> Super sub co-driver Bachler makes winning move on 5ZIGEN’s Nissan
> BMW M Team Studie wins GT4 from class pole
> Result: Suzuka Race 1
AAS Motorsport by Absolute Racing’s Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak and Klaus Bachler came through from 11th to win the first of this weekend’s two Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS races at Suzuka.
The #911 Porsche’s fourth podium in five races – but first win – extended its Thai driver’s lead at the top of the overall standings and handed Bachler – who subs for Alessio Picariello this weekend – victory on his first-ever visit to the Japanese Grand Prix venue.
Team 5ZIGEN’s Nissan shared by Hirobon and Shintaro Kawabata scored maximum Fanatec Japan Cup points in second overall while Porsche Center Okazaki’s Hiroaki Nagai and Yuta Kamimura benefitted from Patrick Pilet’s late drive-through penalty to complete the podium.
Yuan Bo and Leo Ye Hongli (R&B Racing) were the top performing Fanatec China Cup and Silver crew, and Climax Racing’s Bian Ye and Hu Yuqi took the Am class spoils.
Further back, BMW M Team Studie’s Masaki Kano and Max Orido converted GT4 pole position into victory.
P11 >> P1 FOR AAS/ABSOLUTE’S PORSCHE
If ever there was a race of two halves then this was surely it.
The first 20 minutes were largely spent behind a Safety Car. First, D’station’s Aston Martin spun at the Esses on lap one and was left stranded after receiving contact from EBM’s unsighted Porsche. Racing then resumed only briefly before K-Tunes Lexus speared into Degner 1’s inside wall, which necessitated a red flag.
40 minutes remained once the race went green again, but with the pit window opening after 25 and the majority of teams electing to swap their Am drivers for Pros at the first opportunity, the original order remained fairly static until after the stops.
Pole man Keita Sawa (ABSSA Motorsport) led throughout the opening 30 minutes but couldn’t begin building a lead over the chasing Bronze-graded drivers until the final laps when all but one – Bian Ye – had already pitted.
The McLaren was still leading after its pitstop, albeit after failing to serve its minimum time. The subsequent six-second stop-go dropped newly installed Masataka Inoue out of podium contention.
The chief beneficiary was Team 5ZIGEN’s Nissan, which started second in Hirobon’s hands before leading most of the second stint once Kawabata was past Inoue.
Further back, a gaggle of factory Pros had made steady progress up the order. And they included Bachler, whose co-driver Inthraphuvasak had already made up four places from his grid position before stopping in seventh. 10 seconds separated the AAS/Absolute Porsche from 5ZIGEN’s Nissan once Inoue made way, but that gap was slashed by a second per lap before the Austrian arrived on Kawabata’s tail with eight minutes remaining.
His initial attempt was thwarted by a GT4 car. However, the 911’s pace was clearly superior to the GT-R’s which ran wide at Turn 1, opened the door and saw the Porsche dive down the inside.
Behind, Kamimura was able to break free of a multi-car scrap to seal the final spot on the podium for Porsche Center Okazaki and his co-driver Nagai.
Fourth place went the way of Absolute Racing’s Andrew Haryanto and James Yu who fended off the attentions of Dennis Lind (Climax Racing), Naoki Yokomizo (Maezawa Racing), Leo Ye Hongli (R&B Racing) and Edoardo Liberati (KCMG). But while the Audi found some much needed breathing space on the final lap, positions fifth through eighth were covered by just 0.5s!
Yu might have finished third without the contact from Pilet that resulted in R&B’s Porsche receiving a drive-through penalty and Kamimura taking advantage to slip past.
The penalty was also bad news for Pilet’s co-driver Lu Wei who began the race 11 points behind Inthraphuvasak who also benefitted from nearest rivals Prince Abu Bakar Ibrahim and Luca Stolz finishing 20th.
The second of this weekend’s two 60-minute races goes green at 11:30 JST tomorrow. Watch it live on SRO’s GT World YouTube channel and across Japan on J Sports.