MG Choi and Manuel Metzger secured Solite Indigo Racing’s maiden Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia victories by winning the first race of last weekend’s World Challenge Asia meeting at the Chang International Circuit.
The Mercedes-AMG duo beat Absolute Racing’s Tanart Sathienthirakul and Philip Hamprecht by nine seconds thanks, in part, to the Porsche’s Success Penalty, while Weiron Tan and Martin Rump completed the podium aboard their Audi Sport Asia Team Absolute Racing R8 LMS GT3.
Choi hustled his way from seventh to second during the opening stint.
However, there was nothing he could do about Sathienthirakul who initially jumped from fourth to second before passing pole-sitter Darryl O’Young at Turn 3 on the opening lap. The gap initially remained fairly small but had opened up to six seconds by the time the Thai driver made way for Hamprecht after 30 minutes.
The duo’s 15s Pitstop Success Penalty for winning at Sepang ensured the German re-joined eight seconds behind Metzger after Choi pitted later in the 10-minute window. The gap ebbed and flowed thereafter as both encountered traffic at different points but ultimately remained almost unchanged by the time Metzger – who missed Sepang through injury – maintained his 100% podium record after also twice finishing on the rostrum at Ningbo last season.
Behind, Hamprecht saw off Rump who spent much of the second stint trying to lap Alexandre Imperatori after the Panther/AAS Motorsport Porsche was delayed early on. The Estonian, whose co-driver Tan pitted from seventh, finally elbowed his way past with less than 10 minutes remaining, by which time HubAuto Corsa’s Andre Heimgartner had made it a three-way podium scrap.
The grandstand finish never quite materialised, though, largely thanks to Hamprecht remaining just out of arm’s reach. His and Sathienthirakul’s second place sees them drop behind Choi at the top of the standings, albeit with the caveat of having a five-second shorter Pitstop Success Penalty tomorrow.
Absolute’s other Porsche driven by Jono Lester and Yuan Bo finished 10s behind the Heimgartner/Sakamoto Ferrari after the latter lost two places at the start, while VSR’s Alex Au and Frederik Schandorff completed the top-six following TSRT’s late retirement.
The Lamborghini crew also scooped Pro/Am honours ahead of T2 Motorsports’ David Tjiptobiantoro and Rio Haryanto, who finished seventh overall after starting 14th. JRM’s Li Chao and Chris van der Drift made an even better recovery from 17th to complete the top-eight.
Many of those performances partly came at the expense of both front row starters. Craft-Bamboo’s O’Young and Christina Nielsen were handed a stop/go penalty for a short pitstop, while Philip Descombes and Francis Tjia’s OpenRoad Racing Porsche faded to ninth.
Further back, Vattana Motorsport made use of their local knowledge to win the Am Cup class. Chonsawat Asavahame and Akihiro Asai came home eight seconds ahead of AMAC Motorsport’s Ben Porter and Andrew Macpherson who took second from B-Quik’s Daniel Bilski and Henk Kiks on the final lap.
In GT4, it had been a long time coming (14 races), but Craft-Bamboo’s Frank Yu and Jean-Marc Merlin finally followed up their Zhejiang victory in October 2017 with another in Buriram this afternoon by denying BMW Team Studie a third-straight win in their Mercedes AMG GT4.
In the second race of the weekend, Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak resisted late pressure from Yuan Bo to claim his and Panther/AAS Motorsport team-mate Alex Imperatori’s maiden Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia victory on home soil.
The two Porsches took the chequered flag 0.9s apart after a late Safety Car period helped Absolute Racing’s Bo close in. However, he and Jono Lester were denied a podium when their car was found to be underweight post-race.
That promoted HubAuto Corsa’s Yuya Sakamoto and Andre Heimgartner to second, while TSRT’s David Chen and Andre Couto ensured two Chinese teams finished in the top-three.
If ever there was a race of two halves then this was surely it. Craft-Bamboo’s pole-sitter Alessio Picariello had established a seven-second lead over the three-way battle for second featuring Triple Eight’s Jazeman Jaafar, Imperatori and JRM’s Chris van der Drift by the time all four pitted at mid-distance.
The two Mercedes-AMGs and two Porsches then converged once their respective Ams climbed aboard. However, AAS’s decision to pit a lap earlier meant Inthraphuvasak was up to speed by the time the others re-joined, which proved decisive when taking second from Jefri Ibrahim.
The quartet was then halved when Picariello’s co-driver Jeffrey Lee collided with Ibrahim exiting Turn 3, which sent the Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG spinning. That also left Inthraphuvasak out front ahead of a charging Bhurit Bhirombhakdi and Li Chao, whose own chances faded when the JRM Porsche stopped with little more than 10 of the 60 minutes left.
Meanwhile, Silver-graded Bo had been busy picking off the Am drivers and was up to second by the time a Safety Car period was required to deal with Chao’s stranded 911, slashing Inthraphuvasak’s lead from 10 seconds to two. Bo duly closed in on his Thai rival once racing resumed with five minutes remaining but was powerless to prevent a popular home victory.
The #912 Porsche’s subsequent exclusion handed second overall and Silver Cup honours to HubAuto Corsa’s Heimgartner and Sakamoto who, having pitted from 12th, also enjoyed a strong second stint.
It was a similar story behind for TSRT’s Audi crew of Chen and Couto who made amends for yesterday’s late retirement by scoring a deserved overall podium despite pitting from 16th. Chen took the chequered flag just 0.7s behind Sakamoto.
VSR’s Lamborghini driven by Frederik Schandorff and Alex Au came through to claim their best finish so far in fourth, while MG Choi and Manuel Metzger overcame their 15s Pitstop Success Penalty for winning yesterday’s race to follow the Huracan home. The result for Solite Indigo Racing’s Mercedes-AMG ensured five different manufacturers finished inside the top-five and that Choi retained his overall championship lead.
Singha Plan-B’s Bhirombhakdi and Kantasak Kusiri finished third in Pro/Am after beating OpenRoad Racing’s Philip Descombes and Francis Tjia to sixth overall. The Porsche finished ahead of Craft-Bamboo’s #99 Mercedes-AMG, which was handed a 40s post-race penalty for an insufficient pitstop time.
That promoted ABSSA Racing’s McLaren to eighth despite Keita Sawa’s spin on lap one, while Am Cup winners Daniel Bilski and Henk Kiks finished an impressive ninth overall in their B-Quik Audi. Absolute’s Tanart Sathienthirakul and Philip Hamprecht completed the top-10.
In GT4, BMW Team Studie’s Takayuki Kinoshita and Sunako Jukuchou took victory by only 0.4s from GTO Racing with TTR’s Tony Fong and Brian Lee who just missed out on a first series win.
Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia now moves on to Suzuka for the first of two Japanese rounds in three weekends on June 22/23.