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 on Saturday despite a slow puncture that threatened to derail the latter’s title hopes.
The Korean team’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 finished just 0.5 seconds 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.
Points’ leader Tanart Sathienthirakul led away from pole but ran wide at Turn 1, which allowed fellow front row starter Choi to nip down the inside. His Thai rival gave chase initially before falling back into the clutches of Seefried.
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 0.8 seconds clear for much of the final 15 minutes.
Just half-a-second separated them at the finish.
Sakamoto took the checkered flag 0.9 seconds 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.
In GT4, David Pun enjoyed a dream series debut by claiming victory alongside Craft-Bamboo co-driver Jean-Marc Merlin.
Their Mercedes-AMG finished 1.7 seconds ahead of championship leaders Sunako Jukuchou and Takayuki Kinoshita of BMW Team Studie.
RESULTS: Race 1