GruppeM Racing duo Maxi Buhk and Hunter Abbott overcame a pitstop success penalty to claim victory in Blancpain GT Series Asia’s second hour-long race of the weekend at Fuji Speedway on Sunday, extending Abbott’s championship lead.
The No. 999 Mercedes-AMG GT3 lined up second but had taken a lead it wouldn’t relinquish by the time the 34-strong field rounded Turn 1.
Buhk then spent the opening laps nursing cold tyres before beginning to edge clear once they were fully up to temperature.
Pole-man Max Wiser kept the German honest early on but his mirrors were soon full of Alex Yoong’s Audi which spent the first 15 minutes glued to the Spirit of Race Ferrari’s tail.
The Malaysian briefly took second at Turn 1 but out-braked himself and slotted back into third, which became fourth by the end of the stint thanks to a charging Aguas.
Indeed, the Portuguese driver starred in the first 30 minutes. From eleventh position at the end of lap one, he had soon carved his way back up the order before passing Yoong and then team-mate Wiser in quick succession ahead of the pit window opening.
Buhk’s lead over the Ferrari had grown to 11 seconds before pitting just as the 10-minute window closed. That was ample to negate the five-second penalty he and Abbott had incurred for finishing third in Saturday’s race, and the Briton duly rejoined seven seconds clear.
A slower pitstop for Aguas, who stopped the lap before Buhk, briefly dropped co-driver Mastronardi to fourth behind team-mate Jiang Xin and Marchy Lee, who nipped through as the Ferrari exited the pits.
However, Jiang soon fell behind both drivers, which set up a fantastic nose-to-tail battle between Audi and Ferrari over the final 20 minutes.
While Abbott’s lead fluctuated between five and seven seconds, the chasing pair were never separated by more than a car’s length as time and again Mastronardi looked to slipstream Lee down the start/finish straight and into Turn 1.
Finally, and with just two minutes left on the clock, the Italian forced his way down the inside at Turn 13 to decisively take a second place he wouldn’t lose.
This weekend’s results have helped Abbott extend his overall championship advantage to 33 points over Lee and Thong. He’s also 75 ahead of Aguas in the Pro/Am standings.
Meanwhile, Lee and Thong lead Patel and Gilbert by 37 in the Silver Cup classification, and Teo Bee Tat and Tjiptobiantoro have replaced Naoto Takeda and Takuya Shirasaka at the top of the Am Cup table.
In GT4, Clearwater Racing doubled up to sweep the weekend on its debut in the class. Mok Weng Sun lined up on pole and maintained the lead before establishing a half-minute advantage ahead of the pit window.
Co-driver Richard Wee then climbed aboard and set fastest lap en route to a regulation win on the McLaren 570S GT4’s first weekend in Asia.
Behind, the battle between the class’ Porsche contingent raged all race long. EKS Motorsports’ Eric Lo maintained second throughout the opening stint despite pressure from Craft-Bamboo’s Jean-Marc Merlin and Ringo Chong (HubAuto Racing). The positions turned full circle after the stops, though, when Chong’s co-driver Zang Kan passed both Frank Yu – in for Merlin – and Byron Tong.
Yu ultimately claimed the final podium spot ahead of Tong, which handed the Craft-Bamboo crew a narrow three-point championship lead over their EKS rivals.
RESULTS: Race 2