Darryl O’Young and George Chou claimed GT3 and GT4 pole positions in Blancpain GT Series Asia qualifying at Suzuka earlier today ahead of this afternoon’s first 60-minute race of the weekend, while Sunday’s second will see Alessio Picariello and Frank Yu start up front in their respective classes.
Q1: O’YOUNG STRIKES EARLY WHILE CHOU DOMINATES GT4
Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Darryl O’Young made the most of a red flag-interrupted first 15-minute qualifying session to claim his, the team’s and Porsche’s maiden Blancpain GT Series Asia outright pole position.
The sister car’s early off at the final corner ensured no times had been set when the action resumed with 11 minutes left on the clock. Managing tyre degradation would therefore be key, and O’Young coped best to deliver a provisional pole time of 2m02.982s. Further improvements were expected but, when the stranded T2 Motorsports Ferrari caused a second stoppage soon after, most cars’ tyres were past their best.
Aditya Patel’s initial run left him 0.101s shy of the Porsche, and that’s where he’d remain after failing to go quicker. The championship-chasing OD Racing Audi he shares with Mitch Gilbert still lines up one place clear of Silver Cup class rival Marchy Lee who qualified half-a-second further back.
Vincenzo Sospiri Racing enjoyed its best qualifying result of the season in fourth courtesy of Sandy Stuvik who ended up just 0.064s shy of Lee’s Audi Hong Kong R8. Race-by-race Japanese entry ARN Racing produced another strong performance to claim sixth and fastest Ferrari entry in the hands of Hiroaki Nagai, who finished one place ahead of Craft-Bamboo Racing’s recovering Devon Modell.
Spirit of Race’s Jiang Xin, FFF Racing Team by ACM’s Aidan Read and the Audi R8 LMS Cup-entered R8 driven by Alex Au completed the top-10.
Andrew Haryanto’s X-One Motorsports Lamborghini was fastest of the Am Cup entries in 15th overall after out-pacing his T2 Motorsports class rival Gregory Teo Bee Tat by just over a second.
Taiwan Top Speed Racing had paced all three of the weekend’s practice sessions and maintained its 100% record in Q1 thanks to George Chou. His Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR posted the fastest time of the weekend – 2m17.835s – despite the multiple red flags to end up 1.7s clear of debutant and local driver Masahiko Ida (HubAuto Racing), while Tony Fong (TTR Team SARD) claimed third.
Q2: NO STOPPING PICARIELLO AND YU
Two qualifying sessions, two pole positions: Alessio Picariello maintained his perfect Blancpain GT Series Asia qualifying record at Suzuka by beating the fellow Absolute Racing-run Audis driven by Mitch Gilbert and Franky Cheng Congfu to pole.
As in Q1, the second session was essentially reduced from 15 to 10 minutes when Lin Yue beached his FFF Racing Team by ACM Lamborghini in the Degner 2 gravel trap. At that point only Shaun Thong had managed to set a time, but when the action resumed it wasn’t long before the Audi Hong Kong driver was knocked down the order.
Gilbert was the first to do so but almost immediately saw his time bettered by Picariello whose 2m01.851s would remain the fastest of the weekend so far and 0.379s quicker than his OD Racing rival could manage.
Debutant Maxi Goetz was next to improve, the GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 he shares with Abbott briefly appearing in third before Cheng Congfu and Martin Rump – whose KCMG by Champion Racing Audi topped both of yesterday’s practice sessions – moved ahead. The Chinese driver ended up just 0.033s behind Gilbert, while Rump finished less than a tenth clear of fifth-placed Goetz.
Singha Plan-B Motorsport’s Kantasak Kusiri was just 0.046s behind the Mercedes-AMG and only 0.044s faster than Thong who couldn’t improve on his early time. Nick Foster looked quick before the red flag scuppered his initial run and could manage no better than eighth thereafter.
Picariello’s time aside, the battle for the top positions was incredibly close with just 0.6s covering Gilbert in second and ARN Racing’s Kota Sasaki in 12th.
KCMG claimed Am Cup honours courtesy of Takuya Shirasaka who beat David Tjiptobiantoro’s T2 Motorsports Ferrari by 0.9s.
Meanwhile, Frank Yu finally broke Taiwan Top Speed Racing’s GT4 stranglehold to claim a second class pole of the season. His best of 2m18.061s was two tenths slower than Chou had managed in Q1 but crucially 0.133s faster than Eric Lo’s time in the EKS Motorsports Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR. Ringo Chong was half-a-second further back in the HubAuto Racing entry.
This afternoon’s 60-minute race begins at 15:10 local time. Watch it live on the Blancpain GT Series Asia website and Facebook page.
Darryl O’Young, #99 Craft-Bamboo Racing Porsche 991 GT3 R: “We’ve had a tough start to the year but the team has never given up and continued working hard on every small detail, and that’s come together today. It’s actually our first pole since switching to Porsche two years ago, so that’s also special. I can’t overstate the effort that’s gone in to achieving that. The red flags made things tricky because of the tyres’ peak performance. Maybe other cars could have been quicker but I managed to string the sectors together over one lap at the right time. Tyres will also be key this afternoon. The field is so quick and you can’t afford a mistake.”
Alessio Picariello, #7 J-Fly by Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3: “I didn’t drive much yesterday so didn’t really know what to expect ahead of qualifying, especially as I hadn’t tried new tyres. It was more important for both races that Jeffrey [Lee] had plenty of track time, so taking pole has worked out surprisingly well. I knew I had to push straight away and was really on the edge pretty much everywhere out there. It’s a great result for the team – one-two-three for the start of tomorrow’s race is brilliant and of course, personally, it’s always nice to beat your team-mates…!”
George Chou, #17 Taiwan Top Speed Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR: “I know Suzuka very well so although this was my first weekend in a GT4 I got to grips with it fairly quickly. I knew it was important to nail the first lap, and it worked out exactly like that. The main thing now is ensuring the car comes back in one piece so that Keo [Chang] has a chance in his stint.”
Frank Yu, #77 Craft-Bamboo Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR: “Yesterday and this morning we used old tyres so the car wasn’t much fun to drive. Qualifying was our first chance to run new tyres, and although we knew we’d have the pace the differences are so marginal. But if it rains tomorrow, which it’s scheduled to, then pole will be even more crucial.”
SUZUKA PITSTOP SUCCESS PENALTIES (RACE 1)
10s – Abbott/Buhk – #999 GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3
07s – Lee/Thong – #5 Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3
05s – Gilbert/Patel – #86 OD Racing Audi R8 MS GT3
10s – Merlin/Yu – #77 Craft-Bamboo Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR
07s – Lo/Tong – #10 EKS Motorsports Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR
05s – Chou/Chang – #17 Taiwan Top Speed Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR
Source. SRO Motorsports Group