FFF Racing secures multiple Asian titles
FFF Racing Team by ACM and Lamborghini capped a memorable Blancpain GT Series Asia campaign at Ningbo by wrapping up four GT3 titles. A third victory of 2018 was more than enough for Dennis Lind and Martin Kodric to claim the Overall and Silver Cup crowns, while Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Marco Mapelli’s Pro/Am success also helped the Chinese squad celebrate the Teams’ title.
Respective penalties and retirements for the other overall championship protagonists – Nick Foster and Patric Niederhauser – helped Absolute Racing’s Audi crew Anthony Liu and Alessio Picariello to finish second overall and scoop the Pro/Am spoils.
Lind and Kodric ultimately ran out comfortable race and championship winners, but it could have been very different had separate issues not befallen their two remaining championship rivals during a tense final 60-minute race of the season at Ningbo. The #19 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 took the chequered flag 4.1s clear of Liu and Picariello’s car, following Alexander Mattschull’s late retirement from a lead built on GruppeM Racing co-driver Raffaele Marciello’s quick first stint.
The Italian led the opening 30 minutes from pole and set fastest lap, while HubAuto Corsa’s two Ferraris driven by Tim Slade and Foster held station behind following an early Safety Car period triggered by the Craft-Bamboo Porsche and ARN Racing Ferrari colliding on lap one.
The first significant development occurred just before the pit window opened when Niederhauser’s championship-chasing GruppeM Mercedes-AMG retired from fourth place with broken rear suspension. 22 points behind with 25 to play for at the start of the race meant the Swiss had no choice but to win while hoping other results went his way. Instead, he would end the campaign third overall.
The spotlight then shifted to Kodric who pitted from seventh at the first time of asking. Lind subsequently emerged right in front of Foster, who had delayed his own stop by two laps in an effort to make up some of the impending 15s pitstop success penalty he and Jono Lester were due to serve. Instead, the pair touched numerous times before the Australian peeled into the pits.
Incredibly, Lester re-joined 16s ahead of the Lamborghini before immediately overtaking some of the slower Am drivers ahead. For a time the provisional order and points suggested a grandstand finish was in prospect, but HubAuto’s pitstop was soon under investigation and ultimately found to be 14.5s too fast. When the subsequent stop and go penalty was also served under time, which necessitated a second stop, Foster’s championship chances appeared well and truly over.
By that point Lind had also picked his way through the GT3 Am contingent, which included a brave move around Liu for second place amongst traffic. First wasn’t necessary to secure the title, but that’s exactly where the Lamborghini finished after Mattschull’s 22s lead was wiped out by a late fuel issue that stranded the Mercedes-AMG.
Liu, whose co-driver Picariello initially made up ground after starting eighth, held off a charging Roelof Bruins over the final laps to finish ahead of Indigo Racing’s Mercedes-AMG, which served an additional five seconds in the pits after also claiming a podium yesterday.
Franky Cheng and Martin Rump overcame their success penalty to end up fourth, Shaun Thong and Jordan Pepper fought through from last to fifth aboard Phoenix Racing Asia’s #6 Bentley, and Andrew Kim and Adderly Fong ensured all three Absolute Audis featured in the first half-dozen finishers.
OD Racing’s Audi, the #23 KCMG Nissan and second Phoenix Racing Asia-run Bentley crossed the line nose-to-tail, while Lester recovered from HubAuto’s two stop-go penalties to salvage a point in 10th.
“Four championships in one day and we knew that this track didn’t suit our car”, said FFF Racing by ACM Team Principal Andrea Caldarelli, “We knew our strengths, we knew the strengths of the others and it was a case of no mistakes – our main goal this weekend. We won the last race and the drivers did a great job, the team did a mega job. Over the weekend we went through a lot starting with a crash and here we are in P1″.