Published on October 21st, 2016 | by Amirul Mukminin0
Dramatic Qualifying Session at Shanghai Sets Up Stunning Title Decider
The 2016 GT Asia Series draws to it’s dramatic conclusion tomorrow (Thursday, 20 October) at Shanghai in China with the running of the ‘GT Asia Series Shang Peng Race of Shanghai’, two final 60-minute races to round out what has been aptly described as an epic season, and if qualifying is any indication, the championship will reach a fitting conclusion..
Contesting a two-day, mid-week format due to a late date change forced upon the region’s leading GT championship, teams faced two 90-minute practice sessions ahead of the two 15-minute qualifiers, but no sooner had the sun risen on the Shanghai Circuit, than light rain began to fall, providing teams with more than enough headaches across the entire day.
Ultimately rain and showers fell for much of the afternoon, but not before clearing long enough late in practice two to provide Bentley Team Absolute’s Duncan Tappy with a window to smash the qualifying lap record established by Alex Yoong in August.
Sadly the rain began to fall again ahead of qualifying, intensifying through both 15-minute sessions to impact the dry running order with dramatic effect.
Ultimately Alex Yoong claimed the top spot again in qualifying #1, and whilst points leader Edoardo Liberati languished back in seventh place, title rival Davide Rizzo concluded the session just 23 one thousandths behind Yoong to claim a front row start for the opening 60-minute race.
Liberati’s FFF Racing Team by ACM team-mate Andrea Amici was able to extract something a little extra in the second qualifier to grab the top spot in the dying stages from Rizzo’s team-mate Anthony Liu – this time the margin of difference.. 55 one thousandths of a second – providing the local BBT Ferrari team with two front row starts to conclude the season.
With more rain predicted for race day, and concern within the ranks of the #55 Lamborghini team that their pace may not be quick enough in wet conditions, the scene is set for yet another dramatic conclusion to a GT Asia Series season, a season decider you will not want to miss..!
After dawning with overcast skies, light misty rain fell ahead of the opening practice session, but despite the setback, teams were able to complete valuable laps, recording some impressive lap times in the testing conditions. Ultimately the first session fell the way of Shang Peng Racing’s Richard Lyons, the experienced Ulsterman the pace-setter for much of the session in the #88 Porsche before a late session flyer by Adderly Fong closed the gap to just four tenths of a second.
During session two the track began to dry, teams swapping mid session from their control Michelin wets to the S9L slick with the times dropping dramatically over the closing laps. Ultimately it was Englishman Duncan Tappy who made the best of the conditions, with a string of laps under Alex Yoong’s qualifying lap record from August, the Bentley Team Absolute driver ultimately setting a new benchmark on his final flying lap – 2:05.024.. almost a second under the Audi’s drivers round nine qualifying pace.
To be fair conditions were almost perfect. Ambient temperature, and therefore track temperatures were well down on August, whilst the rain had cleaned the track surface nicely, the fresh Michelin rubber going down onto the track surface providing teams with a great foundation from which to attack.. but then the rain began to fall once more as teams prepared for qualifying.
Almost all had been lulled into a false sense of security with predictions that there would be little or no rain falling at all during the day, so many went to their dry weather setups.. in fact, almost everyone assembled on the grid went to slick tyres ahead of the first 15-minute session, but without exception, all were quickly back down pit lane for wets.
Ultimately it was Yoong who once more extracted the best from the #6 Phoenix Racing Asia Audi, the Malaysian taking the top spot from early pace-setter Richard Lyons late in the session with a best of 2:17.715, but he was forced to endure some anxious moments late in the session as BBT’s Davide Rizzo turned in two blinding laps to fall just 23 one thousandths of a second short.
The Malaysian was ecstatic, whilst Craft-Bamboo Racing also rejoiced, 2015 GT Asia Series champion Darryl O’Young putting in one of his best drives of the season to be fourth to join team-mate Richard Lyons on the second row for the penultimate round of the season.
Whilst the BBT team were celebrating their front row start and a significant psychological advantage over the two young points leading Italians, in the FFF Racing camp, there were some long faces looking for answers on how to extract some more pace from the two Roger Dubuis Huracan GT3s, with Marco Mapelli just fifth on debut, whilst Liberati could extract only the seventh fastest time.
Splitting them was the leading Bentley of Adderly Fong, the best of the ‘British’ brigade, Fong’s pace though reflective of all three Bentleys, although the classification of the #9 team was perhaps an unfair assessment of the true pace of Duncan Tappy, the Englishman sidelined with a technical issue which ultimately kept team-mate Vutthikorn from setting a meaningful time.
Just ten minutes after the close of the opening qualifier, teams were back on track for Q2, but facing a heavier downpour than the first session forcing a change in approach for many as they looked to find an advantage for the final round of the season.
Two-time 2016 race winner and outside title chance Marchy Lee was immediately fast, but just as quick was local hero Anthony Liu, the Chinese driver showing again just how fast he can be at home in changeable conditions to set the quickest time, before title rival Amici in the #55 Lamborghini jumped to the top with a best of 2:19.071.
Liu had one final opportunity, the BBT Ferrari driver setting the fastest two opening sectors of the session before losing some valuable tenths of a second in the ‘Parabolica’ to fall just 55 one thousandths short of the top spot but the lap had been good enough to lock out the second FFF Lamborghini and secure a second front row start.
Lee’s pace secured him a third-placed start, whilst August race two pole-sitter Jeroen Mul made it two black Lamborghinis on the first two rows.
Keita Sawa went on maximum attack in the dying stages of the session to bring the #8 Bentley into contention, whilst Chao Li drove brilliantly in the GruppeM Racing Porsche to claim a sixth placed starting position ahead of Audis Alex Au and Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Frank Yu.
With predictions of ongoing showers and rain for the Shanghai circuit ahead of the final two races of the season, there will be no shortage of action on track, and with two 60-minute compulsory pit stop races scheduled to close out the season, the action will be electric.. don’t miss it!