The #35 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 03R Nissan has won the first race of the 2016-2017 season of the Asian Le Mans Series, here at the Zhuhai International Circuit. Ho-Pin Tung and Gustavo Menezes crossed the line first after a very eventful race that saw close action between all four classes. Algarve Pro Racing’s #24 Ligier JSP2 Judd and #25 Ligier JSP2 Nissan were second and third respectively.
In LMP3, it was another victory for Jackie Chan DC Racing on home soil, as the #1 Ligier JSP3 took the class win, driven by David Cheng, Pu Jun Jin and James Winslow. In GT, pole sitters #38 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3, driven by Nasrat Muzayyin, Rui Aguas and Marco Cioci, took the class win, finishing 5th overall.
After Saturday’s changeable conditions, the weather was cooler and dryer today, much to the advantage of the teams. The morning started with an optional warm up session in which 10 cars took part, and saw the #26 Tockwith Motorsports Ligier JSP3 set the fastest lap of 1:33.616.
At 1 o’clock, the race got underway in front of 20’000 spectators, and saw Ho-Pin Tung make a great start in the #35 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 03R Nissan, taking the lead at the end of the straight. The race was an eventful one however and with four safety car periods in the first hour of the race to retrieve cars from the gravel beds, the field shuffled considerably as teams made strategic pit stop decisions. This even saw a moment where the top three cars racing were from three different classes!
The fight amongst the leaders arranged itself in the last hour, with three of the LMP2 cars coming to the fore – the #24 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JSP2 Judd, the #25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JSP2 Nissan and the #35 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 03R Nissan. The #25 had made good progress back up the field after having had a collision with the #8 Race Performance Oreca 03R Judd which set them both in the gravel and lost them time and positions. Up in the lead, the fight was on between the #35 Oreca 03R Judd and the #24 Ligier JSP2 Nissan. Despite having to take a drive through penalty in the last half hour, the Jackie Chan DC Racing crew kept a hold of the lead and took the win. The #24 Algarve Pro Racing car, with Tacksung Kim, Andrea Roda and Matthew McMurry sharing the drive, finished 44 seconds behind them, taking second. Third went to the crew of the #25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JSP2 Nissan, Michael Munemann, Nicky Catsburg and Andrea Pizzitola.
The LMP3 cars really held their own during the race, with the #26 Tockwith Motorsports Ligier JSP3 even leading overall for a number of laps. After a lot of movement up and down the field, the #1 Jackie Chan DC Racing Ligier JSP3 came out victorious in the class. James Winslow, David Cheng and Pu Jun Jin shared the drive and added to the team’s Asian Le Mans winning track record. After a very strong race as well, the Tockwith Motorsports duo of Nigel Moore and Phil Hanson finished second in their Ligier JSP3. Third in LMP3 was the #85 G-Print by Triple 1 Racing Ligier JSP3, driven by Hanss Lin and Julio Acosta. This podium is a great result for the newly-established team who have really struggled this weekend, after some of their tools were never delivered and they had to work hard to make up for it.
After a tough start to the weekend, the sole car in the CN class, the #68 PS Racing Ligier JS53, which was to be driven by Kenji Abe, Akihiro Asai and Qin Tianqi, unfortunately stopped on the side of the track after just over an hour of racing.
The competition was also strong in the GT Class, with some GTs racing ahead of the LMP3 cars and setting similar lap times. Pole sitters #38 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3 took the win, finishing 5th overall, thanks to the combined efforts of Nasrat Muzayyin, Rui Aguas and Marco Cioci. Second place went to the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 488 GT3, with Mok Weng Sun, Keita Sawa and Matt Griffin sharing the wheel. They led the class by turns, fighting hard for positions, but couldn’t overtake at the end, finishing just over a second behind the class leaders. Third went to the #6 VS Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3, whose drivers Kei Cozzolino, Adrian Zaugg and Corey Lewis also delivered an impressive performance, having started 19th on the grid and managed to lead the GT class as well.
Overall, it’s been a great first weekend for the season at the Zhuhai International Circuit, with 29 cars on the grid and with 20’000 people coming to watch the 4-Hour Race on Sunday. The next round will take place over the weekend of 3-4 December in Fuji, Japan, just over a month from now.
See you there for more great racing!
#35 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 03R Nissan
Ho-Pin Tung: “I had a good start. I managed to pull a gap, but unfortunately, the two safety cars closed the gap. The car’s been very good since the beginning of the race. I went back in after the 2nd stint. We struggled, because I picked up a big piece of debris from the track and it got stuck in the car, and we had a big cooling issue. We had to nurse the car and manage it, stretch it until the end of the stint, which is a long time. It was very difficult, but I managed to keep it in front and Gustavo did a fantastic job to keep it in front.”
Gustavo Menezes: “It was a fantastic race. Ho Pin had an incredible start, it couldn’t have been better. He took the lead immediately and made a good gap. When he gave me the car under the safety car, the car was incredible; I managed to stretch the gap quite comfortably. After changing the engine cover, we had quite a big gap to fill, so I had to push as much as I could, and the car was incredible. The pace was there and we managed to take the lead back. Desipite the drive through, the pace was there to keep the lead. With about 15 minutes to go, we had some engine issues, but the team guided me home. They did a fantastic job. Despite some issues, we took the lead. It’s a great start to the championship.”
#24 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JSP2 Judd
Tacksung Kim: “We had a few electrical issues at the beginning. I had some trouble with the shifting, but after that, we pushed as much as we could. Everyone did a fantastic job so that we could finish in 2nd place.
Matthew McMurry: “My time driving the car was great. The car handled really, really well all throughout the stint, even though I was on 2 or 3 stint tyres. We figured out the gearbox issue once I got in, so we were able to push as much as we could, and save enough fuel to do one less pit stop than we thought we would have to do at the end. It’s been a really great race, I’m happy we got second.”
Andrea Roda: “I did the last 2 stints. I started on new tyres. The car was really good in the fast and slow corners; I felt really comfortable. It was really hot for the last 10 laps in the car. I’m really happy with this podium. It’s a good place for this first race in the series and for the work we did this weekend. Thanks to the team as well.”
#25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JSP2 Nissan
Michael Munemann: “It was a tough start for us, the cars were late, we didn’t have a clutch all weekend, we didn’t have time to do set-up work. So all things considered, third place is reasonable. I locked up the brakes at the start, losing my place, but the other guys did a great job and I’m glad with the podium finish.”
Nicky Catsburg: “I pictured my first LMP2 race a bit differently. Got in the car second. The tyres were damaged, so I really struggled with the pace. Then halfway through the stint I had a crash with another LMP2; he braked a bit earlier than I anticipated. We lost a lot of time there. I think if we didn’t have that problem, we would’ve been higher. But these things happen.”
Andrea Pizzitola: “I was third in the car. I was pushing all the time. The car was good, even after Nicky had the crash, even though the steering wheel wasn’t straight, the car was able to go fast. It was good, I had a good pace. There was just a bit of tyre degradation at the end. The team did a great job with the car this weekend, and I think it will be even better at the next race.”
#1 Jackie Chan DC Racing Ligier JSP3
James Winslow: “The start of the race went according to plan. I made a few mistakes in qualifying yesterday, so I had to make that back up to the team. I think at the start I managed to make it back to 4th overall, 2nd in class, within striking distance of the fast guys. It was a great start. David and Gerard came up with a great strategy which helped us win this race. We took advantage of the safety car, and with the four mandatory pitstops, we made the most of them. My team mates did a fantastic job. Our average pace was just really good. I jumped back in at the end to take the chequered flag, but it was a team effort and these guys drove brilliantly. Gerard and Eurasia and Jackie Chan DC Racing did a fantastic job and I want to give a bit thank you to them.”
Pu Jun Jin: “I’m glad to race with my team mates David Cheng and James Winslow. In the European Le Mans series we’ve been competitors and now we’re team mates, so it’s been great team work this weekend. During the test we had a good set-up, but during qualifying, it was raining and our qualifying results wasn’t good enough. But in the race we took advantage of the safety cars and different situations. We had a great strategy and during the race it all worked to plan. Thank you to my team mates for the great results. We achieved our goal in winning the race.”
David Cheng: “It’s been a great effort by the entire team. A big congratulations to our P2 team as well for taking the overall win this weekend. Having two cars and two wins, this is an incredible way to start the championship. From our side, James did a great start. The whole weekend we’ve been working hard on the strategy together, on what we thought the race would turn out to be, judging on the practice and all, with the multiple yellow flags. So we came up with a strategy based on that and today, luckily everything went our way. It fit perfectly into our strategy. From the first season in Asian Le Mans competing against James, and in the second competing against Kevin, they were my main rivals in those years. Being able to run with them this year is quite incredible. Thank you to both drivers for doing an incredible job today. I’m starting my 4th season in Asian Le Mans, 3 consecutive titles, and this weekend is my 11th consecutive win. I really have to thank all the drivers and the entire team for getting us this far. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season, where hopefully we’ll be challenging for both titles. I have to thank our partners who helped us build this team – Jackie Chan, Bang&Olufsen, Total, Michelin, everyone that’s been with us since the beginning of this Asian Le Mans programme as well.”
#38 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3
Nasrat Muzayyin: “It was quite exciting to start. This series is much more competitive than last year, and starting a race is a very good learning experience. Marco’s pole gave us a good advantage at the start. I tried to do my best to get us into a good position before handing it over.”
Rui Aguas: “I think everything started yesterday with Marco’s pole position. He did a fantastic job. For Nasrat, that was the first time he started on pole position, which made it even more exciting. I’m very happy he did his best lap of the weekend during the race. We were the least favourite, but here we are in first position. It’s a great result. Pole position and a win, so we’re leading the championship. My job was quite easy in the middle, I just had to bring the car in a good position to Marco and not make any mistakes. The traffic was difficult. Apart from that I think it’s been a fantastic weekend. The organisation was great. Everything was fantastic.”
Marco Cioci: “First I want to say thanks to the organisation because I really enjoyed today, fighting with my friend Matt Griffin. It was a great battle and thanks to my team mates who put me in front. It was a tough race. Everybody was pushing, and this track was not easy because everyone brakes late, but that’s how you have to race here. It’s part of the game. It was important for me not to ruin what my team mates had put in place. Special thanks to my engineer who kept me calm during the last stint and kept me focused. This win has made me really happy and I will be smiling on my flight back home.”