GT3: Maezawa’s Bhirombhakdi and Yokomizo take popular Race 2 win at Okayama

GT3: Maezawa’s Bhirombhakdi and Yokomizo take popular Race 2 win at Okayama

> Porsche Center Okazaki’s Nagai and Kamimura crowned Fanatec Japan Cup champions
> Overall Silver title settled in Ling and Cao’s favour
> Result: Race 2

Maezawa Racing has scored a breakthrough victory in the second of this weekend’s Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS races at Okayama where Piti Bhirombhakdi and Naoki Yokomizo’s Ferrari finished 2.5s clear of title contender Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak and his AAS Motorsport by Absolute Racing co-driver Alessio Picariello.

R&B Racing’s Lu Wei and Patrick Pilet battled through from 15th on the grid to complete the podium ahead of another lowly starter and yesterday’s winners, Craft-Bamboo Racing, after a late incident and penalties removed several top six contenders from the reckoning.

Plus with BMW M Team Studie’s Tomohide Yamaguchi and Seiji Ara claimed the Fanatec Japan Cup spoils but were beaten to the title by Hiroaki Nagai and Yuta Kamimura who steered their Porsche Center Okazaki 911 GT3 R to third in class.

GT3’s overall Silver crown was also settled in Phantom Pro Racing’s favour. Ling Kang and Cao Qi only needed to finish after an accident in Race 1 prevented Yuan Bo and Leo Ye Hongli from starting.

There were no such worries for Maezawa Racing, however, thanks to the combination of first Yokomizo – who also won at Okayama last year – and then Bhirombhakdi.

The #555 Ferrari lined up alongside Picariello who converted pole position into an early lead. He was never pressured by Yokomizo who was content to follow the Porsche over the opening half-hour, safe in the knowledge that his co-driver would benefit from AAS/Absolute’s impending 10-second Success Penalty.

Sure enough, Bhirombhakdi emerged just ahead of Jeffrey Lee, whose Craft-Bamboo partner Maximilian Goetz ran third throughout the opening stint. The Mercedes-AMG initially stuck with the Ferrari but ultimately dropped back into the clutches of Inthraphuvasak who’d slotted into fourth after the stops but crucially re-took third from title rival Prince Abu Bakar Ibrahim at the end of a brief Full Course Yellow period.

Eight minutes remained when the AAS/Absolute Porsche dived down the inside of Lee at Turn 10. But while Inthraphuvasak made it through unscathed, the concertina effect brought Ibrahim, Takeshi Kimura – whose CarGuy Ferrari would have rejoined third at worse without a slow pitstop – and Andrew Haryanto into play. The latter thought he’d spotted a gap down the inside approaching the next apex but clipped Ibrahim who then spun across Kimura’s path, which cost all three significant time and places.

Inthraphuvasak was free to make his escape but couldn’t catch Bhirombhakdi who was unaffected by the clash behind. He was joined in victory lane by team founder Yusaku Maezawa who celebrated his eponymous squad’s best-ever Fanatec GT Asia result with relish.

Lu narrowly avoided Haryanto’s earlier incident and then relieved Lee of third to cap R&B’s impressive comeback. It leaves the Chinese driver as one of four contenders fighting for the overall championship at Sepang next month.

D’station’s Aston Martin might also have benefitted without the penalty that helped Anthony Liu and Dani Juncadella finish fourth. Saturday’s winners started 10th but dropped to 15th following their maximum Success Penalty. Undeterred, Liu fought back to maintain his championship lead, albeit by just one point from Inthraphuvasak.

Absolute’s other Porsche shared by Bao Jinlong and Matteo Cairoli completed the top five ahead of Paul Ip and Edoardo Liberati whose 10-place grid drop prevented the KCMG Honda from starting third.

HUBAUTO’s Morris Chen and Alvaro Parente were seventh, while Yamaguchi and Ara rounded out the top eight.

Am class victory went to The Spirit of FFF Racing’s Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Mineki Okura. However, it was the crew in second – Climax Racing’s Hu Yuqi and Bian Ye – who head to Sepang as overwhelming championship favourites. Yorikatsu Tsujiko and Yusuke Yamasaki, who clinched the Fanatec Japan Cup’s equivalent class crown yesterday, finished third.

27 points separate the four overall title contenders – Liu, Inthraphuvasak, Ibrahim and Lu – ahead of Fanatec GT Asia’s season finale at Sepang on September 22-24.