The on-track action matched the soaring temperatures as the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia made its debut at the 5.615km Korea International Circuit today, with the Gama Racing duo of Evan Chen and Chris van der Drift taking their fifth win of the season in the opening race of the weekend.
HoJust Racing’s Toshiyuki Ochiai and Afiq Yazid took the Pro-Am honours after a late-race move by the Malaysian on Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia newcomer Jacob Rattenbury, while an epic solo effort in the searing heat by T Squared Racing’s Huilin Han of China earned him the Am victory. The Lamborghini Cup win went to yh Racing Team duo Takamichi Matsuda and Dai Yoshihara.
Second across the line overall and in the Pro category, despite leading for most of the 22-lap race, were class championship leaders Juuso Puhakka and Takashi Kasai in the FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo EVO. Second place sees the pair retain their position at the top of the Pro leaderboard after seven of this season’s 12 races.
Ochiai and Yazid’s win increases their points advantage in the Pro-Am championship chase, furthered helped after car damage caused during an unlucky incident in the opening free practice meant title rival Alex Au, partnered with Yuki Nemoto at Vincenzo Sospiri Racing, was unable to take the start. Runners-up in the Pro-Am class were Rattenbury and Leipert Motorsport team mate and Lamborghini Squadra Corse Young Driver talent Brendon Leitch.
GDL Racing’s Richard Muscat and Daniel Stutterd also sustained car damage prior to the race, denying them a qualifying time and demoting them to the back of the grid. However, a truly formidable effort by both drivers earned them a sensational podium finish after Muscat found his way past series newcomer Philip Kadoorie of Hong Kong in the closing minutes.
Han took his fourth Am win of the season so far, thereby increasing his points advantage. Second were the Aylezo Motorsports duo of Zen Low and Doyun Hwang, ahead of Thai brothers Sarun and Saravut Sereethoranakul at PSC Motorsport. Sarun was forced to serve a drive-through penalty incurred by Saravut in his opening stint after a coming together with fellow countryman, Bobby Buncharoen of True Visions Motorsport.
In the hotly-contested Lamborghini Cup, Matsuda and Yoshihara put in a spirited drive and, despite an impressive late-race charge by Clement Li, who, along with Paul Wong tops the leaderboard with the 852 Challengers, swept to victory number three. Third in the category was GDL Racing’s Gabriele Murroni, one of five drivers who completed the entire, grueling 50-minute race solo.
As the field roared away on the Korea International Circuit for the first time in the championship’s eight-year history, ice-cool Puhakka made a wheel-perfect getaway from pole, with Leitch slotting in behind. The field, almost all of whom are newcomers to the Hermann Tilke-designed track, acquitted themselves well off the start, jostling for position but giving each other the necessary space.
Chen was quickly up to second having found his way past Leitch from his second row start. He set off like a rocket in pursuit of Puhakka, but the Finn had already pulled a gap at the front. Behind Leitch, Ochiai was holding his own, first from Hwang and later Dan Wells who, like team mate Kadoorie, was also making his series debut.
While Puhakka led the field, Chen was determined to chip away at his lead, the pair repeatedly swapping fastest lap times. However, Leitch was on the move too, and began closing in on Chen ahead. Behind the New Zealand, Wells was also pushing hard to close up to the leading trio.
As the pit window opened, Puhakka had ring-fenced a healthy lead of almost seven seconds from Chen. Stutterd, meanwhile, had climbed to ninth in the order from the back of the pack by the time he handed over to Muscat.
After the driver changeovers, Kasai resumed the lead, but his almost-two second advantage was quickly obliterated by van der Drift, who emerged from the pits like a charging bull. Kasai’s advantage evaporated to just over half a second within moments, before the New Zealander rocketed past and headed off for the flag.
Rattenbury, who had taken the wheel from Leitch, was the next to come under pressure, with Yazid similarly determined to claim victory. Although it took the quick Malaysian several attempts to find a way past the Briton, who resisted manfully, Yazid made a move stick just five minutes from the flag.
Muscat continued the fight-back team mate Stutterd had begun, climbing through the field to catch newcomer Kadoorie, who had been running an impressive third in the Pro-Am order. Muscat pounded in the closing minutes to snatch the final class podium after what had been a mesmerizing team effort by the GDL Racing pair.
The Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia continues on Sunday, August 4, with Race 8 getting underway at the Korea International Circuit at 13:50 local time (GMT+9). Ochiai and Yazid will start from pole position, with Stutterd and Muscat alongside. Chen and van der Drift start from the second row with Pro rivals Puhakka and Kasai alongside.
Evan Chen #68 Gama Racing, Pro Winner, Round 4, Race 1
“At the start I was on the inside and I saw the front two cars squeezing each other. I was thinking of going for a move, but thought we might crash, so I held my position. On the second lap, I tried to catch Brendon. I think he made a bit of a mistake, so I went to the outside and passed him. I was sliding around everywhere and I just tried to hold it. I thought maybe I was pushing too much and not leaving enough for Chris, but eventually we completed the lap and set the fastest lap as well, which is cool. It was hard to catch Juuso as he’s consistent and he’s fast, so I just tried to do what I could with the tyres I had.”
Chris van der Drift #68 Gama Racing, Pro Winner, Round 4, Race 1
“Evan did a good job to get past Brendon. I didn’t know how to expect the car was going to be. The preparation of the car has been mega this weekend; a big overhaul so thanks to the team. It was really good to drive in the race. Compared to some of the other races we’ve done, which was a bit like riding a bull, now it’s more tame and we know what it’s going to do. It was probably my most enjoyable race. It’s a cool track!”
Afiq Yazid, #38 Hojust Racing, Pro Am Winner, Round 4, Race 1
"I would like to congratulate my teammate [Ochiai] for doing a really good job [in] defending the position on his stint. During my stint I needed to work hard for sure because my teammate was fighting with the Pro driver. I knew that I needed to overtake two guys in front of me who were in the same class and the gap was more than 10 seconds. It was a really tough job with this kind of weather – it’s hot, hotter than Sepang. It was really tough but we managed to overtake the two guys in front. We’re looking forward to tomorrow and we’ll see how it goes.”
Huilin Han, #39 T Squared Racing, Am Winner, Round 4, Race 1
“It was hot – even hotter than Sepang so it was probably one of the warmest races I’ve ever had. I qualified P2 in class so after the start, I tried to pass the P1 guy. I couldn’t do it in the first two laps so I just saved my tyres for the second stint and tried to follow the frontrunners. After the pit stop, it took me a couple of laps to get by.”
Dai Yoshihara, #30 yh Racing Team, Lamborghini Sup Winner, Round 4, Race 1
“It was a really hot and tough race. At the start I had a mistake so the first couple of laps I was in second place and finally I passed the guy in front of me and I tried to make the gap as wide as possible before handing over to Matsuda-san. It was hard to keep the pace because it was so hot but I was happy to give him a 40-second gap and he saved his pace all the way to the finish.”