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GT World Challenge Asia

Liu, Picariello Take Points Lead With Fuji Victory

Porsche squads Absolute Racing and Origine Racing share victories amid mixed conditions at Fuji Speedway…

Photo: Absolute Racing

Absolute Racing duo Anthony Liu and Alessio Picariello took the Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia powered by AWS championship lead with a victory in mixed conditions in last weekend’s third round of the season at Fuji Speedway.

A win in Sunday’s second race combined with a fifth-place finish in Saturday’s opener aboard the No. 1 Porsche 911 GT3 R have put Liu and Picariello two points clear of Origine Motorsport pair Yuan Bo and Leo Ye Hongli at the halfway point of the season.

Amid persistent rain and fog at Fuji, it was Am driver Liu that made the difference for Absolute in Race 2, as he quickly climbed from sixth to second after a safety car restart having taken over from Picariello at the pit stops.

Liu was then able to pass the No. 30 Craft-Bamboo Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo of Cao Qi for the lead moments before a full-course yellow, going on to take his and Picariello’s first win of the season by only 1.221 seconds.

Cao withstood pressure from the Phantom Global Racing-run FAW Audi Sport Asia Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II of Franky Cheng in the closing stages to secure second for himself and Maro Engel, with Cheng and Adderly Fong completing the podium.

Jules Gounon, making his first Fanatec GT Asia appearance of the year, led the early part of the race in his Climax Racing Mercedes-AMG, but following the pit stops his co-driver Wang Zhongwei slipped from the lead to fifth, finishing behind the Triple Eight JMR Mercedes-AMG of Luca Stolz and Prince Abu Bakar Ibrahim.

In Saturday’s opener, held in dry conditions, Origine duo Yuan and Ye took a straightforward win, with the all-Chinese duo’s path to glory eased by the polesitting Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG dropping out with a problem on the formation lap and the FAW Audi also slowing with mechanical trouble shortly after its pit stop.

Ye inherited a lead of 25 seconds as a result, and despite carrying damage to the underfloor, he was able to bring home the No. 87 Origine Porsche for a first win of the season by 8.945 seconds from the best of the VSR Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2s.

Ye Bian and Edoardo Liberati led home an overall 2-3, and a Pro-Am 1-2 (the winning Origine Porsche is entered in Silver-Am) for the Vincenzo Sospiri-led team ahead of the sister car driven by Zhou Bihuang and Marco Mapelli.

Liu meanwhile suffered a spin in his stint, causing him to drop from seventh to 12th, before Picariello took over for the latter part of the race and recovered to fifth behind the Phantom Global Porsche of Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak and Joel Eriksson.

Although Yuan and Ye took the points lead with their Saturday win, disaster hit for the Origine duo on Sunday when Ye was collected by Tomonobu Fujii’s spinning Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Evo, an incident that also eliminated Eriksson’s Porsche.

The sister No. 4 Origine Porsche of Lu Wei, who led the standings heading to Fuji, and Patrick Pilet suffered a weekend to forget as they picked up a drive-through penalty in Race 1 and could manage no better than seventh place in Race 2.

It leaves Wei 10 points shy of the championship lead, with FAW Audi pair Fong and Cheng a further point back in fourth place.

The Fanatec GT Asia season continues at Suzuka on July 6-7.

RESULTS: Race 1/Race 2

Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

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