Published on November 23rd, 2015 | by Subhash Nair0
Engel Claims Back-to-back Victories at Macau
Just as the qualifying race was full of drama and intrigue, so too the ‘main event’ at Macau, the inaugural FIA GT World Cup was a race of challenges that concluded with a red flag and a blocked circuit, the event classified four laps short of its proposed race distance but with an emphatic back-to-back victory for Maro Engel and Mercedes Benz. Off pole position Engel was beaten into turn one by arch-rival Edoardo Mortara – the Audi driver perhaps anticipating a repeat of the Mercedes driver’s start in 2014 – although his anticipation ultimately led to his downfall, the Italian penalised ten seconds post race, dropping him off the podium and down to sixth place.
For Engel though, no such dramas, the German was through on Mortara by Mandarin corner (turn two) with team-mate Renger van der Zande tucked under his rear wing, the power of the mighty 6.3-litre Mercedes V8 overcoming the drive of the Audi to be first and second by Lisboa (turn three) with Stefan Mucke through to third by turn four, taking advantage of the demise of team-mate Richard Lyons. The GT Asia Series front-runner had made a blistering start from the third row and was looking for a way around Mortara and Rast into Lisboa, but was hit from behind by FFF Racing Team by ACM star Kevin Estre, who in turn was hit by Earl Bamber, forcing all three into retirement as a result.
Behind the leaders GT Asia Series champion Darryl O’Young and 2015 title rival Keita Sawa made solid starts to be holding down seventh and eighth, with former round winners Marchy Lee and Pasin Lathouras completing the top ten.
From there it was relatively processional until lap 12 when van der Zande was tapped in the rear by Mucke at the Melco hairpin as the duo negotiated one of the slower Porsches who was gathering himself up after a moment on the exit. That forced the bodywork onto the left rear tyre, creating a heavy plume of white smoke as the Dutchman started down the hill towards the end of the lap.
By Lisboa, the two Audis made a move as Mucke – who had been locked under the rear wing of the #2 SLS – tried to take a run down the outside of van der Zande, the Craft-Bamboo driver though forced back to fifth as first Mortara and then Rast made their way down the inside, taking the Mercedes at turn four in the process. Mucke ultimately made it through on the run up to San Francisco, as van der Zande did what he could to carry on despite the mounting damage to his left-rear Pirelli.
Whilst the Audis and Mucke battled with van der Zande, up front Engel stretched his lead out to more than eight seconds, but just a lap later his advantage was negated after Vuttikhorn went into the barriers on top of the hill, blocking much of the circuit. As the field circulated behind the safety car, a second incident involving John Shen and a number of the GT Asia Series regulars blocked the track at Moorish Hill, the race director having little choice but to red flag and ultimately declare the race, much to the pleasure of the #1 Mercedes driver.
Mortara was initially classified second with team-mate Rene Rast third, the two Audi drivers taking to the podium with Engel, before Mortara was handed his ten second penalty for jumping the start. That elevated Stefan Mucke to third, the German though lamenting what could well have been another great 2015 victory for the Craft-Bamboo Racing team.
Van der Zande held on for fifth at the flag, but was ultimately promoted to fourth with Mortara’s penalty, whilst reigning GT Asia Series champion Darryl O’Young was fifth. FFF Racing’s Alvaro Parente was seventh, the McLaren GT factory favourite admitting that he just couldn’t take the fight to the leaders.
Former GT Asia Series front-runner Marchy Lee was eighth on his debut with the new Audi R8 LMS, just clear of 2015 GT Asia Series runner-up Keita Sawa. Pasin Lathouras crossed the line in tenth position, whilst for Andre Couto, his tough weekend in the FFF McLaren came to a premature end after throttle failure on top of the hill on the final competitive lap, the local hero hit by Jacky Yeung in the #77 Bentley.
The FFF team admitted that Couto had lost all power on the run up San Francisco and had no throttle, coming to a stop with no way of moving, much to the frustration of Yeung who himself was having a solid run despite having been out of the seat for almost four months. Ultimately though Couto was credited with 11th place after officials declared the race at 14-laps, with the circuit blocked at Moorish Hill, whilst GT Asia regulars Jeffrey Lee, Mok Weng Sun, John Shen, Philip Ma and Yeung were classified in positions 12 through 16.
Gulf Racing JP Porsche star Dylan Dedaele was a late race casualty, the Belgian GT star and GT Asia Series GTM class round winner stopping at Lisboa with a suspected driveline failure after just seven laps. Whilst Derdaele failed to finish, he at least made a start, unlike Bentley’s Adderly Fong who was forced to endure the race from pit lane after his #8 Absolute Racing Bentley Continental was withdrawn on Saturday night thanks to contact with the barriers during the qualifying race.
For many of the GT Asia Series regulars, Macau represents the end of the season, with a long break until the opening round of the 2016 season, which is expected to begin in April. Keep an eye on the GT Asia Series website – www.gtasiaseries.com – and the Facebook page; www.facebook.com/GTAsiaSeries for details of the new calendar which will be released very soon.