> Audi Sport Asia duo win action packed race from pole
> Craft-Bamboo denied in red flag-interrupted opener
> Result: Race 1
2023’s Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS drivers’ title will be decided on the season’s final day at Sepang after victory for Andrew Haryanto and James Yu denied Anthony Liu his chance to win the championship with a race to spare.
Audi Sport Team Absolute’s R8 LMS GT3 Evo II took the chequered flag 1.8s clear of Craft-Bamboo’s Mercedes-AMG after Dani Juncadella ran out of time to catch Yu who’d pulled 4.6s ahead immediately after the pitstops. Had the positions reversed, Liu would now be overall champion.
As it is, the Chinese driver will start this year’s final race 19 points ahead of both Abu Bakar Ibrahim and Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak. Triple Eight JMR’s Mercedes-AMG finished third overall thanks to Mikael Grenier’s battling drive, while the AAS/Absolute Porsche failed to score following an accident on the opening lap.
Racing briefly resumed after the subsequent Safety Car period but was halted again almost immediately, and this time by red flags, when Morris Chen suffered a big accident at the final hairpin. Chen emerged unhurt from his stricken Porsche, which was left perched at an angle on top of the tyre wall.
Hu Yuqi and Bian Ye each had an excursion in Climax Racing’s Mercedes-AMG, which failed to take the chequered flag. However, the car was still classified – enough for the Chinese pairing to seal this year’s Am title.
Elsewhere, Leo Ye Hongli and Yuan Bo (R&B Racing) took both the Silver class and Fanatec China Cup victories by finishing an excellent sixth overall. But the latter wasn’t enough to deny Audi Sport Asia Team Absolute’s Sun Jingzu and Franky Cheng the title.
The teams’ championship remains undecided, though, and also wide open between Absolute, Craft-Bamboo and R&B which are separated by 11 points. 43 are still available for finishing one-two tomorrow.
TITLE RACE GOES DOWN TO THE FINAL DAY
The majority of the opening stint took place behind the Safety Car where pole man Haryanto held off Liu not once or twice but at three separate restarts.
Hu’s spin meant the pack had bunched again under Full Course Yellow conditions when the pit window opened after 25 minutes. Absolute’s Audi pitted marginally ahead of Craft-Bamboo’s Mercedes-AMG, and that was enough for Yu to retain the lead from Juncadella when both rejoined.
Track conditions had gone back to green at that point, and it was Yu’s performance over his first two laps that ultimately earned his team victory. Juncadella homed back in towards the finish but couldn’t get close enough to attack the Chinese driver who managed the race perfectly en route to his and Haryanto’s second win of the season.
But if theirs was something of a phony war, the battle for third was anything but.
Triple Eight JMR’s championship challenger Ibrahim completed the opening stint in sixth. Grenier rejoined in the same position but knew only fourth would suffice to keep his co-driver in contention come tomorrow. But he went one better by passing Edoardo Mortara, Leo Ye Hongli and Eshan Pieris in quick succesion en route to the final step on the podium.
The result means Ibrahim, along with Inthraphuvasak, must win on Sunday to have any chance of overturning Liu’s 19-point lead.
A charging Patrick Pilet took fourth in the Porsche he shares with Lu Wei despite the duo serving a five-second Success Penalty. However, with Liu finishing second, that wasn’t enough to keep the latter in overall title contention.
Mortara passed Ye and Pieries to finish fifth in the Absolute Racing Porsche co-driven by Bao Jinlong, while R&B had Yuan’s excellent start – going from eighth to third – to thank for its sixth place overall and class wins.
Porsche Center Okazaki and Phantom Pro completed the top-eight.
Guest driver Antares Au won the Am class on his own but it was AMAC’s full-season pairing of Andrew Macpherson and Ben Porter who scored maximum points. That, however, wasn’t sufficient to deny Hu and Ye the title after their Mercedes-AMG was classified despite ending its race in the tyre barrier.
Elsewhere, Toyota Gazoo Racing Indonesia’s Haridarma Manoppo and Seita Nonaka collected their fourth GT4 victory of the season.
Fanatec GT Asia’s Sepang title showdown begins at 11:15 (GMT +8) tomorrow. Watch it live on SRO’s GT World YouTube channel, Astro and SpoTV in Malaysia, and J Sports across Japan.