Photo: Blancpain GT Series Asia
Nick Foster and Jono Lester, piloting the 27 HubAuto Corsa Ferrari F488 GT3 took the victory in Race One of the 2018 Blancpain GT Series Asia season finale double-header at Ningbo International Speedpark, China, finishing 2.502 seconds ahead of the #3 Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 driven by Franky Cheng Congfu and, bringing the car home, Martin Rump.
Completing the overall podium positions was the #97 Indigo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Roelof Bruins and Manual Metzger, finishing 2.300 seconds behind the #97 entry.
In the GT4 category the win went to the #666 GruppeM Racing Team Mercedes-AMG GT4 with the #81 BMW Team Studie BMW M4 GT4, driven by Sunako Jukuchou and Takayuki Kinoshita in second.
Nico Bastian, behind the wheel of the #999 GruppeM Racing Team Mercedes-AMG GT4, led the field away from pole position. There was drama, however, as the grid turned into the first corner with Bastian being hit form behind, forcing the #999 entry intro the gravel and retirement. Further incidents during the opening two corners saw the retirements of the #23 KCMG Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 driven by Edoardo Liberati, the #37 Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS of Anthony Liu and the #911 Craft-Bamboo Racing Porsche 991 GT3 R of Sandy Stuvik.
The Safety Car was deployed to allow safe recovery of the stricken vehicles, resulting in the race being neutralised for over 15 minutes.
Nico Bastian, out at Turn One, was not impressed with driving standards at the race start.
“I was braking as normal at the first corner because you have to pay attention because you don’t win races in the first corner and then I got a big hit so there has to one guy who totally misjudged his braking point and shot me off,” said Bastian. “It’s a real disaster for the team and for Patric who is fighting for the championship. I don’t really understand why people drive like this and they go all-in at the first corner.”
Dennis Lind, in the #19 FFF Racing Team by ACM Lamborghini Huracán GT3 had the lead at the restart, followed by Jono Lester in the #27 HubAuto Corsa Ferrari and Frank Cheng Congfu in the #3 Absolute Racing Audi.
Lind starting to a pull a gap to Lester, fully aware of the 15-second success penalty that the #27 car would have to serve at the pit stop. As the pit window opened Lind elected to stay out to see if the gap could be widened further.
After the driver changes had cycled through, it was the #27 HubAuto Corsa entry, now with Nick Foster at the wheel, who held the lead over Martin Rump in the #3 Absolute Racing entry.
However, the one-hour race saw further disruption when the #11 TTR Team SARD Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR, piloted by Brian Lee, stopped at T17 and had to recovered, requiring a second Safety Car deployment.
As the race drew to a close, Raffaele Marciello, 2018 Blancpain GT Series Overall, Endurance and Sprint Cup Drivers Champion went on a charge, putting in the fastest race alp with 1:242.193 and moving the #888 GruppeM Racing Team Mercedes up to fifth. As the race finished, however, it was announced that the #888 car was under investigation for an unsafe release so the result is provisional.
HubAuto Corsa’s Nick Foster and Jono Lester were delighted with the victory.
“This guy (Jono Lester) is a wizard!” said Nick Foster. “He starts P7 and he comes out P2. The team has worked super-hard between Shanghai and now. No one’s been here before so come out here and have this kind of place is unreal. They just handed me a rocket ship and I could just do what I do so I’m just super–stoked.
“We’ve got to stop making it so hard for ourselves,” said Jono Lester. “But it seems to be working and we’ve found the right formula. We had a good start and stuffed it right in there and were amongst it. We were quite lucky to avoid all that (the incidents). After we came out in second place, it was management – we weren’t going to change tyres so it was just about making sure that Nick could get to the end. The car was a rocket. It was quicker than in qualifying – at least on my part. We’ll carry a penalty in to tomorrow but anything could happen. With a third place starting position it means we’re in a much better starting position than in Shanghai.”
The lights go out for Race Two, Round 12 and the final round of the Blancpain GT Series Asia, at 10:55 local time on Sunday October 14.