Published on May 16th, 2015 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
GT Asia Series – 15-17 May, 2015, Korea
You don’t win championships without picking up a thing or two about strategy, so whilst Clearwater Racing were quick through unofficial practice, they left the spotlight to long-time rivals Craft-Bamboo Racing, focusing instead on getting three-time GT Asia Series champion Mok Weng Sun comfortable in the #1 Ferrari.
That strategy followed through to the first official timed session of the season, but by the fifth session of the weekend they let their international signing James Calado ‘off the hook’ the Englishman setting a blistering pace to cut three tenths of a second off Richard Lyons record-breaking best on Thursday afternoon to reset the unofficial GT3 lap record around the 5.615-kilometre Yeongam circuit.
To that point things had become really interesting with the top ten teams covered by just over nine tenths of a second, on a circuit that took more than two minutes to complete. It was an impressive start.
Just as impressive was the pace of the ‘gentleman’ drivers, who despite the tag indicating a part-time driver, are in many cases old hands in GT Asia, two of the best – Mok and Craft-Bamboo’s Frank Yu turning in sub-2:10 lap times to be just three seconds slower a lap than the professional drivers.
Ultimately, Calado – one of Ferrarri’s World Endurance Championship stars – raised the bar to a new level in the final practice session for the ‘Pro’ drivers, three tenths under Lyon’s best from the morning session, although part of the reason the Craft-Bamboo regular was unable to improve their benchmark time, was a rare technical issue with the #88 Interush Aston.
“We had an issue with first gear during the final few laps of the session, so we thought we’d take the safe option and remove the gearbox from the car,” Yu explained.
“It doesn’t appear to be anything too drastic, and we have a spare, so the team will change it overnight.”
For three-time champions Clearwater Racing, there were not too many displays of emotion after claiming the top spot, the experienced GT campaigners understanding that practice still means little, although you could sense that they were working to a program. For Mok he was happy to have improved on his 2014 Yeongam performance, admitting that perhaps the early pace of team-mate Richie Wee gave him a little extra motivation..
OD Racing’s Fairuz Fauzy continued to impress during the two official practice sessions to be fifth fastest overall for the day, immediately ahead of two Absolute Racing Bentleys and all three FFF Racing Team by ACM McLarens.
“We’re still working on that setup, but we’re not quite there yet,” McLaren star Andrea Caldarelli admitted. All three McLaren’s were in the hunt, with the Italian leading the charge in eighth, just half a second from the second row of the grid where British Bentley recruit Duncan Tappy had put the new Jacky Yeung Absolute Bentley.
All three Bentley’s were in the top ten, with Adderly Fong and Keita Sawa narrowly clear of team-mate Jean Karl Vernay in the J-Fly Racing Bentley of Jeffrey Lee.
Typically the drivers were a little frustrated to be further down the grid, however a look at the times suggested that there was nothing wrong with their pace. Such is the depth of competition this year that the difference between the second row of the grid and the sixth can be as little as half a second, prompting some seriously competitive laps.
“Just a tenth through each slow speed corner, or even the fast flowing corners over 18 turns and more than five and a half kilometres amounts to three or four rows on the grid, it’s just that competitive,” Lotus F1 development driver Adderly Fong admitted.
“The car is fantastic to drive, but it doesn’t give the sense of speed that say an Audi R8 provides, mostly because of the sound and the revs. It doesn’t rev as high as an Audi V10, which gives you the impression you’re not traveling as fast. The balance is the one thing that has impressed me, despite being a big front engined car, it actually has a front-rear weight balance very similar to a mid-engined car, so it’s performance characteristics really aren’t that different.”
Whilst the ‘pro’ drivers were more than comfortable to push the big Bentley, Jeffrey Lee and Jacky Yeung were still coming to grips with the twin-turbo V8, which for them was markedly different to the Audi R8s they had been campaigning over recent seasons.
Sadly for them too, the scheduled final session of the day was allocated to the ‘Am’ drivers which is when the rain started to fall, so whilst they all ventured out, there wasn’t an opportunity for them to gain valuable additional seat time on a dry circuit ahead of the two one-hour races to come.
“We’ll get there,” Jacky Yeung admitted with his wide trademark smile. “Yes it’s new, yes it’s different, but it’s also enjoyable, and I’m already learning a lot from my team-mate Duncan Tappy who has been very fast all weekend.”
With practice now completed Saturday is when the action begins with two 15-minute qualifying sessions (one for each driver), and the opening race of the 2015 season.
Rnd#1 2015 GT Asia Series
Korea International Circuit, South Korea
Combined times official practice (15 May, 2015)
1. 1. Mok Weng Sun/James Calado (Clearwater Racing Ferrari) – 2:06.396 [P2]
2. 88. Frank Yu/Richard Lyons (Craft-Bamboo Aston Martin) – 2:06.865 [P1]
3. 77. Jacky Yeung/Duncan Tappy (Absolute Bentley Continental) - 2:07.233 [P2]
4. 99. Darryl O’Young/Jonathan Venter (Craft-Bamboo Aston) – 2:07.463 [P1]
5. 86. Zen Low/Fairuz Fauzy (OD Racing Gallardo GT3) - 2:07.499 [P2]
6. 37. Anthony Liu/Davide Rizzo (BBT Team Ferrari 458 GT3) – 2:07.679 [P2]
7. 8. Adderly Fong/Keita Sawa (Absolute Bentley GT3) – 2:07.694 [P2]
8. 5. Fu Song Yang/Andrea Caldarelli (FFF Racing McLaren) – 2:07.746 [P2]
9. 7. Jeffrey Lee/Jean-Karl Vernay (Absolute Bentley GT3) - 2:07.793 [P2]
10. 12. Richard Wee/Craig Baird (Clearwater Racing Ferrari) – 2:07.830 [P2]
11. 55. Hamaguchi/Tonio Liuzzi (FFF Racing McLaren GT3) – 2:08.182 [P1]
12. 11. Piti Bhirom Bhakdi/Naoki Yokomizo (Singha Ferrari 458) – 2:08.315 [P2]
13. 9. Jiang Xin/Max Wiser (FFF Racing McLaren 650S GT3) – 2:08.510 [P2]
14. 22. Shouta Hanaoka/Kimihiro Yashiro (Gulf JPPorsche GT3-R) – 2:12.412 [P2]
15. 23. Jerry Wang (Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3)* – 2:19.554 [P1]
16. 20. Keiichi Mori/Hisashi Kunie (Gulf JP Porsche GT3 Cup) – 2:21.237 [P2]