A dramatic slice through the field from Marchy Lee secured third place for himself and Audi Hong Kong teammate Shaun Thong in Round 8 of Blancpain GT Series Asia. The podium finish made up somewhat for a challenging Round 7 for the Phoenix Racing Asia-serviced team in which an early puncture forced the car into the pits and out of a points-scoring finish in the misty, damp foothills of Mount Fuji, Japan.
The Audi Hong Kong pair have now consolidated second overall in the drivers’ championship on 101 points.
Just behind them on the overall leaderboard are OD Racing Team’s Aditya Patel and Mitch Gilbert, who leave the Fuji International Speedway on 77 points. The duo had a challenging weekend that saw them bring home their Absolute Racing-serviced car in eighth in Round 8 after finishing 11th in Round 7.
In Round 7, it was Davide Rizzo and Anthony Liu of BBT – racing for the first time in this series in an Audi R8 LMS GT3 – who secured the highest Audi finish in sixth, enough to see the pair climb the Pro/Am podium, second in class.
The podium was just reward for the pair who kept out of trouble in a bruising race that saw a number of Audi customer teams and drivers forced to charge through the 34-strong field from the back after spins, bumps and knocks littered the opening lap.
It was a testing weekend for the Am class leaders coming into Fuji, Naoto Takeda and Takuya Shirasaka of KCMG, who got a puncture in Round 7, finishing sixth in class, and whose Round 8 was cut short with a mechanical issue. They now sit second in class on 101 points overall, just 11 points from the top.
Lee had qualified in second place in Saturday morning’s first qualifying session, losing out on pole position on the very last lap of the session. From this starting position, the Hong Kong star flew off the line as the lights went green on the rolling start, and looked to have just stolen a march on his rivals as the cars hurtled three-abreast into turn one.
Unfortunately for Lee, he was trapped, wheel-to-wheel, in the centre of the three, forcing the Hong Kong star wide into turn two and eventually into the pits with a punctured tyre.
Further back, fellow championship hopeful Patel spun on lap one, falling from ninth to 29th place.
Anthony Liu benefited from the chaos of the opening laps, keeping his BBT car out of trouble, jumping from a starting position of 10th to fifth place at the mid-race driver change. Teammate Davide Rizzo went on to bring the car across the line in sixth overall, second in the Pro/Am class.
Despite a valiant fight through the field from both Patel and Gilbert, the OD Racing pair finished out of the points in 11th, closely followed by J-Fly by Absolute Racing’s Jeffrey Lee and Alessio Picariello, with Thong bringing the Audi Hong Kong car home in 17th.
A mechanical issue ended the race of Alex Yoong and Alex Au of Team Audi R8 LMS Cup with just under half the race to go, while contact forced Rick Yoon’s KGMG by Champion Racing Team car out of the race in the opening laps ending his and teammate Martin Rump’s race.
Yoong lined up for Round 8 in third place and held position off the start of the 60-minute race. The Malaysian then closed in on second place, pilling pressure onto the competitor ahead. Alex Au took over at the driver change, and eventually crossed the line in ninth, one place behind Patel and Gilbert’s OD Racing Team car.
Cheng Congfu of Milestone Racing was the big mover of the first stint, up four places to tenth at the driver change where he handed the reins to Sun Jingzu.
Unfortunately, with 20 minutes on the clock, Picariello, running sixth and showing great pace, had lost power and was forced into the pits, ending the race for him and J-Fly by Absolute Racing teammate Jeffrey Lee.
Thong who had started the race in fifth, jumped a place to fourth on turn one. However, the 21 year-old lost the place over the ensuing stint, handing his car over to Lee in fifth.
Emerging from the pits after the driver change, Lee, not for the first time in this series, was on the charge. First he capitalised on a mistake by Alex Au to get by him into fourth, then, with 19 minutes to go, gained two places in one explosive lap, taking him up to second, where he set about reeling in the car ahead.
Gaining almost a second a lap on the race-leader, Lee became embroiled in a fight with the car behind, slowing his charge to the flag. Lee eventually lost his position with just two minutes of the race to go, crossing the line in third overall.
Rounds 9 and 10 of Blancpain GT Series Asia take place on September 24 and 25 at the Shanghai Audi International Circuit, China.
Blancpain GT Series Asia 2017
6. 37/Anthony Liu/Davide Rizzo/BBT/1:01:53.447
11. 86/Aditya Patel/Mitch Gilbert/OD Racing Team/1:02:08.989
12. 7/Jeffrey Lee/Alessio Picariello/J-Fly by Absolute Racing/1:02:11.398
16. 13/Jingzu Sun/Franky Cheng/Milestone Racing/1:02:44.182
17. 5/Marchy Lee/Shaun Thong/Audi Hong Kong/1:02:53.766
30. 19/Naoto Takeda/Takuya Shirasaka/KCMG/1:03:14.766
DNF. 6/Alex Au/Alex Yoong/Audi R8 LMS Cup
DNF. 18/Rick Yoon/Martin Rump/KCMG by Champion Racing
3. 5/Marchy Lee/Shaun Thong/Audi Hong Kong/1:00:19.778
8. 86/Aditya Patel/Mitch Gilbert/OD Racing Team/1:00:33.957
9. 6/Alex Au/Alex Yoong/Audi R8 LMS Cup/1:00:41.127
13. 37/Anthony Liu/Davide Rizzo/BBT/1:00:56.578
16. 18/Rick Yoon/Martin Rump/KCMG by Champion Racing/1:01:17.041
17. 13/Jingzu Sun/Franky Cheng/Milestone Racing/1:01:29.885
DNF. 7/Jeffrey Lee/Alessio Picariello/J-Fly by Absolute Racing
DNF. 19/Naoto Takeda/Takuya Shirasaka/KCMG