Published on July 16th, 2015 | by Subhash Nair0
GT Asia Takes to Fuji Speedway
Fuji International Speedway, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan
Event#03 2015 GT Asia Series – 17-19 July, 2015
Two events into the 2015 GT Asia Series season, the championship has seen some incredible racing, with four different winners for the four rounds contested to date, including an historic first victory for Bentley in Asia three weeks ago in Okayama.
This weekend the series returns to Japan, and to Fuji International Speedway, for the third event of the season where the strongest field of cars and drivers entered all year will wage battle in the face of yet another emerging Typhoon.
12-months ago almost to a day, Typhoon Neoguri impacted the GT Asia field during unofficial practice, however qualifying and the opening race were dry, leaving Clearwater Racing’s Mok Weng Sun and Keita Sawa to claim their second win of the year, whilst race two saw the torrential rain return, with Jeffrey Lee and Audi factory favourite Christopher Mies claiming the win.
Sawa will be looking to return to the winner’s dais at Fuji, after taking Bentley to an historic maiden victory in Asia last time out at Okayama, presenting the popular Japanese driver with an emotional moment he will not soon forget. He and co-driver Adderly Fong will be keen to add another win to their seasons tally, however they won’t be the only ones in contention, as the list of challengers is seriously impressive.
Bentley factory stars Andy Soucek and Duncan Tappy return to duty alongside Jeffrey Lee and reigning GTM Class champion Jacky Yeung respectively, whilst the FFF Racing Team by ACM – who claimed their maiden victory with Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Tonio Liuzzi in race one at Okayama – will be back in force, with some new additions to the team.
That addition – Australian GT race winners Nathan Antunes and Rod Salmon – comes at the expense of Jiang Xin and Max Wiser who have moved across to the points leading Ferrari 458 Italia of the absent Anthony Liu and Davide Rizzo, the fellow Shanghai residents agreeing terms earlier in the season, leaving the FFF team with the vacancy.
Antunes is no stranger to GT Asia, having contested two events in 2014 alongside former champion Dilantha Malagamuwa, notably putting the Dilango Racing Lamborghini on the front row in qualifying at Autopolis after contesting just a single lap of qualifying. The Australian is race-fresh too, having won the most recent round of the Australian GT Championship last weekend, driving the Audi R8 of his two-time Bathurst 12-Hour winning team-mate Rod Salmon.
Whilst that combination is expected to be strong, they will be forced to battle their round three winning team-mates, with Hamaguchi proving at Okayama that he is capable of finding a little something extra on home soil, whilst former F1-star Liuzzi showed that he is starting to become a lot more comfortable with the British built supercar.
The two Australians won’t be the only new addition to the FFF Racing Team by ACM, with Andrea Caldarelli forced to sit out the round due to his Super Formula commitments in Fuji, the team drafting in fellow Super GT regular Andre Couto for the weekend.
The FFF team also has another issue to contend with after the #15 car (originally slated for Antunes and Salmon) was involved in heavy contact during unofficial practice earlier in the week, forcing the retirement of the car, Andrea Caldarelli explaining that the team had elected to transfer the Australian drivers to the #5 car, with Couto and Fu taking on a Nissan GT-R for the weekend as the McLaren was too badly damaged to effect satisfactory repairs ahead of qualifying.
Whilst the McLaren and Bentley teams will be hoping to replicate their Okayama victories, they will have their work cut out against the might of reigning champions Clearwater Racing. The Singapore-based team suffered a round ending fire during the roll-around laps for the Okayama event, with Ferrari WEC star Gianmaria Bruni and three-time champion Mok Weng Sun unable to record single championship point.
The team worked feverishly over the last three weeks to repair the #1 Ferrari, completing the task just ahead of a Fuji shakedown. Bruni’s WEC team-mate Toni Vilander will rejoin the team with whom he contested the Bathurst 12-Hour earlier in the year, and the car is back to its pristine best, and expected to be one of the leading contenders.
Despite the pace of the new Bentley and McLaren teams, and the renowned pace of the two mighty Craft-Bamboo Racing Aston Martin Vantage V12s, it is Ferrari who are expected to lead the pack at Fuji, with Mok and Vilander expected to front the charge, with Okayama podium finishers Todd Piti and Carlo Van Dam, team-mates Richie Wee and Matt Griffin, and new Ferrari recruits Xin and Wiser in the mix.
Don’t discount the others though, including the returning Philip Ma with Chinese sportscar star Ho-Pin Tung alongside. Audi won a race in the rain at Fuji last year, and Ma is no stranger to the circuit, whilst the local fans will have plenty to cheer about with former Super GT (2002) and Le Mans (1995) champion Akira Iida alongside Taiyou Iida in the Bingo Racing McLaren MP4-12C.
The GTM class too will see some hot competition, with local hero and former 500cc motorcycle star Takuma Aoki looking to add another Japanese win to his resume, the Lamborghini driver joined once more by local driver Ken Urata, the two Japanese stars expected to be amongst the top contenders at home, although the returning Taiwan Top Speed Racing Team will do their best to stall their progress.
And there’s one other very important variable which will have the engineering teams working overtime in practice at Fuji ahead of the two 60-minute races.. weather.
12-months ago it was Typhoon Neoguri that swept through the area the week prior, this time it’s Typhoon Nangka that looks set to deliver heavy rain across the early part of the event, although advanced predictions suggest that rain will ease for qualifying, and all but disappear for race two.
The event will get underway on Thursday, 16 July with two one-hour unofficial practice sessions, before official practice begins on Friday, with two 60-minute races scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. All event details will be updated regularly on the GT Asia Series Facebook page; www.facebook.com/GTAsiaSeries
Both races will be streamed via the internet through www.youtube.com/AFOSTV, please keep an eye onwww.facebook.com/GTAsiaSeries for details of viewing times.
WHO’S COMPETING IN OKAYAMA?
1. Mok Weng Sun/Toni Vilander (Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3)
5. Fu Song Yang/Andre Couto (FFF Racing Team by ACM Nissan GT-R GT3)
7. Jeffrey Lee/Andy Soucek (Bentley Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3)
8. Adderly Fong/Keita Sawa (Bentley Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3)
9. Jiang Xin/Max Wiser (Spirit of Race Ferrari 458 Italia GT3)
11. Piti Bhirom Bhakdi/Carlo Van Dam (Singha Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia GT3)
12. Richard Wee/Matt Griffin (Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3)
15. Nathan Antunes/Rod Salmon (FFF Racing Team by ACM McLaren 650S GT3)
22. Keiichi Mori/Yutaka Yamamoto (Gulf Racing JP Porsche 997 GT3-R)
24. Dilantha Malagamuwa/Kota Sasaki (Dilango Racing Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 GT3)
32. Akira Iida/Taiyou Iida (Bingo Racing McLaren MP4-12C GT3)
55. Hiroshi Hamaguchi/Tonio Liuzzi (FFF Racing Team by ACM McLaren 650S GT3)
77. Jacky Yeung/Duncan Tappy (Bentley Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3)
86. Zen Low/Fairuz Fauzy (OD Racing Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 GT3)
88. Frank Yu/Richard Lyons (Craft-Bamboo Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3)
98. Philip Ma/Ho-Pin Tung (Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra GT3)
99. Darryl O’Young/Jonathan Venter (Craft-Bamboo Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3)
20. Kimihiro Yashiro/Hasashi Kunie (Gulf Racing JP Porsche 991 GT3 Cup)
23. Jerry Wang (Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3)
34. Takuma Aoki/Ken Urata (Dilango Racing Lamborghini Gallardo LP560 GT3)
69. James Cai/Kenneth Lim (Ferrari 458 Challenge)
70. Craig Liu/Ryu Fukuda (Taiwan Top Speed Racing Ferrari 458 Challenge)
78. George Chou/Jeff Lu (Taiwan Top Speed Racing Ferrari 458 Challenge)
95. K.S. Wang/Shogo Mitsuyama (Taiwan Top Speed Racing Ferrari 458 Challenge)
The GT Asia Series is sanctioned by the FIA as an International Series and is clearly recognised as the Region’s leading GT Championship. It is jointly managed and promoted by Motorsport Asia Ltd and the Supercar Club Hong Kong and is backed by Michelin, GRAHAM London, KW Automotive, Motul, Auto Art, Race Room, Panta and SEL.
Fuji International Speedway
Oyama, Sunto District, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan (Honshu Island)
Track length: 4.563-kilometres
Lap record: 1:41.963 – Race (Rui Aguas), 1:40.966 – Qualifying (Keita Sawa)
Support classes: Super Formula (Japan)
GT Asia Series and Fuji – 2014 (6-8 July)
2014 – Rnd#5 (60-minutes – 33-laps)
1. Keita Sawa/Mok Weng Sun (Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3)
2. Rob Bell/Hiroshi Hamaguchi (Clearwater Racing McLaren MP4-12C GT3)
3. Davide Rizzo/Anthony Liu (BBT Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3)
2014 – Rnd#4 (60-minutes – 30-laps)
1. Jeffrey Lee/Christopher Mies (Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 ultra)
2. Keita Sawa/Mok Weng Sun (Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3)
3. Frank Yu/Stefan Mucke (Craft-Bamboo Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3)
Event#03 2015 GT Asia Series
Fuji International Speedway, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan
Times (JST – GMT +9)
Thursday, 16 July
10:10 – Unofficial practice #1 (60-minutes)
15:20 – Unofficial practice #2 (60-minutes)
Friday, 17 July
11:15 – Practice #1 (45-minutes)
14:35 – Practice #2 (45-minutes)
16:05 – Practice #3 – Bronze Drivers (30-minutes)
Saturday, 18 July
08:25 – Qualifying #1 (15-minutes)
08:50 – Qualifying #2 (15-minutes)
12:20 – Race#1 (60-minutes)
Sunday, 19 July
16:10 – Race#2 (60-minutes)
2015 GT Asia Series – calendar
Rnd#1/#2, 15-17 May – Korea International Circuit (South Korea)
Rnd#3/#4, 26-28 June – Okayama International Circuit (Japan)
Rnd#5/#6, 17-19 July – Fuji International Speedway (Japan)
Rnd#7, 4-6 September – Sepang International Circuit (Malaysia) – 3-Hour
Rnd#8/#9, 25-27 September – Shanghai International Circuit (China)
Rnd#10/#11, 23-25 October – Buriram International Circuit (Thailand)
NON-CHAMP, 20-22 November – Guia Circuit, Macau (MGP)