Text: Brent Co / Photos: Brent Co | posted August 12, 2013 00:09
China-based KCMG wins overall and LMP2 titles in inaugural Asian Le Mans race
It was a tightly contested LMP2 qualifying session as Chinese driver Ho-Pin Tung took the inaugural pole position for OAK Racing aboard the #24 Morgan-Judd with a 1:25.162 laptime on his 10th lap. Tung also clinched the lap record for the Inje Speedium. Irish driver Gary Thompson clocked in at 1:25.608, less than half a second behind the pole time aboard the KCMG’s #18 Morgan-Nissan.
In the GTE Class, it was Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi clocking the fastest lap in the Taisan Ken Endless #70 Ferrari 458 GTE with a 1:31.937 laptime; they were the sole entry for the class. Craft Racing’s Stefan Mücke followed closely with a 1:32.178 laptime to lead the GTC Class aboard the #007 Aston Martin Vantage GT3. AF Corse’s Michele Rugolo clocked one-tenth of a second behind with a 1:32.299 laptime on the #77 Ferrari 458 GT3. Team AAI’s #91 McLaren MP4-12C GT3 clinched the third spot followed by their #93 McLaren and the #26 Taisan Ken Endless Porsche 996 GT300. The #37 BBT Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 failed to make it to qualifying after a crash during practice, and will start the race from the back of the grid.
3 Hours of Inje
Dark clouds threatened rain all day, but the skies finally opened and poured down on the track for the start of the race. Team AAI’s #92 McLaren failed to make it to the grid due to damage sustained during warm-up in the morning. The torrential rain meant that the race would start with the safety car for 8 laps. The shower lasted for nearly an hour, but the track dried up quickly and the pace picked up.
Due to the wet conditions, the race order after one hour was pretty much the same as the qualifying grid with OAK Racing’s #24 Morgan-Judd with Ho-Pin Tung behind the wheel in the lead followed by KCMG’s #18 Morgan-Nissan driven by James Winslow, the Taisan Ken #70 Ferrari driven by Kamui Kobayashi in third and Craft Racing’s #007 Aston Martin in fourth driven by Stefan Mücke who just swapped in for Keita Sawa.
As the race approached the second hour, it was KCMG in the lead with 16 year old Malaysian driver Akash Nandy behind the wheel. He was also the youngest driver to participate in a Le Mans series race. OAK Racing followed a lap behind in second with David Cheng behind the wheel. It was now AF Corse leading the GT cars with Andrea Bertolini behind the wheel, followed by Stefan Mücke in the Craft Racing Aston Martin.
The Final Stretch
KCMG would manage to hold on to their lead with Gary Thompson stepping in on Lap 71 to finish the race for the team which was now enjoying a comfortable lead. Craft Racing was running a really good race with Mücke putting the car in P2 with Frank Yu ready to step in, unfortunately the driveshaft decided to give way on lap 91 ending a would be successful weekend. AF Corse continued to charge with an increased pace now with Michele Rugolo behind the wheel. OAK Racing now had Jeffrey Lee behind the wheel, but their drivers were struggling with the car for the latter part of the race based on the laptimes.
Eventually it was Thompson taking the checkered flag of the inaugural event. The KCMG team also took the LMP2 title with the #18 Morgan-Nissan. Rugolo charged the #77 AF Corse Ferrari to a second overall finish and the GTC class win, he was followed by Lee with the #24 OAK Racing Morgan-Judd in third overall and 2nd in LMP2. Naoki Yokomizo steered the lone GTE #70 Taisan Ferrari entry to fourth overall and the class win.
Yukinori Taniguchi piloted the #26 Taisan Porsche to second place in the GTC class and China’s BBT took third honors in the GTC class with Massimiliano Wiser behind the wheel of their #37 Lamborghini despite having to start from the back of the grid.
Taiwan’s AAI and Hong Kong’s Craft Racing will now be looking ahead to Fuji Speedway where they will try to make a comeback after a disappointing opening round at Inje.
The Asian Le Mans Series moves to Japan for the 3 Hours of Fuji race on September 22nd.