Published on October 22nd, 2015 | by Subhash Nair0
GT Asia Series Title Battle Ends This Weekend
After five grueling events, the 2015 GT Asia Series has come down to the wire, with four teams – all race winners this season – locked in a titanic battle for the top spot. Regardless of which team takes the crown on the series’ maiden visit to Thailand, they will be first time winners in the region’s leading GT series, highlighting just how competitive the championship has become over the last 18-months.
Currently it is Craft Bamboo Racing’s Darryl O’Young who sits on top of the points table, the experienced VLT-supported Hong Kong-based driver just four points clear of Keita Sawa and Lotus-F1 development driver Adderly Fong in the Absolute Racing Bentley, with 2014 runner-up Anthony Liu (with Davide Rizzo alongside) a further 12 points back in third.
All three teams are multiple winners in season 2015, O’Young with three wins courtesy of some outstanding support by young guns Jonathon Venter and Daniel Lloyd, whilst the Sawa/Fong and Liu/Rizzo combinations have both claimed two wins apiece.
Don’t discount the fourth-placed driver either – local hero Piti Bhirom Bhakdi – the Thai driver has enjoyed great support from the experienced Carlo Van Dam, and the pair have featured strongly all season, with Bhirom Bhakdi sitting just 32 points off the lead.. A long-shot perhaps, but Piti has been a revelation in his first full year of GT Asia, claiming an impressive win at Fuji in damp conditions in just the fifth round of the season.
You can never discount local fan support either, after all it had helped propel an emotional Keita Sawa to two victories at home in Japan, and it may well motivate Piti – who has completed a number of serious laps of the 4.554-kilometre, 12-turn Buriram International layout – to do the same in front of his loyal supporters.
The Singha Motorsport driver too will enjoy plenty of local company, and it is one of those teams that may upset the established order in GT Asia at Buriram.
A former Formula One driver, Tomas Enge has played a big role in the GT3 class of competition in the Thailand Super Series [TSS] over recent years as part of the Vattana Motorsport team. The Reiter Engineering favourite is the current GT3 pace-setter at Buriram, and the Czech driver would love nothing better than to unseat the favourites on the region’s biggest stage.
He is just one of a number of Thailand Super Series regulars who have entered the final round of the GT Asia Series, the Lamborghini driver – joined by local team-mate Narasak Ittiritpong – though is the only additional entry into the already well subscribed GT3 class. In GTM though things are different, with a number of GTM class regulars from the TSS looking to take the fight to title contenders Jerry Wang and Hisashi Kunie across the two scheduled 60-minute races including two more Bhirom Bhakdi’s in Singha liveried Ferrari 458 Challenge cars..!
From the GT Asia Series regulars, it will be difficult to choose a clear winner. O’Young has found a little something extra over the closing rounds of the season, and aided by the extremely quick Daniel Lloyd, they will be right in the mix, but so too title rivals Sawa and Fong, and if there’s one thing we know Anthony Liu will never do, that’s give up, the BBT Ferrari driver will do everything in his power to take the title.
Throw in Craft-Bamboo team-leaders Richard Lyons and Frank Yu and Clearwater’s reigning champion Mok Weng Sun who must all be due a change in fortune, the experienced Andrea Caldarelli who competed at the Thai circuit earlier in the year in SuperGT (he finished sixth), Hiroshi Hamaguchi and McLaren factory driver Alvaro Parente, and the local heroes Bhirom Bhakdi and Enge, and you have a recipe for two incredible races, and a championship title you’d be well advised to avoid placing money on.. Because it’s a long way from over!
So the equation heading into the final two races of the year is..
Darryl O’Young leads on 127 points, with the Sawa/Fong combination four points behind, whilst Liu/Rizzo are 16 points behind the leader.
With 18 points up for the win, and points paid down to just twelfth place, there is still everything to play for, and with 36 points still available across the weekend even Bhirom Bhakdi is in with a mathematical chance despite being 32 points behind. The key is finishing in the points, or better yet on the podium. Ultimately all four teams will be going after the victory, but in an interesting twist, O’Young (12-seconds), Liu/Rizzo (9-seconds) and Sawa/Fong (4-seconds), will all carry success parity penalties into their compulsory pit stop in the opening race of the weekend so will stop longer than their rivals! That could play into the equation..
That said, the O’Young/Lloyd combination carried the same penalty in race two at Shanghai, and they drove away from the field!
Gentlemen, start your engines..!