Patric Niederhauser and Nico Bastian came through from eighth on the grid to lead home a GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG one-two in Blancpain GT Series Asia’s second race at Fuji earlier today.
Victory for Niederhauser, his third of the season, also helped the Swiss replace Dennis Lind and Martin Kodric at the top of the Drivers’ standings.
The Pro Am-winning sister Mercedes-AMG shared by Alexander Mattschull and Raffaele Marciello finished runner-up by just 0.010s from FFF Racing Team’s Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Marco Mapelli (Lamborghini).
GruppeM had looked strangely out of sorts for much of the weekend but rebounded brilliantly in a race that came alive after the pitstops.
Pole-sitter Alex Imperatori led Davide Rigon’s HubAuto Corsa Ferrari by six seconds before the driver changes where a 15s success penalty for winning yesterday’s race effectively ended his and KCMG co-driver Yuke Taniguchi’s victory chances.
Instead, it was Alexander Mattschull who emerged with the lead after Raffaele Marciello handed over in third. But the German had company in the form of Hiroshi Hamaguchi whose co-driver Marco Mapelli recovered to fourth after losing out in lap one’s first corner shuffle.
The two am drivers were also being caught by Silver-graded Nico Bastian after GruppeM’s decision to swap drivers early helped the #999 Mercedes-AMG take advantage of the pitstop success penalties served by three cars ahead.
Hamaguchi was the first to pass Mattschull, but when Bastian followed him through second quickly became first – and subsequently victory by 10.3s – thanks to the Japanese driver’s spin. The Lamborghini promptly recovered and was alongside GruppeM’s #888 Mercedes-AMG as they took the chequered flag, albeit just one-hundredth-of-a-second behind.
Patric Niederhauser said, “We were optimistic about striking back after Suzuka, but it hasn’t been the easiest weekend. After our worst qualifying of the season, I was expecting a tough race, especially as our car isn’t the fastest in a straight line. I felt like we’d maximised the result yesterday after serving the success penalty from Suzuka but today came together for us. This time it was other teams’ turn to have those success penalties, which made things easier.”
Further back, Taniguchi quickly passed Morris Chen’s HubAuto Corsa Ferrari after the pitstops but ran out of laps to catch his fellow amateurs ahead. KCMG’s Nissan, therefore, added a fourth-place to its Race 1 victory after falling 0.4s shy of the overall podium, while the team’s second GT-R NISMO GT3 shared by Edoardo Liberati and Florian Strauss came home another six seconds behind after also recovering from a success penalty.
Hiroaki Nagai and Kota Sasaki’s ARN Racing Ferrari looked like a top-six contender all day, and so it proved after the pair led home Jono Lester and Nick Foster’s HubAuto Corsa-run 488 and the Craft-Bamboo Porsche shared by Sandy Stuvik and Shae Davies.
Chen and Rigon’s Ferrari ultimately slipped to ninth, one place ahead of Shaun Thong and Alex Yoong’s Phoenix Racing Asia Audi.
Once again it was KCMG’s Takuya Shirasaka and Naoto Takeda who claimed the Am Cup honours after their Audi beat Arrows Racing’s Honda NSX, driven by Philip Ma and Shinji Takei. Andrew Macpherson and William Ben Porter’s AMAC Motorsport Lamborghini completed the podium.
But there was disappointment for erstwhile overall championship leaders Martin Kodric and Dennis Lind whose FFF Racing Lamborghini picked up a puncture shortly after the pitstops. They failed to score points for the first time this season, helping to hand Niederhauser the advantage with four rounds remaining.