GruppeM Make It Two For Two At Blancpain GT Series Asia 2018 Sepang Race 2

GT3: Silver Arrow dominance

Following on from its strong third place podium finish in Race 1, GruppeM Racing’s #888 Mercedes-AMG GT3 proved victorious in the weekend’s final race, with fast stints by Bosi and Marciello securing a 26.6 second win for the Silver Arrow over the #37 Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 driven by Anthony Liu and Josh Burdon. With both cars having set impressive qualifying laps to sit on pole, Marciello pulled out a strong start into Turn 1 and never looked back. Already on a 3 second advantage by the second lap, the Italian stretched this to an impressive 12 seconds once pit stops opened 25 minutes into the race – more than enough to account for the 5-second pitstop success penalty incurred for their third place finish in Race 1. Marciello grew the gap even further before pitting near the end of the window, granting Bosi a solid 14 second lead when re-joining the race. He in turn maintained the lead all the way to the chequered flag.

As for the #37 Audi, Burdon put in a solid drive to stay ahead of Tsugio Matsuda’s #18 KCMG GT-R NISMO GT3 and pulled out a 2 second advantage before they entered the pits, enabling Liu to re-join in second and maintain position until the finish line. Following the pit stops, the Nissan was in turn overtaken by the #63 FFF Racing Team by ACM Lamborghini Huracan GT3. Acclaimed Lamborghini Factory Driver Marco Mapelli drove a strong first stint and took the Huracan all the way from ninth to fifth place on the first lap itself, and pitted later to gain valuable ground. His co-driver Hiroshi Hamaguchi then took on the task of maintaining third ahead of the quickest Silver Cup cars, putting in a solid defensive drive and keeping the #27 HubAuto Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 and #3 Absolute Racing Audi at bay. Against the odds, the Japanese driver crossed the finish line third overall and completed a clean podium sweep by the Pro/Am drivers.

After some necessary evasive action dropped him from fourth to sixteenth overall, Absolute Racing’s Martin Rump staged an impressive charging drive through the field in the #3 Audi and helped Franky Cheng finish back up in fourth. Indeed the Chinese driver put in some solid driving of his own, finishing barely 0.4 seconds behind Hamaguchi just a tenth ahead of Ye in the #27 Ferrari. Dennis Lind and Martin Kodric brought the #19 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini home in sixth, being hampered by the 10-second success penalty incurred by their Race 1 second place finish, while the #18 KCMG GT-R driven by Tsugio Matsuda and Yuke Taniguchi came seventh.

Adderly Fong and Andrew Kim’s #7 Absolute Racing Audi and the #23 KCMG Nissan driven by Edoardo Liberati and Florian Strauss finished eight and ninth respectively. Aditya Patel and Mitch Gilbert had better fortunes compared to Race 1, managing to finish in the top 10 and score some points with the #86 OD Racing Team WRT R8 LMS GT3. Things weren’t so rosy for Race 1’s winners Nico Bastian and Patric Niederhauser, with their GruppeM Mercedes-AMG GT3 having to retire after sustaining some damage on lap 1.

GT4: Close finish for the top two

Ringo Chong and Gilles Vannelet took the top spot in GT4 from lights to flag with the #72 Team iRace.Win Mercedes-AMG GT4, following a tense race with both the #666 GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 and #81 BMW Team Studie M4 GT4. The 3 cars had an action-packed opening stint; Vannelet initially held pole position but was soon being hounded by Reinhold’s #666 AMG GT4 and Sunako Jukuchou in the #81 M4 GT4. GruppeM’s Mercedes-AMG managed to take the lead, though Reinhold wasn’t able to build a gap big enough to negate their 15-second success penalty for topping the GT4 class in Race 1. Vannelet had to account for a smaller 5-second success penalty, and handed over to Chong who eventually came under pressure from Takayuki Kinoshita’s charge with the #81 M4 GT4 in the closing stages of the race.

Hailing from Singapore, Ringo put in an impressive drive and held the lead right to the end, though his gap to the #81 BMW Team Studie car was just 0.150 seconds at the finish line. There was some contact between Kinoshita and Race 1’s class winner Russell Ward, ultimately this denied the GruppeM Racing GT4 pair another opportunity to vie for the top spot. Reigning GT4 champions Frank Yu and Marc Merlin took fourth with the #77 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR, somewhat handicapped by the 10-second success penalty incurred for their second place finish in Race 1. Fifth place went to the #82 BMW Team Studie M4 GT4 driven by Max Chen and Ken Urata.

The 2018 Blancpain GT Series Asia heads to Thailand’s Chang International Circuit next, with Races 3 and 4 taking place on the 12-13th of May.