Rnd#6 2017 China GT Championship
Zhuhai International Circuit, China
30 July, 2017
Round six of China GT delivered perhaps the best racing in the history of the burgeoning championship, with some incredible moves across both the GT3 and GTC/GT4 classes keeping the big Zhuhai crowd on their feet for much of the day.
In the end, Estonia’s Martin Rump stunned the GT3 class with an epic drive through the field that came down to the closing laps, with an intense battle raging between his Kings Racing Audi and the Porsches of Martin Ragginger and Chris van der Drift. At one stage the battle pack was six cars long – and often, three cars wide – but in the end, no-one could slow Rump’s momentum, continuing his podium streak that also presented he and team-mate Wang Liang with their second win of the season – in the process giving Wang the championship points lead.
In the GTC category, another amazing race saw two charging New Zealanders mix up the action in the closing stages as they tracked down runaway race leader Huang Hsi Chan, a late safety car intervention bunching up the field before a string of drivers received penalties for restart infringements, allowing TSRT’s David Chen to bring the #888 Audi to the fore, the Chinese driver comfortably across the line ahead of Xu Wei and Ling Kang in the Radical RXC and Chris van der Drift sharing the JRM Lamborghini with Shang Lei.
In GT4 the emerging battle between the points leading McLaren 570S GT4 of David McIntyre and Roelof Bruins and the Team Lotus Evora GT4s continued, Sam Lok and Clement Li getting the top points after qualifying at the front of the field in the morning session, before taking the #36 Evora to their first win of the season.
GT3 – Round#6 Off their third consecutive pole position of the season, Weiron Tan led the field away in the thunderous Bentley Continental GT3, with Melvin Moh the big mover, the round four winner through to second by turn one, with FAW T2M’s Biao Jin Long holding out JRM team-mates Li Chao and Maxime Jousse, although not for long, Jousse quickly through to third with the charging Maxx Ebenal in the D2 Mercedes in tow.
Sadly for FAW T2M team-boss Morris Chen, his weekend again took a backward step on the opening lap, this time with a spin on the exit of the final turn, the Porsche driver struggling to get the car restarted, losing a lap to the leaders in the process.
As he had done during Saturday’s opening race, Jousse was on a charge and quickly through to second with Ebenal also poking his nose inside Moh looking to take advantage but the Malaysian Audi driver was up to the challenge, keeping the Canadian in check until the compulsory pit stops as ahead of them, Jousse closed down race leader Tan.
Admitting they were at a distinct disadvantage over the Audis and Porsches in the heat with their big front-engined Continental GT3 – something which was affecting tyre and brake performance – Weiron Tan knew it was only a matter of time before Jousse would make it through to the lead, but he didn’t make it easy, and in the end, he lost very little ground to the Frenchman ahead of the stop.
Further back Wang Liang and Morris Chen became embroiled in a great battle despite the fact the Porsche was a lap down, the two making light contact at the exit of turn two, before Chen looped the FAW T2M machine again at turn seven trying for an inside move, the Porsche driver caught short by the pace of the Audi on the exit, spinning the #89 machine to avoid contact.
After the completion of the compulsory pit stops, Andrew Kim emerged as the race leader with the #991 JRM Porsche team losing valuable time in pit lane, the Bentley driver looking comfortable up front despite the challenges he and Tan had been facing, but sadly his lead was to evaporate very quickly after Kuo Kuo Hsin was forced off into the turn ten gravel after contact with Lim Keong Wee in the #16 Audi.
That brought the safety car into action, bunching up the field with 15-minutes to go, playing nicely into the hands of the charging Martin Ragginger, Chris van der Drift and Martin Rump.
Round five winner Alex Au restarted close behind Kim, but came under immediate fire from the three charging youngsters, the former Audi R8 LMS Cup Am champion though losing very little to the charging trio as they closed down Kim’s lead, with Hiroki Yoshimoto also joining in the fun despite now being two laps down on the leaders in the #89 FAW T2M machine.
To say the final ten minutes of the race provided some of the best racing of the year anywhere in Asia would not have been overstating what would play out ahead of the chequered flag..
Ragginger was the first to pounce on Kim, but the South Korean was having none of it, driving a very wide Bentley, but he knew his time was limited, his one hope being van der Drift and Rump who were doing everything they could to get around the FAW T2M Porsche driver behind him.
In the end, despite Ragginger at one point going down the grass at the exit of turn four, he couldn’t keep the New Zealander and the Estonian behind him, so they drafted past to try and get through on Kim, but they too struggled to find a way past the big twin-turbo V8 powered British built machine, but what that did was group the four cars together, and from there the positions changes came at almost every corner as the clock wound down to the final three minutes.
Cars were forced onto the grass, the fight between Ragginger and van der Drift particularly aggressive and the reason why Rump was able to work his way past, their final contact on the exit of turn ten letting the Audi driver past first van der Drift, and then Ragginger to cross the line for his second win of the season, the FAW T2M Porsche hanging on for second with van der Drift third.
Andrew Kim was a courageous fourth ahead of Alex Au who lost nothing over the final laps to the charging youngsters, the Audi veteran right in the box seat had anything unfolded ahead of him. Li Jiaqi was a deserved sixth, recovering from Saturday’s frustrating run to give the JRM team a strong finish, with Lim Keong Wee seventh ahead of Yoshimoto who again was amongst the fastest drivers on track in the closing laps.
Sadly for TSRT Audi drivers Max Wiser and Terry Huang, their ongoing battles with the heat saw them retire during the compulsory pit stop lamenting the loss of power that made their job just too difficult a challenge, in the end saving the mechanicals was the only choice as their pace slipped well off that of the lead pack.
For Wang Liang, the #08 team’s second win gives him the championship points lead with team-mate Rump equal second with Bao Jin Long and Ragginger, the three drivers just two points off the top spot with Kings Racing team-boss Xu Jia back to fourth having been unable to add to his 72 points after a tough second weekend in Zhuhai.