Aditya Patel took OD Racing Team to a nine-second victory in the first round of the Blancpain GT Series Asia on Saturday, while a tense battle for second place ensued behind him.
Patel shared the No. 86 Audi R8 LMS with Mitch Gilbert, who started the 60-minute race from pole position.
Raffaele Marciello delivered an impressive performance in second place, but the GruppeM driver was unable to close the gap enough, resulting in a second-place finish for the No. 999 Mercedes-AMG GT3 which started in 22nd with Hunter Abbott at the wheel.
The safety car was brought out as soon as the green flag flew, after a crash at the start between Jun San Chen’s BMW and the Clearwater Racing McLaren 650S GT3 of Richard Wee.
The race got underway with 45 minutes remaining and Gilbert began to increase his lead at the front as the fight for second was between Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Darryl O’Young and Jules Gounon, and Marchy Lee’s Audi.
Anthony Liu had started second in the BBT Ferrari 488 GT3 but damage from a collision sent that car into the pits and down the order.
Patel took over the OD Racing car in the pit stops and had a lead of almost 19 seconds as the pit window closed with 25 minutes left to run.
Joel Camathias, now in the Craft-Bamboo Porsche 911 GT3 R taken over from Gounon, was running second, with Shaun Thong, Jesse Krohn and Raffaele Marciello completing the top five.
Soon enough, Krohn’s BMW M6 GT3 and Marciello’s Mercedes had passed Thong’s Audi, and in the final ten minutes the GruppeM driver made his way up to second.
For the remainder of the race, Marciello tried to close the near-25-second gap to Patel, and was successfully gaining on the Audi each lap but ran out of time and had to settle for second.
“It was pretty easy in the end after Mitch did the hard work early on!” commented Patel.
“I was just hoping for the car to stay together, because when you have such a comfortable lead you hear every noise it makes.
“I was in touch with my engineer who told me the pace I needed to maintain and it worked out perfectly.”
Krohn rounded out the podium in the FIST – Team AAI BMW that he had taken over from Ollie Milroy, while Jules Szymkowiak took fourth in the second GruppeM car.
While Craft-Bamboo finished down in seventh and 17th with its pair of GT3 Porsches, the Hong Kong-based team did take the GT4 honors with its No. 77 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR.
That car was driven by Frank Yu and Jean-Marc Merlin, finishing four seconds down on the EKS Motorsports Porsche running in the Invitational class.
Race 2 is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. local time on Sunday, and will once again be streamed live on the series’ YouTube channel, website and Facebook page.
RESULTS: Race 1