> Ibrahim and Inthraphuvasak fail to overturn their 19-point deficits
> One-two finish sees R&B Racing crowned teams’ champions
> Liu adds Pro-Am crown to overall title
> Race 2 Result | Final championship standings
Craft-Bamboo’s Anthony Liu is the 2023 Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS drivers’ champion after Abu Bakar Ibrahim and Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak both failed to overturn their 19-point deficits in the season finale at Sepang.
Lu Wei and Patrick Pilet led home team-mates Yuan Bo and Leo Ye Hongli to secure the teams’ championship for R&B Racing. However, their one-two also impacted Ibrahim’s chances of clinching the drivers’ crown. With Liu finishing only 10th, victory would have secured the title for Ibrahim. Instead, third place for Triple Eight JMR’s Mercedes-AMG – which also featured Mikael Grenier – left the Johor Prince five points shy of his Chinese rival.
Liu added the Pro-Am crown to his overall achievement despite spinning midway through the second stint. His co-driver Dani Juncadella had earlier calmed nerves somewhat by pitting from seventh after starting 11th before a 10-second Success Penalty dropped the car outside of the points scoring positions.
The only other championship contender, Inthraphuvasak, came home sixth despite Klaus Bachler’s lap one excursion. Like Ibrahim, the AAS Motorsport by Absolute Racing Porsche had to win to have any hope of overhauling Liu.
IBRAHIM’S BEST EFFORTS NOT QUITE ENOUGH TO DENY LIU
Despite Liu’s 19-point lead, grid positions and Success Penalties set the stage for an unpredictable final hour of the season at Sepang where HUBAUTO’s Alvaro Parente converted pole position into a stint-long lead over Pilet.
Grenier dutifully followed the Porsches after starting third, while Ye held station behind in a top four covered by little more than two seconds throughout the first 30 minutes.
HUBAUTO and R&B’s 911s emerged from their stops just as they had entered but swapped places soon after when Lu dived down the inside of Morris Chen at the final hairpin.
He lost further places to Yuan and then Ibrahim, who originally rejoined fourth following his and Grenier’s extra five seconds. But R&B’s Porsches ahead were unlikely to jeopardise a one-two finish and the maximum points that would guarantee the teams’ championship by squabbling amongst themselves, which limited Ibrahim’s chances of victory.
He ultimately took the chequered flag six seconds behind race winner Lu to make it two podiums on home soil this weekend.
Liu, of course, was aware of Ibrahim’s situation and could even afford to spin down the order midway through his stint after a 10-second Success Penalty cost the Mercedes-AMG places in the pits. He battled back to finish 10th after winning a particularly fierce battle with Abu Bakar’s older brother Jefri Ibrahim over the final laps.
Phantom Pro’s Chris On Chia and Mikkel Mac saved their best result of the season for the final race, and also completed the Pro-Am podium, by finishing fourth overall. Their Audi beat Hiroaki Nagai and Yuta Kamimura – who set fastest lap – by just 0.2s, while the recovering Inthraphuvasak made up 10 positions en route to sixth.
Absolute went into the final race leading the teams’ championship but lost out to R&B as a result of their sixth and seventh places, while HUBAUTO rounded out the top eight.
Further back, Antares Au and Modena Motorsports added a second Am class win to their weekend’s work by beating AMAC’s Andrew Macpherson and Ben Porter.
Fanatec GT Asia returns to Sepang for the start of its 2024 campaign on April 19-21.