GruppeM Racing and Mercedes-AMG continued their winning streak by scoring GT3 and GT4 victories in Race 1 at Buriram. Patric Niederhauser and Markus Pommer overcame HubAuto Corsa and FFF Racing Team by ACM after a close fight, while Reinhold Renger claimed GT4 victory spoils after holding off an early challenge from BMW Team Studie. Starting from pole, Niederhauser overcame a tricky first lap and opened up a 3.5 second lead before the pits opened 25 minutes into the race.
Further down the grid, the top 6 swapped positions throughout the first lap and FFF Racing Team’s Dennis Lind stormed from fifth to second in the fracas. HubAuto Corsa’s Leo Ye Hongli took third and constantly threatened for the lead, while KCMG’s Edoardo Liberati pulled off a storming opening drive and ran just behind the second and third place sitters by the time pit-stops came into play. Martin Rump put his Audi in fifth before the pit-stops by passing Aditya Patel in the OD Racing R8 LMS GT3.
The running order remained largely unchanged following the pit-stop window, with one difference being that Lind’s co-driver Martin Kodric now ran significantly closer to Pommer in the #999 GruppeM Mercedes-AMG. A quicker pace was being set by the Lamborghini, and when GT4 traffic held up the leading Mercedes-AMG, Kodric pounced for an overtake. His achievement was short-lived however, as Race Control then slapped the FFF Racing Lamborghini with a 1-second stop/go penalty for undercutting its minimum pit-stop time.
Nevertheless, Pommer faced another challenge in his run to the chequered flag, with Ye’s co-driver Nick Foster reducing the Ferrari’s gap to the leader by a half-second per lap, and stayed on the leader’s tail through the race’s final 10 minutes. Pommer managed to hold on to the lead and crossed the finish line 1.4 seconds ahead of Foster. Absolute Racing’s Rump and Franky Cheng took third place after a lengthier first stint enabled them to undercut competitors; their efforts were also helped along by the Kodric/Lind penalty.
FFF Racing still had cause for celebration after taking victory in the Pro/Am class. Having started 11th overall, Hiroshi Hamaguchi pitted from seventh after enjoying successful battles with Juwon Seo and Anthony Liu. Neither he nor co-driver Marco Mapelli allowed the 5-second success penalty incurred for finishing third at Sepang to slow their progress, with the Italian driver putting up a fast stint after the stops to claim the class victory and fourth overall after holding Kodric off through the race’s closing laps.
Yuke Taniguchi and Tsugio Matsuda finished sixth after solid driving saw them take 10 places throughout the hour-long race. Mitch Gilbert and Patel’s OD Racing Audi, and the second KCMG second Nissan driven by Liberati and Florian Strauss finished seventh and eighth respectively after losing ground in the race’s second half, while Andrew Kim and Adderly Fong finished four places ahead of their starting position with the Absolute Audi. The top 10 was rounded out by Liu and Josh Burdon after their 10 second success penalty for finishing second at Sepang was taken into account. KCMG’s Takuya Shirasaka and Naoto Takeda maintained their early dominance of the Am class after beating out AMAC Motorsport’s Ben Porter and Andrew Macpherson.
In the GT4 class, an interesting battle took place between GruppeM Racing and BMW Team Studie and saw Reinhold Renger take class honors following a race fraught with incidents and penalties. During the opening stint, pole-sitter Sunako Jukuchou and Renger pulled clear of the squabbling pack and engaged in a constant duel which saw the lead swapped between them throughout the first half. Renger came out of the pits in the lead, but almost immediately experienced a spin at Turn 1. This should have handed control of the race to Jukuchou’s co-driver Takayuki Kinoshita, but a drive-through penalty for a first half Full Course Yellow infringement by the BMW Team Studie crew allowed Renger to maintain his lead and carry it through to the finish.
A stop/go penalty for the second Team Studie BMW and Kinoshita’s subsequent puncture opened the way for Frank Yu and Jean-Marc Merlin to take second for Craft-Bamboo Racing, just ahead of the JWD-Unixx Racing Team Porsche driven by Charvanin Bunditkitsada and Pitsanu Sirimongkolkasem. Brian Lee and Tony Fong took fourth place with the TTR Team SARD Cayman GT4, just ahead of Team Studie’s recovering Max Chen and Ken Urata. The top six was rounded out by Jeff Lu and Keo Chang.