Hisamori Hayashi took the Porsche 997 GT3R of Direction Racing to claim the win in one of the most unpredictable races ever in GT Asia Series at Fuji Speedway Circuit today.
The skies opened up as the cars lined up on the grid for a group photo shoot session and pit-walkabout on the 1.5km straight making it a waiting game to decide on tyre options. The rain stopped and the sun came out with less than 20 minutes to go to the start but the track was still wet, leaving the Race Director to declare a wet race start.
Mok Weng Sun took his Ferrari 458 GT3 to a brilliant start, getting away clean from pole whilst behind him were two Porsche 997 GT3 R’s, Hisao Shigeta broke away and was driving side by side with Asia Racing Team’s Peter Li Zhi Cong when the duo touched. Shigeta spun and his race ended thereafter.
“My start was so good and at turn 1, I was supposed to take the outside line but I don’t know why I went inside and Peter hit me. But it was my fault, I was supposed to take the outside line but I took inside and broke Peter’s line,” said Shigeta regrettably after the race.
The race continued with Mok leading the pack until turn 3, when Marchy Lee in the Audi R8 LMS Ultra got the better line, took him from the inside for the lead. But just one lap later, Marchy made a mistake and spun leaving Mok, Li and Hayashi to pass before rejoining in fourth.
The pack remained the same up to the pit window when at the start of lap 7, Li overpowered Mok into turn one to take the lead. Then the trio of Li, Mok and Hayashi drove nose to tail taking backmarkers with Marchy just behind them matching their pace.
Once, Hayashi looked like he almost found a way past Mok at the start of the next lap as they passed the troubled Ford GT3 of Frank Yu, but Mok kept it cool to maintain his position right up to the pit-stop window at the start of lap 10. Li was the first of the foursome to pit leaving Mok, Hayashi and Marchy to battle it out.
Marchy made a bold move on the next lap, when he took the outside line of turn 6 and overpowering the Porsche of Hayashi. Marchy then picked up the pace and was left with a clear track ahead as Mok pit-in for fresh tyres on lap 12. There Marchy set a scorching lap before handing over the car to his teammate, Jeffrey Lee.
As all drivers completed their pit-stop, the order was restored with Li leading the race followed closely by Mok, Hayashi and Jeffrey. Then on lap 15 at turn 15, Mok was caught into a spin and touched the rear bumper of Li causing the young Chinese driver to also spin. Li managed to recover quickly but was passed by Hayashi and Jeffrey while Mok made a quick dash to the pit to check his car for damage.
Li then managed to catch up to Jeffrey and immediately claimed second while Hayashi maintained a strong pace in front to claim his first win in GT Asia Series.
“The number 9 Porsche (of Peter Li) was light and so his car was very quick before the pit-stop. After the pit-stops, I tried to overtake him and waited for a chance and I finally found it.”
“I was also just waiting for the number 1 Ferrari to attack number 9 but then both he and number 9 spun. I don’t want to say I was lucky but I finally overtook the two cars,” he said with a big smile.
“It was a very tough condition throughout the race but it was really good thanks to the Yokohama tyres, it was a very good race.”
Towards the end of the race, Hayashi just maintained his pace as his team was constantly communicating to him of the position of the cars behind, “I did not feel any pressure from the two drivers behind and just maintained my pace,” ended Hayashi.
For Li, it was his first experience at the Fuji Circuit and finishing on the podium was a good feeling. “I didn’t have much sessions to test the car and this is my first year in GT cars in the wet”.
“I didn’t have a very good start because I had a little touch with Shigeta which I spun and I had to catch up to the front. Then after three or four laps I was in second behind the Ferrari. Then after the stops, I managed to take the Ferrari and I was at the front.
“At the same time, the track was getting better, drier and I was doing faster laps. Then the last six laps, Mok touched my car a little and we both spun but I managed to rejoined in P3. Then I tried to catch up and managed to get second right at the end of the race” said Li.
“The race was good and exciting. I learnt a lot from it, especially how to handle the GT cars in the wet. The first three laps were the hardest for me as my car had a dry setup with wet traction control setup, making it quite slippery at the start” ended Li, with a tired smile.
The Audi duo of Marchy and Jeffrey Lee were satisfied with the race as they managed to prove that despite the fact that their car was not really suited for Fuji Circuit, they managed to impress everyone with their pace. “The start wasn’t too bad, I stayed on the inside line and defended from the Porsche. After the first corner I was already second then I focused on trying to pass Mok, who I found to be driving quite conservatively so I found a way pass, so I got the lead.
“Then on the second lap, I think I just pushed too much on the limit and the conditions were difficult it was still raining and the track was still wet so I made a mistake and spun. I was quite disappointed but that’s racing” said Marchy. After that, it was a game of catch up for him, pushing harder till he passed the car on to Jeffrey.
“Marchy did all the hard work so I have to thank him. The car was really good compared to yesterday so I managed to keep the pace” added Jeffrey.
Behind them Dilantha Malagamuwa managed to get a good pace after all the troubles he faced over the weekend, he passed Samson Chan towards the end of the race for fourth. “It was a pity, on the board that my team gave me, it said the car behind me, which was Dilantha, was five seconds away. But actually it was 0.5 seconds,” said Chan after the race. “But it was a good race, there was rain and then sun, it was upside down but we enjoyed it.”
Yukinori Taniguchi had to change his ECU for the Round 6 race and felt a little bit of an improvement. He was in front of the Ferrari 458 GT3 of David Lai in the first half of the race when at the pit-stops, he had trouble restarting his car and Lai passed him. “After he took me yesterday, I tried really hard to pass him today. But he was so fast on the straight, I took a lot of risk to pass him but I managed to pass him”.
Hiro Nishida took the lone BMW Z4 to cross the line in eighth ahead of the GTM drivers Wayne Shen and Francis Tjia who were in the Modena Motorsport’s Ferrari 430 GT, with Jacky Yeung taking third in the class finishing eleventh.
“It was fun. I made a last minute decision to change my setup, it worked really well and I had fun. The track was very tricky at the start but towards the end it was quite fun,” said Shen with a big smile.
“Second podium of the weekend, it was a little bit of a surprise but I am very happy with it. The start of the race was very tricky, everyone was on slicks and the track was very wet and there was a big incident on t1. I couldn’t see what was going on but all I knew was I had to go off the track onto the grass, so I lost a bunch of positions after that. Then it was just to crawl back and Wayne was too far ahead to catch. So congratulations to Wayne,” ended Tjia.
“Finally I am on the podium, I am very happy. I pushed all the way and did not make one mistake. It was perfect,” said a very happy Yeung after the race.
The wet track conditions caught Frank Yu a few times, and he spun, dropping down to the back of the grid. According to Yu earlier, the Ford GT3 of Craft Eurasia Racing is very gentle on the tyres making it very difficult for him to gain heat in the tyres. Yu persisted with the race and set the second fastest time of the day at the end of the race but only managed to finish in twelfth.
After the race, Mok was later given a 30 time added penalty for the collision with Li at turn 15 of lap 15, dropping him down the order to thirteenth.
Clifford Chen in the Ferrari 458 Challenge and Hideo Takahashi were the only two other finishers of the day, completing 20 laps in the forty minute race.
Anthony Chan’s Lotus Evora GT4 was not classified, while Hideki Onda could not start the race due to an electrical problem that would not engage the gearbox. Sasha Chu was given a black flag for not executing his pit-stop within the timeframe.
GT Asia Series continues with Round 7 & 8 at Suzuka International Circuit on 17-19 August 2012, held as part of the Super GT event.
words & pix: Motorsport Asia