After a deeply disappointing first round in South Korea the Asian Le Mans series and all involved were hoping for better things come round 2. The draw of the historic Fuji Speedway was certainly a good start but ultimately didn’t provide the influx of entries the championship desperately needs.
Not helped in any way by the fixture clash both with the Merdeka Malaysia 12 Hours at Sepang AND the Blue Riband event of the Super GT Championship the Suzuka 1000 kms it was perhaps little surprise that the recovery in grid numbers was of distinctly modest proportions with just 7 cars initially listed and 9 eventually arriving at the track. There was at least though competition in each class.
Qualifying saw some very close times, closest of which was LMP 2 and overall pole. Ho-Pin Tung and Richard Bradley ending qualifying just one hundredth of a second apart. Bradley though took pole in the Eurasia Motorsport Oreca Nissan just edging the OAK Racing Morgan Judd.
In the CN class Craft-Bamboo went into qualifying on the back foot after an engine failure the previous day. It didn’t stop them taking pole in class though with a fairly commanding gap over the Team Avelon Formula Wolf GB08.
In GT the three cars entered by Team AAI ended qualifying less than a second apart. Top spot went to the Mercedes SLS of Takeshi Tsuchiya with the team’s BMW Z4 and Nissan GTR close behind.
Finally we had a class that hadn’t been represented at all in Korea, GT- AM. The EMPEROR Racing entered two Lamborghini Gallardo Super Trofeo machines. Max Wiser coming out on top in the battle between the team’s two cars.
Come race day a well-earned Pole position turned to dust as Bradley struggled to get the Oreca going and by the time the issue was dealt with the OAK car had a 2 lap lead. Keiko Ihara was putting in some good laps until a mistake on lap 23 saw her hit the tire wall.
With relatively minor bodywork damage Ihara got back to the pits and the car was quickly repaired but it had allowed Bradley to take the lead. It was a lead that Eurasia probably would have held on to but they were awarded a 2 minute penalty for the assistance the car needed to start on the grid. That meant that on lap 52 OAK took the lead and never looked back, taking the win by just over a lap.
In CN CRAFT-Bamboo’s Ligier never looked like they were going to be challenged for the win all three drivers regularly quicker than their competitors in the Wolf. The jewel in the crown being Mathias Beche who was 3 and a half seconds quicker than any other driver in the class.
GT was tight with AAI’s BMW and Merc swapping the top two positions all through the race in a battle that was only finally decided when the Mercedes SLS hit trouble late on and eventually retired.
GT-AM was over before it started as only one car made it to the grid. The #82 car didn’t leave the garage meaning the class pole sitting #11 car to the class win.
Next up for the series is Shanghai on October 11th, Fuji was certainly an improvement but further numbers are still required, hopefully China will oblige.
1 1 LMP2 OAK RACING TEAM TOTAL MORGAN JUDD Ho-Pin Tung, David CHENG, Keiko IHARA 105 laps 3:00’57.361
2 27 LMP2 EURASIA MOTORSPORT Oreca Nissan PU Jun Jin, John HARTSHORNE, Richard BRADLEY 104 laps
3 91 GT TEAM AAI BMW Z4 Jun San CHEN, Tatsuya TANIGAWA, Carlo van DAM 103 laps
4 92 GT TEAM AAI NISSAN GTR Morris CHEN, Ryohei SAKAGUCHI, Marco SEEFRIED 102 laps
5 77 CN CRAFT-BAMBOO RACING LIGIER JS 53 EVO Mathias BECHE, Kevin TSE, Samson CHAN 101 laps
6 21 CN TEAM AVELON FORMULA WOLF GB08 Denis LIAN, William LOK, James MITCHELL 97 laps
7 11 GT-AM THE EMPEROR RACING LAMBORGHINI GALLARDO Akihiko NAKAYA, Max WISER, Giorgio SANNA 94 laps
8 90 GT TEAM AAI MERCEDES-BENZ SLS AMG GT3 Yu Lam, Takeshi TSUCHIYA, Takamitsu MATSUI 82 laps NC