Jeffrey Lee produced a defensive masterclass at Suzuka en route to his and Craft-Bamboo Racing co-driver Alessio Picariello’s second Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia victory of the season this morning.
Just 1.1s covered a top-five featuring four teams and manufacturers following two late Safety Car periods that produced a nip-and-tuck dash to the finish. Panther/AAS Motorsport’s Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak and Marco Holzer fell just 0.3s shy of victory in their Porsche, while yesterday’s winners Tanart Sathienthirakul and Philip Hamprecht (Absolute Racing) extended their championship lead by finishing another 0.2s behind after overcoming the maximum 15s Pitstop Success Penalty.
In GT4, BMW Team Studie’s Japanese duo Sunako Jukuchou and Takayuki Kinoshita bounced back from yesterday’s retirement to claim a comparatively straightforward win. Anderson Tanoto He and Mark Williamson capped a fine debut with a second podium ahead of Craft-Bamboo’s Frank Yu and Jean-Marc Merlin.
GT3: LEE SHOWS HIS METTLE AFTER PICARIELLO LEADS FROM POLE
Two Safety Car periods set up a thrilling conclusion to the weekend’s second race at Suzuka where Jeffrey Lee held his nerve while under intense pressure from Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak, Tanart Sathienthirakul and Yuya Sakamoto.
The 60-minute encounter began with Alessio Picariello leading fellow front row starter Marco Holzer and Philip Hamprecht into Turn 1. But behind, Kantasak Kusiri’s hopes ended almost immediately when he was spun out of fourth place.
Hamprecht couldn’t keep pace with the duo out front who were seldom separated by more than two seconds. And with neither crew serving a Pitstop Success Penalty, respective co-drivers Lee and Inthraphuvasak resumed 2.5s apart.
The first Safety Car period, required while LM Corsa’s Porsche was removed from the Degner 2 gravel trap, wiped out Lee’s slender advantage. However, a second incident soon after the restart – which resulted in Alex Au’s VSR Lamborghini also becoming beached – ensured just five minutes remained once racing resumed.
Inthraphuvasak’s hopes of challenging were initially thwarted by Yuya Sakamoto who wasted no time passing the Porsche. However, he found Lee a tougher nut to crack and ultimately ran off track at the chicane on the penultimate lap, dropping him to fourth.
That gave Inthraphuvasak just 3.6 miles with which to challenge Lee who remained inch-perfect throughout a tense final lap.
Behind, the two Safety Car periods came as a welcome intervention for Tanart Sathienthirakul who’d dropped to sixth as a result of his and Hamprecht’s 15s Success Penalty. Sakamoto’s mistake ultimately guaranteed their podium place and extended championship lead.
Behind, Sakamoto finished where his HubAuto Corsa co-driver Andre Heimgartner had pitted from despite the attentions of Martin Rump whose Absolute Racing co-driver Weiron Tan had run 14th before the pit window. The Ferrari and Audi were separated by just 0.1s at the finish after the Estonian had earlier overtaken four cars in one move through the Esses.
The other Absolute Porsche shared by Chinese duo Yuan Bo and Leo Ye Hongli picked up two places from where it started despite serving a 10s Success Penalty, while Solite Indigo Racing’s MG Choi and Patric Niederhauser once again carved their way through from the back to finish in the points.
Triple Eight’s Mercedes-AMG was also on the move early on thanks to Shane van Gisbergen who worked his way up from 16th to fifth before the pit window. However, the car he shares with Jefri Ibrahim ended its day in the 130R barriers after running inside the top-10 with just moments remaining.
Li Chao and Chris van der Drift joined Lee/Picariello and Inthraphuvasak/Holzer on the Pro/Am podium after finishing eighth, one place ahead of the TSRT Audi that recovered from an early drive-through penalty for jumping the start. Craft-Bamboo’s #99 Mercedes-AMG completed the top-10.
Further back, LM Corsa’s retirement handed Am Cup victory to Vattana Motorsport’s Chonsawat Asavahame and Akihiro Asai.
GT4: TEAM STUDIE WIN AT HOME
BMW Team Studie’s hopes of winning yesterday’s race were ended by a puncture, but there was no denying Takayuki Kinoshita and Sunako Jukuchou this morning when the Japanese duo converted pole into victory.
With no Success Penalty to serve, the #81 M4 GT4 was free to race without compromise. Jukuchou’s lead was more than 10s when the pit window opened after 25 minutes, which extended further once Kinoshita climbed aboard.
Behind, a mix of Success Penalties and two retirements, including that of yesterday’s race-winning Team iRace.Win Mercedes-AMG, ensured the podium scrap boiled down to Absolute Racing vs Craft-Bamboo. The latter’s Jean-Marc Merlin initially held the advantage over Anderson Tanoto before Williamson found a way past Frank Yu.
The second half of Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia’s 2019 campaign begins in just two weeks’ time at Fuji Speedway.