> Audi Sport Asia’s crew beats Porsche Center Okazaki by 21s
> Kano and Orido convert class pole into GT4 victory
> Result: Motegi Race 1
Andrew Haryanto and James Yu Kuai have claimed a commanding first Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS victory together at Motegi by taking the chequered flag 22 seconds clear of Fanatec Japan Cup winners Hiroaki Nagai and Yuta Kamimura.
Audi Sport Asia Team Absolute’s R8 wasn’t the obvious choice to triumph from third on the grid. But Haryanto’s impressive start saw the car run second throughout the opening stint before Yu passed Phantom Pro Racing’s Cao Qi just after the pitstops and never looked back.
Yes, their cause was aided by several big names tangling behind, but this result was anything but a fluke for a crew that has been knocking on the door of a standout result throughout 2023.
Craft-Bamboo’s Anthony Liu and Fabian Schiller overcome the maximum 15-second Success Penalty to finish third after the latter followed Kamimura’s Porsche Centre Okazaki 911 GT3 R past Qi with 12 minutes remaining.
Ling Kang led the opening stint from pole but had to settle for Silver class and Fanatec China Cup victory after Qi dropped behind the more established Pros.
Am class spoils went to The Spirit of FFF Racing’s Mineki Okura and Hiroshi Hamaguchi. The latter produced a particularly impressive opening stint in which he powered from 17th to fourth.
Further back, YZ Racing with BMW M Team Studie’s Masaki Kano and Max Orido won the GT4 class from Checkshop Caymania Racing’s Porsche shared by Naohiko Otsuka and Sho Kobayashi.
VICTORY BY 22 SECONDS? ABSOLUTE CLASS!
The Audi half of Absolute’s garage partly has its Porsche side to thank for a relatively straightforward but also dominant victory at Motegi where several leading contenders came to blows early on.
Chief among them were team-mates Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak and Bao Jinlong who delayed each other when the latter spun #911 out of third on lap two. Haryanto was already ahead after passing Bao into Turn 1 on the opening lap, but the collision – and Inthraphuvasak’s subsequent altercation with D’station’s Aston Martin that led to a drive-through – ensured neither of the crew’s experienced Pro drivers would have a chance after the stops.
R&B’s Porsches might also have been a threat. They were running fifth and sixth in the early stages until Chris On Chia’s optimistic lunge at Turn 11 resulted in contact between all three and title contender Lu Wei’s retirement.
And Plus with BMW M Team Studie’s Tomohide Yamaguchi was also going well in third until the car retired early on.
All of that meant Ling, who’d converted pole into a three-second lead, and Haryanto were relatively comfortable out front. Absolute then stopped its Audi at the first opportunity while Phantom continued deeper into the pit window, but their approaches made no difference to the order until Yu passed Qi soon after he rejoined.
Absolute’s Audi then underlined its pace by setting fastest lap before powering into the distance while Qi came under pressure from Kamimura whose co-driver Nagai started eighth, dropped to 10th but pitted from fifth after taking advantage of the various travails ahead.
The 911 came home just ahead of Craft-Bamboo’s Mercedes-AMG, which did well to overcome the maximum Success Penalty after Liu and Schiller swapped places.
Triple Eight JMR’s #88 entry also had 10 seconds extra in the pits but somehow found a way to finish fourth – enough for Prince Abu Bakar Ibrahim and Luca Stolz to take the championship lead – despite the car also ending lap one in 11th.
Stolz led home a train of cars that included Maezawa’s Ferrari, Absolute’s second Audi, CarGuy’s 488 and Craft-Bamboo’s other Mercedes-AMG which all passed Qi in quick succession towards the end.
R&B’s #87 Porsche completed the top-10 after recovering from its earlier involvement with Chia.
Sunday’s race goes green at 11:40 JST. Watch it live on SRO’s GT World YouTube channel and across Japan on J Sports.