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MUCKE DOMINATES, BUT ENGEL WINS QUALIFYING RACE IN MACAU

For 2015 the annual GT Cup at Macau features not just an FIA ranking as the GT World Cup, but an additional race to the traditional single-race format, with teams facing a 12-lap qualifying race on Saturday to set the grid for the all important 18-lap ‘main event’.GTAsia_Macau_R1_Mucke-leads_BL_med

That made Saturday’s race critical to ensure a strong position on the grid at a venue that despite it’s 6.12-kilometre length, is incredibly difficult to overtake on, but drivers would need to balance heroics with conservation..

For reigning champions Mercedes-Benz their day started early, with mechanics and the technical team working through the night to repair both the #1 car of Maro Engel and the #2 of Renger van der Zande, finishing just hours before the all important qualifying race.

GT Asia Series round winners FFF Racing Team by ACM were also forced to work well into Saturday morning, incredibly returning Andre Couto’s heavily damaged McLaren 650S GT3 to the grid, despite at one point considering retiring the car after Friday’s qualifying session contact with the barriers at Mandarin Bend.

For reigning GT Asia Series champions Craft-Bamboo Racing, there was no such trouble, the team lining former series round winner Stefan Mucke up in P1, a position from which he would command the race and drive away to claim the win.. but then the race stewards stepped in.

Despite a clean start and a field that had begun to settle into a rhythm behind Mucke’s #97 Aston Martin Vantage, lap three claimed its first victim, with 2015 GT Asia Series runner-up Adderly Fong clipping the fence in the Solitude Esses, bringing the field under the control of the safety car.

Sadly Isabelle suffered terminal damage in the contact despite it appearing mostly superficial, the Absolute Racing team forced to withdraw the car from Sunday’s final after a close inspection post-race.

It took officials a number of laps to clear the Bentley from the circuit, with the drivers working feverishly to get temperature back into their control Pirelli tyres before the restart.

Mucke looked to have made the most of the restart, getting a good jump on Engel as they came through the final corner, but post-race, stewards judged that Mucke’s restart had come at too high a cost..

Officials declared from article 39.12 of the Sporting Regulations of the event: “In order to avoid the likelihood of accidents before the safety car returns to the pits, from the point at which the lights on the car are turned out drivers must proceed at a pace which involves no erratic acceleration or braking or any other manoeuvre which is likely to endanger other drivers or impede the restart.”

Data from the car showed that Mucke braked on the straight before the turn, then accelerated to near full race speed into the final turn. Mucke explained that this was to warm his tyres and did not consider that he was in the area of the restart.

Ultimately, despite the penalty – 10-seconds added to his race time, which will force the German to start from P4 in the main race – Mucke had comfortably dominated the race from start to finish, carrying on the pace that saw him top second practice and the qualifying session ahead of Saturday’s race.

“Stefan was slightly caught out by the restart; he didn’t realise how far the Safety Car was ahead and was still in the tyre warming phase,” Craft-Bamboo CEO Richard Coleman explained. “The stewards have given what we believe to be a very harsh penalty; we were fastest in free practice, fastest in qualifying, fastest in the qualification race and we also won the qualification race. To get a ten second penalty for tomorrow’s world cup is gutting for the whole team. Having said that, we’re quick and we will definitely not be giving up. If there is any justice in the world we will be winning tomorrow.”

That handed the win to reigning Macau champion Engel, with arch-rival Edoardo Mortara across the line second, whilst Engel’s team-mate and 2014 runner-up Renger van der Zande was third. Mucke’s penalty dropped him back to fourth, ahead of Audi’s Rene Rast.

Craft-Bamboo’s Macau rookie Richard Lyons was an impressive sixth, the Ulsterman admitting that he was very happy with his pace.

“For my first time here, I’m pretty happy with that,” he explained. “I got nine laps in P1, then suffered a gearbox issue in P2 which gave me one lap, then it was on to qualifying. I was very happy with my qualifying pace, and the goal for the race was to hold station, which would be good, or maybe move a spot further forward – which would be fantastic. I managed that off the start, although it came at the cost of my team-mate Darryl O’Young, but we used the older tyres for today so we have a good set for tomorrow – I think we’re capable of a podium!”

O’Young held station behind his team-mate early, but was ultimately forced back to eighth behind hard-charging Le Mans champion Earl Bamber in the LKM Porsche.

“It wasn’t the easiest race, I struggled with tyre warm up until the second lap and lost a couple of positions but I was then able to bring the car back,” the recently crowned GT Asia Series champion explained. “It was unfortunate to lose those positions for tomorrow’s race but we are doing some fine tuning and we will be focusing on better results tomorrow.”

FFF Racing’s Alvaro Parente led home McLaren team-mate Kevin Estre to close out the top ten, with 2015 GT Asia Series runner-up and two-time Macau GT Cup winner Keita Sawa taking eleventh place.

“I’m not 100% comfortable yet with the car and the tyres, but we’re improving all the time. Adderly has had great pace all weekend, so I think it is more finding comfort in the setup and myself for the speed to come – I had quite bad understeer after the safety car due I think to build up on the tyres, so I took it a little easier. My goal for the weekend is to finish inside the top ten, so we’ll see what comes tomorrow, but it’s certainly a very competitive field.”

After some lurid spins and a couple, of instances where he made contact with the barriers, Gulf Racing JP’s Dylan Derdaele had a relatively trouble-free run in the Porsche GT3-R, although he was lamenting a lack of pace on his run to 14th, just ahead of Vutthikorn in the similar Est Cola Racing machine.

Jeffrey Lee’s smile continues to broaden with every session in the new Audi R8 LMS GT3, the Absolute Racing driver crossing the line in 16th place, ahead of three-time GT Asia Series champion Mok Weng Sun in the Clearwater Racing McLaren 650S GT3, John Shen – who did an impressive job on his debut in the Porsche GT3-R – and Jacky Yeung in the third of the Bentleys.

After working through the night to repair the #5 FFF Racing McLaren of Andre Couto, the team were on target to achieve a finish with the car before the local hero pulled off the circuit on top of the hill with throttle failure forcing him to start the main event from rear of field.

Now it’s on to the business end of the weekend, with the running of the inaugural FIA GT World Cup, with teams facing a daunting 18-laps around the Guia Circuit which gets underway at 12:55pm [CST].

Details of live-streaming will be available on http://www.facebook.com/GTAsiaSeries
Live timing for the 18-lap main event is available via; http://www.mstworld.com/motorsport/livetiming

2015 Macau Grand Prix
SJM Macau GT Cup – FIA GT World Cup – Qualifying Race (21 November, 2015)
1. 1. Maro Engel (Mercedes-AMG Driving Academy SLS AMG GT3) – 12-laps
2. 6. Edoardo Mortara (Audi Sport Team Pheonix Audi R8 LMS GT3)
3. 2. Renger van der Zande (Mercedes-AMG Driving Academy SLS AMG GT3)
4. 97. Stefan Mucke (Craft-Bamboo Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3)*
5. 7. Rene Rast (Audi Sport Team Pheonix Audi R8 LMS GT3)
6. 99. Richard Lyons (Craft-Bamboo Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3)*
7. 19. Earl Bamber (LKM Racing Porsche GT3-R)*
8. 55. Darryl O’Young (Craft-Bamboo Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3)*
9. 25. Alvaro Parente (FFF Racing Team by ACM McLaren GT3)*
10. 15. Kevin Estre (FFF Racing Team by ACM McLaren GT3)*
11. 88. Keita Sawa (Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3)*
12. 30. Marchy Lee (Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3)
13. 10. Pasin Lathouras (AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia GT3)
14. 20. Dylan Derdaele (Gulf Racing JP Porsche GT3-R)*
15. 9. Vuttihkorn Inthraphuvasak (Est Cola Racing Porsche GT3-R)
16. 33. Jeffrey Lee (Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3)*
17. 3. Mok Weng Sun (Clearwater Racing McLaren 650S GT3)*
18. 68. John Shen (Modena Motorsport Porsche GT3-R)*
19. 77. Jacky Yeung (Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3)*
20. 5. Andre Couto (FFF Racing Team by ACM McLaren GT3)* – 11-laps
21. 98. Philip Ma (Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 ultra)* – 11-laps
DNF. 8. Adderly Fong (Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3)* – 2-laps
* GT Asia Series regulars

Source. Motorsport Media

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