Manuel Metzger and MG Choi claimed theirs and Solite Indigo Racing’s second Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia victories of the season at Fuji Speedway this afternoon despite a slow puncture that threatened to derail the latter’s title hopes.
The Korean team’s Mercedes-AMG finished just 0.5s ahead of Audi Sport Asia Team Absolute’s Weiron Tan and Martin Rump who chased down Metzger during the second stint. Yuya Sakamoto and Marco Seefried completed the podium aboard their HubAuto Corsa Ferrari.
In GT4, David Pun enjoyed a dream Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia debut by claiming victory alongside Craft-Bamboo co-driver Jean-Marc Merlin. Their Mercedes-AMG finished 1.7s ahead of championship leaders Sunako Jukuchou and Takayuki Kinoshita (BMW Team Studie), while Ringo Chong and Setiawan Santoso battled through from seventh to complete the podium for Team iRace.Win.
GT3: INDIGO BACK ON TOP
The first of this weekend’s two 60-minute races in the shadow of Mount Fuji saw 2019’s top-three title protagonists going toe-to-toe along with a potential outsider.
Points’ leader Tanart Sathienthirakul led away from pole but ran wide at Turn 1, which allowed fellow front row starter MG Choi to nip down the inside. His Thai rival gave chase initially before falling back into the clutches of Marco Seefried who had been drafted in to partner championship candidate Yuya Sakamoto.
The gaps between the top-three cars remained fairly steady throughout the opening stint until Choi’s pace suddenly dropped just before the pit window opened after 25 minutes. The Korean later revealed a slow puncture had become a cause for concern halfway through his stint but it wasn’t until the closing moments that Sathienthirakul was able to pass.
Naturally, Choi pitted at his first opportunity while both the Absolute Racing Porsche and HubAuto Ferrari continued. That decision actually played into Indigo’s hands, with Metzger able to lap faster on fresh rubber than his rivals who’d opted to stay out. That, allied to Sathienthirakul and Philip Hamprecht serving a five-second Pitstop Success Penalty, resulted in the Mercedes-AMG vaulting back into the lead after the stops had shaken out.
Behind, Weiron Tan’s quick opening stint pushed Absolute’s best-placed Audi from seventh to fourth and within striking distance of the leaders, which helped co-driver Martin Rump immediately inherit third from Hamprecht after the stops. However, the Estonian wasn’t finished and soon dispatched Seefried’s co-driver, Sakamoto.
Catching Metzger proved reasonably straightforward, too. The problem was finding a way around the Mercedes-AMG, which remained 0.8s clear for much of the final 15 minutes. Just half-a-second separated them at the finish.
Sakamoto took the chequered flag 0.9s further back after reeling in Rump, while Hamprecht finished a lonely fourth. However, he and Sathienthirakul will be content to see their main championship rivals serving 15 and five-second Success Penalties tomorrow while they race handicap-free.
TSRT enjoyed another strong run to fifth after David Chen made amends for a difficult start by battling back into contention. Indeed, the Chinese driver set the fastest time of anyone before the pitstops where he handed the Audi over to new co-driver Rahel Frey.
She just held off Yuta Kamimura’s charging ARN Porsche, which won the Pro/Am class thanks to the pace of Hiroaki Nagai who kept class rivals Piti Bhirombhakdi and Alex Au at arm’s length during a mighty impressive opening stint. Their respective ABSSA and VSR co-drivers Keita Sawa and Frederik Schandorff finished seventh and ninth overall after Absolute’s other Porsche shared by Yuan Bo and Leo Ye Hongli split the McLaren and Lamborghini.
David Tjiptobiantoro and Rio Haryanto completed the top-10 in their T2 Motorsports Ferrari.
Behind, Triple Eight’s Jazeman Jaafar set fastest lap en route to 11th, while Ben Porter and Andrew Macpherson scored their second Am Cup victory of the season with AMAC Motorsport.
But there was disappointment for Pro/Am championship leader and overall title protagonist Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak whose Panther/AAS Motorsport Porsche was forced to retire with a broken bonnet that prevented the Thai driver from seeing out of his windscreen.
GT4: DREAM START FOR PUN
Craft-Bamboo returned to winning ways at Fuji where debutant David Pun and former champion Jean-Marc Merlin beat BMW Team Studie’s Sunako Jukuchou and Takayuki Kinoshita in a straight shootout.
Kinoshita converted pole into an early lead but was unable to build the 10s gap over Merlin that would have negated the difference between each crew’s Pitstop Success Penalties.
Instead, the Mercedes-AMG emerged ahead of the M4. And although Jukuchou did close in on Pun, Craft-Bamboo’s lead was never under serious threat.
Behind, Ringo Chong picked up four places in the early stages to hand iRace.Win’s Mercedes-AMG over to Setiawan Santoso in third. The crew weren’t close enough to take advantage of Craft-Bamboo and Team Studie’s respective five and 15s Success Penalties but did enjoy a relatively trouble-free run to the final podium spot.
Keo Chang and Joe Chi made it an iRace.Win three-four ahead of Birth Racing Project’s Kouichi Okumura and Daisuke Yamawaki.
This weekend’s second hour-long race starts at 13:05 JST (GMT +9) on Sunday.
Unrestricted live coverage of races one and two plus qualifying is available on www.gt-world-challenge-asia.com this weekend, while the same coverage will be streamed live on the championship’s Facebook page and SRO’s GT World Youtube channel.
Elsewhere, Chinese fans can watch both races with Mandarin commentary live on native streaming platforms such as YouKu, Huya and Douyu.
Press release Blancpain GT Asia