Published on September 24th, 2015 | by Subhash Nair0
The 2015 GT Asia Series title is on the line in Shanghai
It’s easy to use rhetoric to describe a season as the ‘best on record’, however the 2015 GT Asia Series is fast becoming just that, with three world-class teams battling for the title as we turn to Shanghai in China for the penultimate round of the season.
Just three weeks ago we were in Malaysia for the inaugural Sepang 3-Hour where the season’s opening round winners Anthony Liu and Davide Rizzo claimed their second win of the year, and with it, second in the championship race, just two points in arrears of Bentley’s Keita Sawa and Adderly Fong, and only two points clear of Darryl O’Young.
It may be an ominous sign, but the standout GT Asia Series performers at Shanghai 12-months ago were local heroes Liu and Rizzo, the pair taking a pole apiece in qualifying against some of the hottest GT3 drivers on the planet, and the opening round win – if not for an argument over real estate in the opening laps of race two, a battle won by heavyweight debutante Bentley – the duo may have won both races AND gone on to win the championship.
For their title rivals, this weekend also presents ‘double the trouble’, with the #37 BBT team joined by fellow Shanghai residents Max Wiser and Jiang Xin in a second Ferrari 458 Italia, the pair having campaigned the red and yellow ‘Spirit of Race’ Ferrari during the Fuji round in the absence of the BBT pair, recording an impressive podium result on their Ferrari debut. 12-months ago the local pairing were also big trouble for their rivals at home, and armed with their own 458, they could claim valuable championship points to assist their team-mates’ title aspirations this weekend.
There will be plenty of challengers though. Don’t discount the Craft-Bamboo Racing Aston Martin team. They’ve been right at the pointy end of the field all season, with both cars showing considerable pace, however it has been the #99 VLT entry of Darryl O’Young and Jonathon Venter who were best able to convert their pace into results, whilst team-boss Frank Yu and Richard Lyons were often caught out in on-track battles which forced them to forgo valuable championship points.
Sadly for the #99 team though, they lost young Australian Venter due to a cycling accident whilst training ahead of Sepang, forcing them to adopt fellow Aston Martin Academy graduate Daniel Lloyd, the team though hardly missing a beat in Malaysia with Lloyd helping O’Young to the team’s third Motul pole for the year, and an impressive third placed finish on his debut.
Whilst the pace of the Aston is sure to apply pressure to the fleet of Ferraris, there are no shortage of ‘Maranello machines’ that will figure at the pointy end of the field. Arguably the local BBT team will start event favourites, but keep a close eye on the #1 Clearwater Racing Ferrari of reigning champion Mok Weng Sun with WEC Ferrari factory favourite James Calado alongside, and round five winners Carlo Van Dam and Piti Bhirom Bhakdi.
Bentley will again prove to be a threat with the points leading #8 Continental GT3 of Sawa and Fong likely to be right in the mix, whilst the Absolute Bentley team’s second and third cars are also likely to be quick. M-Sport factory favourite Andy Meyrick will be back alongside Jeffrey Lee in the #7 J-Fly machine, whilst Duncan Tappy will once more handle the ‘Pro’ leg of the #77 JV Global car, although for the first time, without Jacky Yeung.
South Korean amateur driver Andrew Kim will take the reigning GTM class champions seat for China, with Yeung committed elsewhere with family this weekend, leaving his Audi R8 LMS Cup rival to take his place. Based on Kim’s performance in the one-make Audi series, he will be one to keep an eye on this weekend and could surprise some of the other ‘Am’ drivers with his pace.
And if you think that’s recipe enough to keep you glued to your monitors and TV screens, don’t forget the three car FFF Racing Team by ACM McLaren operation.
They’ve had a mixed season to date, but already have a round win on the board for Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Tonio Liuzzi. This weekend though that dynamic duo will be separated, with Liuzzi jumping across to the #5 car alongside the returning Fu Songyang, whilst Hamaguchi will be joined by Portugese McLaren factory driver Alvaro Parente in the #55 car.
The third car will once more be piloted by Australian drivers Nathan Antunes and Rod Salmon, the duo lining up for their third event of the season and looking forward to a strong run in the cooler conditions of Shanghai after the heat-wave they faced at Sepang three weeks ago.
Whilst there is any number of combinations that can emerge victorious this weekend in the outright GT3 division, the battle for GTM class honours is just as hot, although with victory at the double-points scoring event at Sepang, Absolute Racing’s Jerry Wang has extended his advantage to a comfortable 24 points over Gulf Racing JP driver Hisashi Kunie ahead of this weekend.
At Sepang Wang employed the services of Australian GT3 star Warren Luff to assist him in the three-hour battle of endurance, but at Shanghai the Hong Kong Audi driver has elected to go it alone, whilst Kunie once more lines up with Belgian GT ace Dylan Derdaele alongside in an effort to have the Japanese Porsche team claim valuable points from the Absolute Racing Audi ahead of the showdown for the title in Thailand.
The weekend is sure to present just the kind of action that we’ve come to expect from the GT Asia Series regulars this year, however before the weekend has started, the event has been hampered by a delay which has ultimately forced the cancellation of unofficial practice.