Published on June 6th, 2014 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
Dilango Racing Emotional At Autopolis Circuit Japan
Rising Australian star Nathan Antunes has experienced the full range of emotions during his GT Asia Series debut for the Dilango Racing Lamborghini team at the Autopolis circuit in Japan, from qualifying fastest in Q2 to watching the car he shared with former champion Dilantha Malagamuwa go up in flames during the ‘warm-up’ lap for the second 50-minute race.
“I don’t know where to start,” he shrugged post event on reviewing his whirlwind visit to the southern Japanese island of Kyushu.
“From where we started Thursday practice with the Gallardo FL2, to where we were in Q2 was a big step for the team and testament to the hard work they put in across the weekend, so to finish the event with two DNFs was devastating, but I guess, that’s motor racing.”
During Thursday’s two unofficial practice sessions Antunes worked tirelessly with the Dilango Racing team to improve the FL2, in the process assisting Malagamuwa with improving his speed, the Lamborghini classified 13th fastest in the 28-car field after the two 90-minute ‘unofficial’ sessions, Antunes improving again after Friday’s two sessions to gain more than a second on the field, although he was still classified P13.
“There’s a lot of work to do yet,” the former international Red Bull star admitted on Friday night. “This is a technically challenging circuit with the fast changes of direction, 19 corners and changes in elevation. Mechanical and aero grip play a big part in the speed of the car. We’re getting closer, but I think we need to do something a little bit ‘left-field’ for qualifying.”
Malagamuwa – by virtue of being entered first for the event – qualified the car in the ‘Pro’ driver’s session, whilst Antunes was scheduled for Q2. The Sri Lankan driver found more than a second during his session, the team making some minor modifications ahead of Antunes’ run. Due to the nature of the circuit, traffic would play a big part in the qualifying time, with overtaking opportunities limited, so finding a ‘clear’ lap was vital. Antunes planned just one lap, and the young Australian called on all his experience as a driver to jump to the top of the timesheets, more than a second clear of the field. Ultimately he was pushed back to second after points leader Anthony Liu in the Ferrari 458 went faster in the dying stages of the session to drop the big blue Lamborghini back to second.
“I knew I had one chance, so I put everything into it,” Antunes explained afterwards. “I was only ever going to do one quick lap to make sure that I didn’t put too much pressure on the tyres and give Dilantha the car back with good rubber underneath him for the first race.”
Starting from the seventh row of the grid, Dilantha started strongly and managed to stay out of trouble on the opening lap, picking up a position in the melee that saw the Nissan GT-R come together with one of the Audi R8s. Settling into 12th, the team prepared for Dilantha’s compulsory pit stop, although they took a little time to convince the team-leader to pit.. despite the fact that he was now circulating behind the Safety Car after one of the Aston Martin’s stopped on track.
“The race restarted without dramas but because of a little pit lane confusion Dilantha came in two laps too late according to our strategy,” Antunes confirmed. “That meant I had less time to claw back the leaders when I got into the car.
“My pace was really good. My first flying lap was two seconds faster than anyone else on the track. The way it was looking we were heading for a podium position and an excellent result for Dilango Racing and Lamborghini.