Martin Rump and Franky Cheng both claimed their maiden Blancpain GT Series Asia victories at Suzuka this afternoon after their Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS led home a top-six comprising as many different GT3 manufacturers.
The Craft-Bamboo Porsche 911 GT3 R shared by Sandy Stuvik and Shae Davies finished second after starting fourth, while championship leaders Martin Kodric and Dennis Lind completed the overall podium despite serving a 10-second pitstop success penalty. Ferrari, Mercedes-AMG and Nissan were all close behind.
Rump had this to say following his victory, “This win has been a long time coming. I had some bad luck last season and wasn’t always able to show my pace, but I knew that partnering with Franky [Cheng] this year would give us a chance to something. We’ve enjoyed a consistent start to the year and had some opportunities but this is a great way to open our accounts.”
The result of this weekend’s opening race owed much to Kodric and Lind’s 10-second pitstop success penalty, which the championship leaders had to serve after finishing second at Buriram. Lind had been leading up to that point thanks to winning the drag race against pole-sitter Rump into turn one where the Huracan swept around the outside.
Behind, Davies completed a similar move on GruppeM’s Markus Pommer to initially claim third while leading Am driver Hiroshi Hamaguchi jumped Leo Ye Hongli for fifth. The top-two had soon established a reasonable gap to their pursuers but were seldom more than a second apart.
Rump appeared to be gaining on the Dane as the pit window approached but was severely held up by the battling GT4 leaders through the first sector, which helped the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 establish a 4-second advantage before the stops.
That, of course, wouldn’t be enough to overcome the car’s 10-second success penalty, and, sure enough, Cheng emerged in the lead. However, he was probably surprised to find Stuvik’s Porsche right behind after Davies’ quick in-lap, and Craft-Bamboo’s banzai pitstop propelled the car up to second.
After surviving Stuvik’s early onslaught, Cheng was able to ease away over the remaining 25 minutes to claim victory by 0.870s, while Kodric crossed the line just ahead of Nick Foster’s HubAuto Corsa Ferrari F488 GT3, which Hongli had earlier brought back into contention, and Patric Niederhauser aboard the GruppeM Mercedes-AMG GT3.
A puncture for Hamaguchi, the result of contact with Edoardo Liberati’s Nissan, at the end of his opening stint helped KCMG’s other GT-R NISMO of Yuke Taniguchi and debutant Alex Imperatori claim Pro Am class honours and sixth overall.
The OD Racing Audi Gilbert shares with Aditya Patel still came home seventh ahead of Alexandre Mattschull and Raffaele Marciello’s GruppeM Mercedes-AMG, which served the full 15s success penalty during its pitstop.
Elsewhere, KCMG’s Takuya Shirasaka and Naoto Takeda scored their fifth-straight Am Cup win with Audi after finishing just 1s ahead of ARN Racing’s Ferrari shared by Hideki Nagai and Shinji Takei. AMAC’s Andrew Macpherson and William Ben Porter completed the podium in their Lamborghini.