As GT Asia gets to the business end of the season the championship’s second visit to Sepang promised yet another keenly contested weekend.
Despite a number of cars having shown good pace intermittently throughout the season the championship appeared to be narrowing down to 5 contenders. The Clearwater McLaren of Hamaguchi and Bell and their teammates in the team’s lead Ferrari 458, Sawa and Mok, had been battling it out at the top of the table for the last few rounds. However well within touching distance was the BBT Ferrari of Liu and Rizzo who were looking for more of the same at Sepang having picked up two podiums last time out. Also well within reach of top spot were two Aston Martin drivers, Frank Yu, who has been sharing his CRAFT Bamboo car with multiple drivers this season and Massimiliano Wiser who had also been sharing his NB Team Aston Martin.
Come qualifying it was definitely the Ferrari teams on top. The qualifying for race 1 saw Clearwater racing’s second Ferrari take pole and the Sawa/Mok car 2nd with Stefan Mucke getting Yu’s Aston Martin up to 3rd on the grid.
Qualifying for race 2 saw another Ferrari on pole. The BBT car of Rizzo and Liu leading the way with the NB Team Aston Martin 2nd and a fantastic qualifying for the Dilango Racing Lamborghini in 3rd.
Sawa made his move early on teammate Alessandro Guidi getting past and in to the lead after the 2nd corner. Rui Aguas followed Sawa through and demoted to Guidi to 3rd. With all three pushing hard Aguas had a dive up the inside of Sawa leaving Sawa no other choice than to give him space. However what Sawa hadn’t seen was Teammate Guidi attempting to pass him on the outside. The two touched but thankfully without any major damage or delay.
Guidi fell back a little and was taken by Mucke in the lead CRAFT Bamboo Aston Martin and fell back further into the clutches of Bjorn Wirdheim’s Mercedes SLS. Guidi and Wirdheim continued a ding dong battle for a number of laps brushing doors on a number of occasions until inevitably something had to give and the two came together a little harder. The upshot of the coming together being a 30 second penalty for the Ferrari and body damage and a deflated tire for the Mercedes forcing Wirdheim to pit early and leave the car out of contention.
As the compulsory pit stop window came and went Aguas had handed the Ferrari over to Muzayyin in the lead but Mok was chasing him down in the Clearwater car. Mok’s pace was too much and he eventually took the lead without too much resistance. A late push from Liu in the BBT Ferrari threatened to make it a grandstand finish but he fell just short, the gap at the line just 5 seconds.
So Mok and Sawa took the win and a precious 18 points in the race for the championship. Rizzo and Liu kept up the pressure with a solid 2nd and the NB Team Aston Martin remained in the hunt with a very creditable 3rd. The Bell/Hamaguchi McLaren, which was struggling in Malaysia, the twin turbo car struggling in the heat, managed a damage limiting 4th.
The 2nd race of the weekend was all about tire choice and penalties. Heavy rain had fallen right up until the race but the track was drying quickly. This gave the teams a real headache on tire choice. The grid was allowed a sighter lap to judge which tire to use and they were split in their choice. Some went for a wet tire and others for slicks.
At the race start those who had chosen wets certainly had the advantage with Pole sitting Anthony Liu held his lead despite the Aston Martin of Max Wiser and the Lamborghini pushing hard behind. The cars on wets knew their advantage would not last and knew they had to make the most of it. Knowing that, coupled with some very tentative driving from the cars on slicks made for a tense first half of the race.
The first major casualty was race 1 winner Mok Weng Sun. In attempting to avoid a slower car Mok lost the rear end and went off backwards and was very lucky not to damage the car too much. He was able to carry on but had dropped well back.
As the pit stops approached the cars on slicks were catching those on wets hand over fist. Frank Yu who had started the CRAFT Bamboo Aston Martin was using the extra pace to good effect and two laps before the pit window took the lead from Liu. Max Wiser followed Yu through to make it an Aston Martin 1-2 going into the pit stops.
As the pack shuffled after the pit stops Mucke emerged up top by some margin and was pushing hard to increase the gap. Behind him there was a three way battle for 2nd between the NB Team Aston Martin, the Clearwater Ferrari of Guidi and the BBT Ferrari of Rizzo.
It was a battle that lasted much of the 2nd half of the race and ended with Rizzo taking the honours for 2nd and Guidi managing 3rd.
However post-race there were a number of penalties applied notably to the 1st and 2nd placed cars. The CRAFT Bamboo car had crossed the line 20 seconds ahead of Rizzo but was awarded a 30 second penalty for not having all four tires on the car 5 minutes prior to the start. This would have awarded the win to Rizzo and Liu but they too were penalised for too many people working on the car at their pit stop. So after the penalties were applied the Clearwater racing Ferrari 458 of Alessandro Guidi and Richard Wee had taken the win.
The NB Team Aston Martin took 2nd after the penalties were awarded and the CRAFT Bamboo car, which had dominated, had to make do with 3rd. Richard Mies had another storming stint to bring the leading Absolute Audi R8 home in 4th and behind him were three of the title contenders. The demoted Rizzo/liu BBT car in 5th, a great recovery drive from Sawa saw 2nd Clearwater Ferrari finish 6th and another damage limitation drive from Bell and Hamaguchi saw them bring the McLaren home in 7th.
Race 1 had seen Jacky Yeung and Marchy Lee take the win in their Audi R8 ahead of the Aoki/Urata Lamborghini and the Fjordbach/Chou Ferrari.
Race 2 saw another impressive performance from Wayne Shen on his own winning in his Porsche 997 cup, followed home by Aoki and Urata’s Lambo and Chou and Fjordbach’s Ferrari.
So going into the final three races of the season there are only 19 points between the top 4 cars and with 18 points up for grabs for a win the next two races at Shanghai could provide us with a championship winner but it is far more likely it will go to the wire at Macau in November.
Bell/Hamaguchi Clearwater McLaren 127
Sawa/Mok Clearwater Ferrari 125
Rizzo/Liu BBT Ferrari 119
Yu Craft Bamboo Aston Martin 108
Wiser NB Team Aston Martin 96