- Third season podium for OD Racing
- Double Pro-Am podium for Lee/Picariello
- Singha Plan-B scores on debut
Shanghai, May 21, 2017 – Hot off the heels of victory in the Blancpain GT Series Asia opening event at Sepang, Absolute Racing serviced teams continued their good form by claiming a pole-position, an overall podium position and two class podium finishes between the four Audi R8 LMS GT3 entries at Buriram, Thailand.
While the racing was challenging in itself, the really hard work started for OD Racing Team, J-Fly by Absolute Racing, Singha Plan-B Motorsport and Team Milestone with the Friday’s qualifying session and continued on Saturday.
Qualifying one proved to be mixed for the team with OD Racing’s Mitch Gilbert recording the third fastest time. J-Fly by Absolute Racing’s Jeffrey Lee qualified in fourteenth, and Singha Plan-B Motorsport’s Bhurit Bhirombhakdi was P19.
Qualifying two saw J-Fly by Absolute Racing’s Alessio Picariello claiming pole position for the weekend’s second 60-minute race. The Belgian, who set successive fastest times aboard his Audi R8 LMS GT3, did a lap in 1m33.576s to grab the first position in the grid by a mere 0,071 seconds. Singha Plan-B Motorsport’s Kantasak Kusiri rounded off the top-10, while OD Racing’s Aditya Patel qualified P11.
The first race of the weekend took place Saturday afternoon with warm temperatures gracing the Buriram circuit. #7 J-Fly by Absolute Racing duo Jeffrey Lee and Alessio Picariello had an impressive back-to-front race from P14 to P5 at the flag! Lee, who was running seventh, was the first car to stop, and Picariello took the Audi Taiwan sponsored car to fifth place. Lee and Picariello were later awarded fourth – third in the GT3 Pro-Am Class – as the second place finisher received a 30-second post-race penalty for causing a collision on the opening lap.
Blancpain GT Series Asia debutants Bhurit Bhirombhakdi and Kantasak Kusiri enjoyed some close racing in the opening laps and finished P13 on their championship debut.
The #86 OD Racing pair Mitch Gilbert and Aditya Patel had a frustrating race. Gilbert was forced into a spin in the third turn, and limped back to the pits with a puncture. The young duo stormed from the very last position to the top-10, only to retire with 12-lap to go with a gearbox problem caused by the first lap incident.
With a clean start for the second race on Sunday, pole-sitter Picariello firmly kept the first position. The safety car was deployed at the end of the first lap for a couple of crashes and lasted for three laps. The Belgian ace kept his cool and made the perfect restart. Immediately slotting into a tidy rhythm, Picariello looked confident and assured, building a three-second gap from the rest of the field by the end of his stint.
Co-driver Jeffrey Lee took over for the final stint in the #7 J-Fly Audi. Despite his best efforts, the Gentleman Driver lost four positions before the chequered flag flew. However the 5th place overall in the race was more than enough for Lee/Picariello to return to the GT3 Pro-Am Class podium and Lee be promoted to second in the category drivers’ standings.
Starting from P11, Patel had a great start, moving to fourth in the first lap. The Indian racer lost time defending his position, dropping three places. Determined to get back into the top five, Gilbert, who took over at the half-distance, set about his recovery drive brilliantly. With a flurry of quick laps, the Malaysian-born driver closed the deficit and in a late race shoot out, gained two positions and with it the third position overall.
Even without scoring points in the race one, Patel and Gilbert sit now third in the GT3 overall standings, five points shy of the championship leader.
Further back in the field, Kusiri put in a great first stint on the #59 Singha Plan-B Motorsport Audi, moving eighth at the start and then progressing to a strong seventh position and withstanding pressure from the cars from behind. Bhurit Bhirombhakdi dropped a few places on his stint to finish 11th overall and sixth of the GT3 Pro-Am Class.
Although the Absolute Racing mechanics did a fantastic job overnight to get the car ready for Sunday race, #13 Team Milestone Audi was forced to start from the back of the grid after not turning a lap in qualifying due to a heavy crash in the last free practice.
Brilliantly battling his way into contention for the Top-10 from 19th on the grid with impressive lap times throughout, Franky Cheng Congfu was well placed in tenth position after 10 laps when a spin dropped him down the order before passing the car to Sun Jiangzu. Rejoining the track in 12th position, #13 Team Milestone Audi remained there to the chequered flag on lap 32.
Team Director Ingo Matter said, “We put together a solid weekend with a overall pole-position, two GT3 Pro-Am Class podiums and an overall podium place. It was a very tough Saturday for the team with a lot of work but it was great to be back on pace with four cars on Sunday. Our drivers put in great performances, and it’s just a shame that OD Racing’s race one was compromised by factors out of our control. Solid points were always the key to Buriram and we’ve managed to score well. We need this consistency going into Suzuka.”
Absolute Racing serviced team now take off for Japan, for the first of the two Japanese consecutive double-header races. The Suzuka International Circuit weekend takes place on Jun 24 and 25.