MG Choi is the 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia champion after fifth place in Shanghai’s season finale proved more than enough to beat three other contenders to this year’s GT3 crown. Ahead, the Porsche shared by Yuan Bo and Leo Ye Hongli won from fifth on the grid to further cement Absolute Racing’s Teams’ title.
Alessio Picariello and Jeffrey Lee finished second overall and first in Pro/Am after the latter resisted championship contender Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak, who had to win to retain any chance of overhauling Choi in the championship. The Panther/AAS Motorsport Porsche he shares with Alexander Imperatori finished just 3.8s shy of its target.
Further back, BMW Team Studie’s Sunako Jukuchou made sure of the GT4 crown by scoring his seventh class win of the season. Ringo Chong and Setiawan Santoso finished second, one place ahead of iRace.Win team-mates Joe Chi and Keo Chang.
GT3: BO AND HONGLI VICTORIOUS AS CHOI CRUISES TO CROWN
An unusual grid order meant 2019’s final race actually felt like two contests in one. Up front were four crews with only victory to play for, and it was Chris van der Drift – who inherited pole after crash damage prevented ARN’s Porsche from starting – that looked the most likely candidate early on. Indeed, JRM’s 911 enjoyed a five-second advantage over Frederik Schandorff’s VSR Lamborghini, Alessio Picariello (Craft-Bamboo Mercedes-AMG) and Shane van Gisbergen (Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG).
Behind, the midfield comprised all four crews still able to win the ultimate prize. The hopes of those behind Choi, who entered the final race nine points clear of Tanart Sathienthirakul and Philip Hamprecht, rested to some degree on whether Indigo’s Mercedes-AMG could make early progress from 13th.
Sadly for them Manuel Metzger wasn’t hanging around. Indeed, by lap two he was already up to ninth having passed, amongst others, Yuya Sakamoto’s co-driver Marcos Gomes. The German was also just two places behind Hamprecht, while Alex Imperatori had only moved up one spot to fifth – still someway short of Inthraphuvasak’s target – after passing Leo Ye Hongli.
However, it wasn’t until the pitstops that Sathienthirakul/Hamprecht and Sakamoto’s chances would be completely extinguished by separate issues. Wheelgun failure cost Absolute’s Porsche 40s before a gearbox issue put the car out for good, while HubAuto Corsa’s Ferrari remained stranded on its jacks after they failed to retract.
There were no such issues for Panther/AAS or Indigo who sent Inthraphuvasak and Choi on their way without delay. Pitstop Success Penalties plus the ensuing battle ahead meant both soon found themselves in the top-five, which allowed Choi to cruise home.
Ahead, Van der Drift’s co-driver Li Chao emerged from the pitstops leading Jefri Ibrahim. However, Triple Eight had missed the pit window and their subsequent drive-through penalty left the way clear for Jeffrey Lee, Alex Au, Inthraphuvasak and best placed Silver-graded driver Yuan Bo to battle for victory.
And it was unsurprisingly Bo who ultimately emerged victorious after the Chinese driver passed Chao at Turn 11. While those following also took advantage, the Absolute Porsche was soon powering its way to a three-second victory.
Behind, Choi was content to watch the three-way podium scrap play out between Lee, Au and Inthraphuvasak. The Craft-Bamboo Mercedes-AMG ultimately came home second, but not before VSR’s Au had tried and failed to pass at Turn 1, allowing Inthraphuvasak to pounce. Just 1.1s covered the Am trio at the chequered flag, while Inthraphuvasak added second in the overall standings to his Pro/Am title.
Choi cruised home ahead of Chao, who had dropped 17s behind Bo by the finish, while David Chen made up eight positions during his stint to bring Audi Sport Asia Team TSRT’s R8 home seventh.
Phantom Pro Racing’s Chris Chia and Wei Lu notched up their second Am Cup victory of the weekend after beating class champions Andrew Macpherson and Ben Porter.
GT4: JUKUCHOU WINS RACE AND TITLE
Sunako Jukuchou wrapped up 2019’s GT4 championship in style by winning for the seventh time this season.
The Japanese driver, who started on pole, didn’t have things all his own way in the first stint thanks to Ringo Chong who overhauled the BMW Team Studie driver just before the pit window opened.
However, Jukuchou – driving solo this weekend in an effort to pip former co-driver Takayuki Kinoshita to the title – regrouped after the stops to beat Chong’s Team iRace.Win co-driver Setiawan Santoso by five seconds.
The second iRace.Win Mercedes-AMG completed the podium to cement the Teams’ title, while Kinoshita – who had to beat Jukuchou today – could only manage fourth.