Absolute Racing’s Ye Yifei picked up two second-place finishes and one win in the Asian Winter Series second event at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit (January 19/20), setting up a tense title decider for next month’s season finale.
It all started in Saturday qualifying sessions which saw China’s Ye Yifei, who kicked off the day with a category record lap time under the 2 minute mark in the single Free Practice morning session, capturing the second on the grid for Race 1 and Race 3, while Eshan Pieris from Sri Lanka posted the ninth fastest time in qualifying one to dramatically improve to fifth in the second qualifying.
The 14-lap Asian Winter Series Race 4 took place later in the day. Starting from second on the grid, Ye got off the line well in a very attacking style, but he couldn’t take the lead. The Chinese youngster really pushed hard to the point he ran wide on the second lap. After the scare he settled back into his stride to cross the finish line in second.
Teammate Pieris left behind Thailand’s bad luck. The Sri Lankan driver put in an impressive first-lap performing, passing all the way up to sixth. He stayed there for the remaining of the race, collecting valuable championship points and experience.
Race 5 and Race 6 took place on Sunday. With the fastest lap from Race 4 setting the grid for Race 5, Ye once again started from second, with Pieris starting on the third row.
As the lights went green, Ye immediately began to pressure the pole-sitter but he couldn’t gain an advantage over him so had to follow him through Turn 1. Ye kept pushing hard to try to overtake his opponent. Towards the end of the race, the Chinese driver decided well to bring home second place and save his tires for the last race.
Starting from 6th on the grid, Pieris had a tough first lap, dropping to 10th. He enjoyed his own on-track battles to finish in tenth place, scoring the last available point in the race.
Race 6 saw Ye snatching the victory from the pole-sitter and crossing the line with a staggering margin of more than 11 seconds. Setting fastest laps on the way, Ye was untouchable over the 14 laps and not even a safety car period on lap 2 was enough to knock the Chinese of course to win his second race of the year.
Pieris was involved in the hotly contested battle for the seventh place that he triumphed over. The #15 Absolute Racing entry driver benefited from an opponent post-race penalty to be promoted to sixth place.
Following this weekend’s results, Ye sits in second place in the drivers’ championship standings with 104 points, 29 points behind the championship leader with three races to go and 75 points available, while teammate Pieris has moved up to ninth with 27 points. Absolute Racing remains second in team standings.
The team now has an one-month break before returning to Sepang for the Asian Winter Series season finale from February 22-24.
#15 Eshan Pieris: “The learning curve was very high for me with such a competitive grid. The team always provided me with a car that was working well and it was clear how much harder they all worked together to improve everything. Throughout the weekend we were always competitive and continued to improve. So far the experience with Absolute Racing has been really great for me. I believe there is more to come and more for me to learn with their help and support.”
#16 Ye Yifei: “I am delighted with my second win in the series. For the last race of the weekend I had the same mindset as the previous race to get a good start and try and overtake at Turn 1. I knew he would brake very late to stop me making it around the outside, so I tried to brake early and come back on the exit. I managed to do that. After that was the safety car and then my pace was very good. I think it was a very good weekend overall. We had very good pace all weekend. We still have some gap to Rinus and let’s try to do the best in the next round to make it up.”
Ingo Matter (Team Director): “Once again the Absolute Racing crew were outstanding, and we thoroughly enjoyed some great team results this weekend at Sepang. Our aim was to arrive at the final event still fighting for the title and we have done that. Ye is one of three drivers who are still in contention for the championship title and, although he faces a very tough task in order to prevail, he’ll definitely be giving it everything he’s got. Last but not least, Eshan showed a good performance over the weekend, kept closing the gap to the more experience drivers and was able to fight for the top-6 positions.”