Merlin’s resulting drive-through penalty brought him out in third, which became second when he passed Bryan Lee. However, the Frenchman was then called in to serve a second penalty for speeding in the pitlane.
All of that helped Chong and Santoso – who ended the first stint in fourth – sail to a trouble-free victory over GTO Racing with TTR’s Lee and Tony Fong, while Absolute’s Audi shared by Anderson Tanoto and Mark Williamson completed the podium.
This weekend’s second 60-minute race starts at 11:10 JST (GMT +9) on Sunday.