GruppeM Racing’s Hunter Abbott and Maxi Goetz starred in Blancpain GT Series Asia’s second race of the weekend at Suzuka earlier today to claim a seven-second victory over Vincenzo Sospiri Racing’s Sandy Stuvik and Nicolas Costa, who charged through from 14th on the grid to finish second ahead of J-Fly by Absolute Racing’s Jeffrey Lee and Alessio Picariello.
Meanwhile, an eventful GT4 race eventually fell the way of Taiwan Top Speed Racing’s George Chou and Keo Chang who took full advantage of HubAuto Racing’s penalty to add a victory to yesterday’s second-place finish.
“I hadn’t driven the Mercedes-AMG in the wet before so I took things steady on my out-lap,” said Abbott after the win. “The car felt amazing, and especially considering we’d just stuck some wet tyres on without prior testing. It was awesome, actually. Suzuka is a legendary circuit so to claim a win here feels really special.”
This morning’s 60-minute encounter offered GruppeM’s #999 crew an opportunity to make amends for yesterday’s last lap contact that dropped their Mercedes-AMG from a potential podium to seventh. And the Anglo-German duo did exactly that courtesy of two accomplished stints.
Following an aborted start the race began with cars running slick tyres on an increasingly damp track. Goetz, who lined up fifth, judged the uncertain grip levels to perfection and had picked up two places before the Safety Car was required at the end of lap one while Massimiliano Wiser’s Spirit of Race Ferrari was removed from the Esses tyre wall.
A Full Course Yellow was then called soon after racing resumed when the worsening conditions accounted for Martin Rump’s Audi. Indeed, much of the opening 20 minutes were lost to cautions before the action resumed in earnest, and when it did Goetz continued his charge by claiming second from Mitch Gilbert’s OD Racing Audi.
He then set off after pole-sitter Picariello who’d already survived one scare after running wide at Turn 1. The pair were nose-to-tail before the pit window opened on 25 minutes when J-Fly by Absolute Racing opted to swap onto wet weather tyres at the first opportunity. GruppeM’s Mercedes-AMG followed suit shortly after, and emerged from the pit cycle with Abbott just ahead of fellow Amateur Jeffrey Lee.
OD Racing’s early stop had also brought Mitchell’s co-driver Aditya Patel into play, and the Silver-graded driver wasted no time moving his way past both Lee and Abbott. However, with his lead steadily growing, the Indian suffered a spectacular tyre blow-out along Suzuka’s start/finish straight with 15 minutes remaining, which put an end to his and Mitchell’s challenge.
That left Abbott with a four-second lead over Lee, while the second GruppeM Mercedes-AMG driven by Tim Sugden was up to third thanks to co-driver Jules Szymkowiak’s rapid opening stint that saw the Dutch driver move from 13th to fourth.
However, an even bigger comeback was unfolding further back courtesy of Vincenzo Sospiri Racing’s Silver Cup crew, Sandy Stuvik and Nicolas Costa. The latter, contesting his very first GT3 race, lined up 14th but had picked his way through to seventh by the time his Thai co-driver climbed aboard. The Lamborghini Huracan works well in the wet, which Stuvik perfectly demonstrated in his pursuit of the leaders. As the rain worsened, so he hunted down and passed both Sugden and Lee on one lap, although there was no time to catch Abbott.
Lee held on to the final podium place but only after two frantic final laps that saw both Darryl O’Young’s Craft-Bamboo Racing Porsche and the FFF Racing Team by ACM Lamborghini driven by Aidan Read charge into contention. Both passed Sugden who held on to finish just ahead of Spirit of Race’s Francisco Guedes.
Craft-Bamboo’s second Porsche, which finished runner-up in yesterday’s race, looked like a top-five contender early on but dropped back as a result of its seven-second pitstop success penalty. Nick Foster and Devon Modell nevertheless claimed eighth ahead of Alex Au and Alex Yoong’s Audi R8 LMS Cup entry, which recovered from an unscheduled early pitstop.
Am Cup honours once again went to X-One Motorsports’ Andrew Haryanto and Samson Chan. Their Lamborghini finished an excellent 10th overall and 23sec ahead of class rivals Greg Teo Bee Tat and David Tjiptobiantoro (T2 Motorsports). FFF Racing Team by ACM’s Zhu Junhan and Lin Yue completed the podium.
Audi Hong Kong’s Marchy Lee and Shaun Thong had taken the championship lead with victory in the weekend’s opening race but endured a torrid Sunday to record no points for 14th overall. Thong ran fifth early on but was shuffled back when the FCY came to an end before his R8 LMS GT3 ended up in Turn 1’s gravel. A resulting puncture only compounded the crew’s misery.
That, plus the #999 Mercedes-AMG’s victory, sees Abbott re-take the championship lead just as the season reaches its halfway mark. The British driver now heads Lee and Thong by eight points, while Mitchell and Patel remain third, albeit 21 points shy of top spot.
In GT4 Taiwan Top Speed Racing’s George Chou and Keo Chang missed out on victory by only a lap-and-a-half in Race 1 but made amends by winning winning the second encounter.
Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Frank Yu led away from Pole and opted to stay out until the end of the pit window. However, a 10sec pitstop success penalty dropped co-driver Jean-Marc Merlin down to fourth before a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane effectively ended their challenge.
EKS Motorsports’ Eric Lo had tracked Yu during the opening stint, but it was HubAuto Racing’s Porsche that claimed the lead after the driver changes. However, a pitstop time infringement resulted in Ringo Chong and Masahiko Ida incurring a drive-through penalty, which initially gifted Lo’s co-driver Byron Tong the lead.
But there was no stopping Chou’s charging Taiwan Top Speed Racing Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR which ultimately came through to claim victory after a particularly eye-catching final stint in the worst of the weather conditions.
Lo and Tong continue to lead the standings but they’re now just four points ahead of Chang, while Merlin and Yu find themselves two more behind.
Blancpain GT Series Asia returns to Japan in two months’ time on August 19/20 for rounds seven and eight at Fuji Speedway.
Photo courtesy of Blancpain GT Series Asia