Despite one of the strongest fields of factory supported drivers entering Macau for the FIA GT World Cup, it was experience that shone through during the opening day of practice at the demanding Guia Circuit, with recently crowned GT Asia Series champion Darryl O’Young leading the charge of the series regulars.
O’Young was immediately the fastest of the three Craft-Bamboo Racing Aston Martins, the Macau ‘veteran’ admitting that experience and a fast field allowing clear laps was a distinct advantage, but that it was only day one, and he was expecting a challenge at the top of the leaderboard heading into Friday qualifying.
“The main thing for me early on was to get used to the tyres, so I really took it easy – first time using the Pirellis. I feel like there’s more time to find to the leaders, but first session is really just to take it easy and get a feel for the car,” O’Young explained.
“Experience makes a big difference, it gives you a lot more confidence right from the beginning, but most of the guys at the front of the field have raced here, although I feel that drivers like my team-mate Richard Lyons – who hasn’t ever raced here – did a brilliant job, but I feel like he’s going to make a big step forward running into qualifying.
“There’s a lot of gold [rated] drivers competing here this year, so there isn’t a lot of traffic which gives us a lot of clean laps to push, which is quite unusual here at Macau.”
Typically the battle over the top spot was waged between the two factory-supported outfits that have dominated the last two Macau GT events – with last year’s first and second placed finishers Maro Engel and Renger van der Zande fighting over the top spot in the two Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG’s with ‘Mr Macau’, Audi Sport’s three-time winner Edo Mortara.
Engel was on the pace immediately, but mid-session it was Mortara who sat at the top of the timesheets in the new Audi R8 LMS GT3, before the two Mercedes fired back to claim the top two positions, with the Dutchman putting in a late final charge to end the session a quarter of a second up on his team-mate, and a second faster than Mortara.
O’Young’s pace towards the end of the session was impressive, whilst his ‘rookie’ team-mate Richard Lyons too took advantage of the Craft-Bamboo Racing Team’s immense experience at Macau to grab the tenth fastest time, immediately behind Mortara’s Audi team-mate – LMP1 prototype star – Rene Rast, himself a rookie at Macau.
Reigning Le Mans 24-Hour race LMP1 champion Earl Bamber was typically impressive in the LKM Porsche, with fifth, ahead of Craft-Bamboo’s third entry, 2014 GT Asia Series race winner Stefan Mucke, the German just a quarter of a second slower than team-mate O’Young, with former F3 Grand Prix winner Andre Couto an impressive seventh in the FFF Racing McLaren.
Two-time Macau GT race winner Keita Sawa put the #88 Absolute Racing Bentley Continental GT3 into eighth late in the session after GT Asia team-mate Adderly Fong ran with the leaders during the early laps, the Hong Kong driver ultimately 12th in the gorgeous matte black ‘Spark’ liveried Bentley affectionately known as ‘Isabelle’, that the team used to claim second in the GT Asia Series championship.
McLaren factory driver Alvaro Parente – one of the stars for the FFF Racing team in the closing rounds of the 2015 season – set the 11th fastest time, the Portugese driver returning to the Macau circuit for the first time in 12 years, admitting that he’d use the opening session to reacclimatise himself with the circuit.
“There’s nothing really to gain going out too hard too early here at Macau,” FFF Racing Team by ACM’s high-profile team principal Andrea Caldarelli admitted.
“Alvaro was just getting a feel for the car on the new Pirelli, and Kevis [Estre] has never been here before, so spent the session adapting what he’d learnt on the simulator to the circuit. We think we’ll do quite well here, but it’s only early, we’ll get a better indication tomorrow during qualifying of the real pace.”
In the end there were no real dramas on circuit, reigning Belgian GT champion Dylan Derdaele – a regular over the closing rounds of the GT Asia Series – made contact with the tyre barriers on the exit of the final corner looking to shave some more time off what had been an impressive run, the Macau rookie fortunately doing little more than cosmetic damage to the Gulf Racing JP Porsche.
Friday sees the teams gain two more opportunities to experience laps on the iconic 22-turn Giua circuit, with a second 30-minute practice session at 10:40am, leading into qualifying at 2:55pm.
2015 Macau Grand Prix
SJM Macau GT Cup – FIA GT World Cup – Practice#1 (19 November, 2015)
1. 2. Renger van der Zande (Mercedes-AMG Driving Academy SLS AMG GT3) – 2:20.796
2. 1. Maro Engel (Mercedes-AMG Driving Academy SLS AMG GT3) – 2:21.038
3. 6. Edoardo Mortara (Audi Sport Team Pheonix Audi R8 LMS GT3) – 2:21.736
4. 55. Darryl O’Young (Craft-Bamboo Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3)* – 2:22.733
5. 19. Earl Bamber (LKM Racing Porsche GT3-R)* – 2:22.838
6. 97. Stefan Mucke (Craft-Bamboo Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3)* – 2:23.094
7. 5. Andre Couto (FFF Racing Team by ACM McLaren GT3)* – 2:23.326
8. 88. Keita Sawa (Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3)* – 2:23.466
9. 7. Rene Rast (Audi Sport Team Pheonix Audi R8 LMS GT3) – 2:23.509
10. 99. Richard Lyons (Craft-Bamboo Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3)* – 2:23.624
11. 25. Alvaro Parente (FFF Racing Team by ACM McLaren GT3)* – 2:23.850
12. 8. Adderly Fong (Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3)* – 2:23.888
13. 30. Marchy Lee (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3) – 2:24.433
14. 10. Pasin Lathouras (AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) – 2:25.139
15. 15. Kevin Estre (FFF Racing Team by ACM McLaren GT3)* – 2:27.061
16. 20. Dylan Derdaele (Gulf Racing JP Porsche GT3-R)* – 2:29.641
17. 9. Vuttihkorn Inthraphuvasak (Est Cola Racing Porsche GT3-R) – 2:30.229
18. 33. Jeffrey Lee (Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3)* - 2:33.387
19. 3. Mok Weng Sun (Clearwater Racing McLaren 650S GT3)* – 2:33.712
20. 77. Jacky Yeung (Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3)* – 2:40.856
21. 98. Philip Ma (Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 ultra)* – NTR
22. 68. John Shen (Modena Motorsport Porsche GT3-R)* – NTR
* GT Asia Series regulars
2015 Macau Grand Prix
62nd Macau Grand Prix, Guia Circuit, Macau (19-22 November, 2015)
SJM Macau GT Cup – FIA GT World Cup
Schedule: [CST – GMT +8]
Friday, 20 November
10:40am – Practice #2 (30-minutes)
2:55pm – Qualifying (30-minutes)
Saturday, 21 November
12:15pm – Qualifying Race (12-laps)
Sunday, 22 November
12:55pm – Race (18-laps)
Source. Motorsport Media/Photo. Benny Luey Photography