OD Racing’s Aditya Patel and Mitchell Gilbert will be aiming to maintain their championship lead and early-season form when Blancpain GT Series Asia’s inaugural campaign continues at Chang International Circuit in Thailand this weekend (May 20/21).
Standing in their way are the 21 other GT3 entries, as well as five GT4 cars, contesting rounds three and four at Buriram. The 12-turn, 4.554km circuit – Thailand’s first FIA Grade 1 motorsport venue – was only completed in 2014 and prepares to welcome a joint GT3/GT4 championship for the very first time.
Patel and Gilbert made history at Sepang by becoming Blancpain GT Series Asia’s first-ever race winners, and will be eager to continue that form this weekend. The Audi crew enjoy a healthy 13-point lead atop the GT3 standings after overturning a 10-second pitstop success penalty – imposed for winning the opener – to also finish as runners-up in Malaysia’s second race.
“I have raced at Buriram before,” says Mitch. “Last season in Porsche Carrera Cup Asia. It wasn’t my best weekend, but I’m feeling a lot more confident this year when I jump in the car. I’m just excited for Aditya and I to go back out on track as a team and do the best job we can. I expect the Audi to be strong in the twisty bits and on the brakes into Turn 2. But [Anthony] Liu and [Davide] Rizzo’s Ferrari will be hard to beat, as well as the two Mercedes-AMGs, but we are up for the challenge. Finally, OD Racing has a strong fanbase in Thailand, so I’m hoping we can put on a good show for our fans and guests, and show them how good Blancpain GT Series Asia is, plus us at OD Racing of course!”
Their biggest threat could once again come from GruppeM Motorsport whose two Mercedes-AMG GT3s lie second and fifth in the Drivers’ standings. Raffaele Marciello starred at Sepang as super-sub for full-season driver Maxi Buhk who joins Hunter Abbott for the first time aboard the #999 entry this weekend. Two storming recovery drives helped Abbott finish second and fourth in Malaysia, and with no pitstop success penalty hanging over the crew another strong result should be expected in Race 1.
Anthony Liu and Davide Rizzo claimed a dominant victory in Race 2 at Sepang but are only joint-third in the standings – 18 points behind Patel and Gilbert – after their Ferrari suffered a DNF in the weekend’s opening race. BBT’s drivers must now overcome the maximum 10-second pitstop success penalty at Buriram if they’re to score heavily once again.
Joining them and Patel/Gilbert in Buriram’s Race 1 pitstop success penalty bracket are Marchy Lee and Shaun Thong Wei Fung. The Audi Hong Kong duo, whose consistent approach at Sepang helped them score the same points as Liu and Rizzo, must remain stationary for an additional five seconds during their mandatory driver change.
Elsewhere, GruppeM’s second crew of Tim Sugden and Jules Szymkowiak lie fifth in the points, while the likes of Alex Yoong and Martin Rump – both of whom recently enjoyed strong starts to their Audi R8 LMS Cup campaigns – will be hoping to bounce back from a promising but ultimately luckless initial Blancpain GT Series Asia outing.
Thailand boasts a rich motorsport history and no less than seven of its drivers will be on Blancpain GT Series Asia’s grid this weekend. The single-event entries of Singha Motorsport Team Thailand’s Voravud Bhirombhakdi and Singha Plan-B Motorsport’s Bhurit Bhirombhakdi and Kantasak Kusiri were announced last week, but they’re also joined by Et Cola Thailand’s Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak who shares a Porsche 991 GT3 R with France’s Maxime Jousse.
Sarun Sereethoranakul, Naiyanobh Bhirombhakdi and Sandy Stuvik complete this weekend’s Thai contingent.
Meanwhile, the all-Porsche GT4 class proved incredibly competitive in Sepang, and there’s no reason to expect anything less this weekend. Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Jean Marc Merlin and Frank Yu, and EKS Motorsports’ Eric Lo and Byron Tong scored a victory and second place apiece to leave both crews tied at the top of the Drivers’ standings heading to Thailand.
Ringo Chong and Alan Yeo completed both Sepang podiums, but they’ll need to finish in the top-two this weekend if they’re to become serious championship contenders, while the likes of Jeremy Wang and Keo Chang, and Tony Fong and Terence Tse will be eager to score their maiden Blancpain GT Series Asia rostrum.
Catch this weekend’s races live on the Blancpain GT Series Asia Facebook page and SRO’s GT World Youtube channel.
PITSTOP SUCCESS PENALTIES – RACE 1
10s – #37 BBT Ferrari 488 GT3 – Liu/Rizzo
07s – #86 OD Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 – Patel/Gilbert
05s – #5 Audi Hong Kong Audi R8 LMS GT3 – Lee/Thong
10s – #10 EKS Motorsports Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR – Tong/Lo
07s – #77 Craft-Bamboo Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR – Merlin/Yu
05s – #89 HubAuto Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR – Yeo/Chong