Published on October 24th, 2015 | by Subhash Nair0
The Lap Times Continue to Fall at Buriram Ahead of Qualifying
It’s perhaps no surprise that with the big prize on the line, teams have been approaching practice for the final round of the 2015 GT Asia Series in Thailand, much like they’d approach qualifying.. Fighting for every milli-second. Strategy started to creep into the equation during Friday’s three official sessions though as team’s varied their programs depending at times on what their rivals were doing – to best conceal their true pace.
Ultimately though the day went to local star Tomas Enge, the experienced Czech driver who forms the foundations of the Reiter Vattana team in Thailand rose to the top again despite immense pressure from the GT Asia Series regular, many of whom are the most talented GT3 drivers in the world.
Leading the charge early was Andrea Caldarelli, the FFF Racing team by ACM McLaren driver on top early before handing the car over to team-mate Sean Fu for valuable seat time. His team-mates too then stepped up, with McLaren factory favourite Alvaro Parente spending some time at the top, before Enge threw in a blinder late in the second session to take the fastest time for the weekend; 1:32.463. In the process the Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX driver eclipsed his own Buriram record which was set during the SuperGT event in June, 1:32.960.
Whilst Enge was quick, it was the championship rivals that most were watching from pit lane. Ultimately the pace-setting #8 Absolute Racing Bentley claimed the honours again as the fastest of the three title contenders, Fong laying down a 1:32.496, the team though spending much of their day doing long runs on old tyres to develop a baseline for the two approaching 60-minute races.
The Craft-Bamboo Aston Martins had not enjoyed the same pace as their rivals on Thursday, however both Richard Lyons and Daniel Lloyd were able to shadow their opponents through much of Friday, with Lloyd ultimately the best of the four drivers to be classified just three tenths slower than Fong, but a welcome six tenths faster than the #37 Anthony Liu/Davide Rizzo BBT Ferrari.
Ultimately it was the Ferrari’s which struggled to find the pace of their opponents for the first time this season, the battle highlighted by the fact that they filled positions nine through 13, with just three tenths of a second separating them. With practice over, it’s now down to qualifying, and the smart money at the moment would suggest that Bentley – who have all three cars in the top eight – have the pendulum swinging in their favour, but if there’s one thing you can guarantee about this season’s GT Asia Series, it’s that you can guarantee nothing. There’s still a long way to go and a lot can happen!
And whilst the outright cars battle over the GT3 Championship title, in the GTM class, points leader Jerry Wang – aided this weekend by the experience of former Audi race-winner Marchy Lee as driver coach – needs just one point to claim the 2015 GTM class title.
So far the weekend has seen the two local Singha Motorsport Ferrari 458 Challenge cars dominate the top of the timesheets, with Wang and rivals Hisashi Kunie and Dylan Derdaele not too far behind. For Kunie his only chance of victory is to win both races, whilst for Wang, he needs only finish race one, and Absolute Racing will retain the title for another year. With temperatures again expected to be clear and in the mid-30s, the heat will certainly be on at Buriram as we head towards the conclusion of the 2015 championship.