Hong Kong’s Shaun Thong enjoyed little time to celebrate his recent Silver Cup trophy in the inaugural season of the new Blancpain GT Series Asia championship, with a move back to prototype endurance racing as part of the Taiwan Beer GH Motorsport LMP3 team in the four round 2017/2018 Asian Le Mans Series.
Joining once more team-owner Hanns Lin in the GH Motorsport Ligier JS P3 LMP3 – this year in the colours of Taiwan Beer – the pair were looking to improve on their 2016/2017 results which provided Thong with two podium finishes from the three events he contested, and a top ten finish in the championship.
The opening round of the 2017 season kicked off on a circuit at which Thong felt right at home, having competed for much of his motorsport career on the Zhuhai circuit – affectionately considered the ‘home’ circuit of Hong Kong-based drivers – the multiple GT3 race winner having actually claimed victory in the very first season of Asian Le Mans back in 2013 as a – then – 17-year old on his debut in an LMP2 car.
This time around though, his focus was LMP3 and as he had done all season in the Blancpain GT Series Asia, he was immediately one of the fastest drivers on the circuit running consistently inside the top three fastest cars in practice, before the team qualified a little further back in the field after a technical issue in the timed session to set the starting grid for Sunday’s 4-Hour race stalled their forward progress.
Despite starting fourth in class, Hanns Lin was quickly through to the lead of the LMP3 field ahead of the first pit stop, in the process moving into fifth outright behind the much faster LMP2 cars.
Thong then set about extending their lead as soon as he hit the circuit, but almost immediately was forced to serve a drive through penalty for a full-course-yellow infringement incurred ahead of the stop. That dropped the team back into the sights of the pole-sitting KCMG entry, which has been able to turn much faster times than the bulk of the field, and despite Thong’s reputation as one of the fastest drivers on Asian soil, the #18 entry was able to close down his lead, taking back the top spot once Thong came in for a late fueling stop ahead of the chequered flag – the #11 team crossing the line in position seven and second in LMP3.
4-Hours of Zhuhai (Rnd#1 Asian Le Mans Series)
Zhuhai International Circuit, China (28 October, 2017)
1. 8. Richelmi/Newey/Laurent (Oreca/Nissan LMP2) – 1:27.615
2. 7. Cheng/Tung (Oreca/Nissan LMP2) – 1:27.761
3. 37. Liu/Rizzo/Derani (Ligier JS P2 LMP2) – 1:27.979
4. 4. Konopka/Calko/Breukers (Ligier JS P2 LMP2) – 1:28.833
5. 18. Burdon/Prette/Wei (Ligier JS P3 LMP3) – 1:30.048
7. 1. Lok/Descombes/Bradley (Ligier JS P3 LMP3) – 1:31.574
9. 11. Hanss Lin/Shaun Thong (Taiwan Beer GH Motorsport Ligier JS P3 LMP3) – 1:31.767
4-Hours of Zhuhai (29 October, 2017)
1. 8. Richelmi/Newey/Laurent (Oreca/Nissan LMP2) – 154-laps
2. 37. Liu/Rizzo/Derani (Ligier JS P2 LMP2) – 153-laps
3. 4. Konopka/Calko/Breukers (Ligier JS P2 LMP2) – 151-laps
4. 33. Ilhara/Au (Ligier JS P2 LMP2) – 150-laps
5. 25. De Jong/Koutsoumidis (Ligier JS P2/Nissan LMP2) – 149-laps
6. 18. Burdon/Prette/Wei (Ligier JS P3 LMP3) – 148-laps
7. 11. Hanss Lin/Shaun Thong (Taiwan Beer GH Motorsport Ligier JS P3 LMP3) – 148-laps
2017/2018 Asian Le Mans Series – calendar
27-29 October, 2017 – Zhuhai International Circuit, China
1-3 December, 2017 – Fuji International Speedway, Japan
11-13 January, 2018 – Chang International Circuit, Thailand
2-4 February, 2018 – Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia