Published on July 19th, 2015 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
GT Asia Series – 17-19 July,Fuji International Speedway, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan
With the threat of a Typhoon imminent ahead of opening practice, there was always some question about whether the GT Asia Series round at Fuji International Speedway would see any dry running, however during the second official practice session the skies cleared long enough for the standing GT3 lap records to be shattered, comfortably!
Ultimately the second official 45-minute session saw a battle that better reflected a sprint race than a practice session, with all the leading teams battling on track for the top spot, every one of them opting for the control Michelin slick for the first time in three days!
In the end the standing qualifying lap record was broken six times, with Ferrari’s Carlo Van Dam locked in an epic battle with factory Ferrari WEC star Toni Vilander, experienced Fuji competitor Richard Lyons, team-mate Jonathan Venter and Bentley stars Keita Sawa and Duncan Tappy.
After torrential rain impacted much of Thursday’s unofficial program, teams were more concerned about their wet weather tyre pool and having enough for the race weekend with advanced predictions suggesting it could be wet through until Monday, but all that was soon forgotten as the drizzle stopped and the circuit started to dry towards the end of session one.
That session saw Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Richard Lyons on top, the Super GT ‘veteran’ setting a best of 1:41.345, just half a second shy of Keita Sawa’s 2014 pole time, the Irishman almost a second clear of Vilander who had set the pace early in the session, before handing the #1 car across to reigning champion Mok Weng Sun.
Okayama winner Keita Sawa was next in the Absolute Racing Bentley Continental, the Japanese star just marginally clear of the rapid Max Wiser, the Italian and co-driver Jiang Xin having taken over the reigns of the points leading Spirit of Race Ferrari in the absence of Anthony Liu and Davide Rizzo.
Impressively for the team too, the car had started the session in a three-way battle for the top spot with the Clearwater Ferrari and Van Dam in the TP12 Racing entry, Wiser explaining that it wasn’t him behind the wheel, such was the comfort the Chinese driver was feeling in the naturally aspirated Ferrari. The Bronze Driver’s session at the end of the day only reinforced Xin’s pace, the red and yellow Ferrari setting the second fastest time overall..
Session two though was where the action was, the drying circuit seeing an amazing battle between Van Dam, Vilander, Lyons, Tappy and Matt Griffin.
Sadly we were robbed of a three-car Bentley assault on the front of the field after the #7 J-Fly Bentley suffered an unusual brake issue which saw the talented Soucek forced to drive with no front brakes. The team worked feverishly to resolve the issue, but were unable to uncover the problem ahead of the final two sessions, making life a little challenging in the conditions for 2014 Fuji race winner Jeffrey Lee.
Vilander set the early pace, breaking Sawa’s 2014 qualifying record of 1:40.966 in his second flying lap, but very quickly Lyons, Tappy, Sawa, Venter and the rapid Carlo Van Dam were within reach, Van Dam ultimately topping the timesheets with a best of 1:39.808 after Vilander hit the pits to hand the #1 car over to team-mate Mok.
In the end, Vilander’s time dropped to just fifth fastest with the top six covered by three quarters of a second, Craft-Bamboo’s impressive Jonathan Venter just shadowing the WEC star in sixth place.
Behind them came Matt Griffin, the equally impressive Max Wiser and Kota Sasaki in Dilantha Malagamuwa’s Lamborghini, the Super GT veteran leap-frogging former F1 star Tonio Liuzzi and the ailing Andy Soucek late in the session.
Another former F1 driver was on top in the GTM class, with returning local hero Ryo Fukuda putting the Taiwan Top Speed Racing Ferrari 458 Challenge to the top of the timesheets, his 1:45.691 quicker than Satoshi Hoshino’s 2014 pole time.
Not so lucky was former Japanese 500cc and Superbike star Takuma Aoki, the former Fuji race winner languishing towards the tail of the field in the Dilango Racing GTM class car, admitting that the car was suffering from a handling issue that was limiting the pace of the Gallardo LP560, something co-driver Ken Urata confirmed.
Rnd#5/6 – 2015 GT Asia Series, Fuji International Speedway, Japan
Combined times official practice (17 July, 2015)
- 11. Piti Bhirom Bhakdi/Carlo Van Dam (Singha Ferrari 458) – 1:39.808R [P2]
- 88. Frank Yu/Richard Lyons (Craft-Bamboo Aston Martin) – 1:40.030 [P2]
- 77. Jacky Yeung/Duncan Tappy (Absolute Bentley Continental) - 1:40.217 [P2]
- 8. Adderly Fong/Keita Sawa (Absolute Bentley GT3) – 1:40.369 [P2]
- 1. Mok Weng Sun/Toni Vilander (Clearwater Racing Ferrari) – 1:40.571 [P2]
- 99. Darryl O’Young/Jonathan Venter (Craft-Bamboo Aston) – 1:40.711 [P2]
- 12. Richard Wee/Matt Griffin (Clearwater Racing Ferrari) – 1:41.019 [P2]
- 9. Jiang Xin/Max Wiser (Spirit of Race Ferrari 458 GT3) – 1:41.099 [P2]
- 24. Malagamuwa/Kota Sasaki (Dilango Gallardo FL2 GT3) – 1:41.331 [P2]
- 55. Hamaguchi/Tonio Liuzzi (FFF Racing McLaren GT3) – 1:41.545 [P2]
- 7. Jeffrey Lee/Andy Soucek (Absolute Bentley GT3) - 1:41.548 [P2]
- 86. Zen Low/Fairuz Fauzy (OD Racing Gallardo GT3) - 1:41.613 [P2]
- 32. Akira Iida/Taiyou Iida (Bingo Racing McLaren MP4-12C GT3) – 1:41.720 [P2]
- 5. Fu Song Yang/Andre Couto (FFF Racing Nissan GT-R) – 1:41.878 [P2]
- 98. Philip Ma/Ho-Pin Tung (Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra) – 1:42.120 [P2]
- 15. Rod Salmon/ Nathan Antunes (FFF Racing McLaren 650S) – 1:42.213 [P2]
- 70. Craig Liu/Ryu Fukuda (Taiwan Top Speed Ferrari Challenge)* – 1:45.691 [P2]
- 95. K.S. Wang/Mitsuyama (Taiwan Top Speed Ferrari Challenge)* – 1:45.986 [P2]
- 69. James Cai/Kenneth Lim (Ferrari 458 Challenge)* – 1:46.969 [P2]
- 78. George Chou/Jeff Lu (Taiwan Top Speed Ferrari 458)* – 1:47.418 [P2]
- 20. Kimihiro Yashiro/Hasashi Kunie (Gulf JP Porsche GT3 Cup)* – 1:47.543 [P2]
- 23. Jerry Wang (Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3)* – 1:48.430 [P2]
- 22. Keiichi Mori/Yutaka Yamamoto (Gulf JP Porsche GT3-R) – 1:49.366 [P2]
- 34. Takuma Aoki/Ken Urata (Dilango Gallardo FL2 GT3)* – 1:50.860 [P3]