Local hero Daniel Cao gave the Shanghai race fans plenty to cheer about when he stormed to his maiden F3 Asian Championship in Race 13 today on his home track. The 17-year-old Absolute Racing driver, who took two second-place finishes here two weeks ago, seized the lead off the start with a bold move around the outside to pass both the Hitech GP title contenders, Ukyo Sasahara and Red Bull Junior Driver Jack Doohan.
Doohan kept his title aspirations very much alive with a strong run to second place, taking three points out of Sasahara’s lead and pushing Cao all the way to the flag. His Japanese rival nevertheless begins the penultimate race with a 35-point advantage thanks to his third-place finish, despite struggling in the latter stages with a yet-to-be-identified issue.
The 2019 F3 Asian Championship Masters class winner Paul Wong, meanwhile, took his fifth win of the season so far, although he was denied a battle with his category rival Thomas Luedi of BlackArts Racing following his early retirement after contact with Pinnacle Motorsport’s Tommy Smith. Smith was later handed a three-place grid penalty for the incident.
Although the 2019 Asian F3 Championship Certified by FIA title and the 18 super licence points which go with it will be won by Sasahara or Doohan on Sunday, with the runner-up taking 14 points, there is still a total of 38 of the valuable credits to be shared amongst the third to ninth-place finishers. That means much remains at stake for these young talents as they prepare for the final day of competition this season.
A scorching qualifying session saw Sasahara become the first driver to lap the 5.451km Shanghai International Circuit in the Tatuus F3 T-318 in less than two minutes, a feat replicated shortly afterwards by Doohan, who lined up alongside the 23-year-old Japanese driver on the grid. Cao and BlackArts Racing’s Brendon Leitch made up the second row, with Hitech GP’s Jackson Walls and Pinnacle Motorsport’s Jordan Dempsey on row three.
Off the start, Sasahara pulled across to close the door on Doohan, but Cao, starting on fresh rubber after a suspension issue put him out of the second qualifying, stormed around the outside of both title contenders and into the lead. Doohan resisted a move from Leitch, then squeezed past Sasahara and up to second.
During the hectic opening lap, Tommy Smith ran wide and made contact with Thomas Luedi, the BlackArts Masters driver sustaining radiator damage which saw him retire on lap four.
Sasahara began to close in on Doohan, the battling pair enabling Cao to pull away at the front, the Chinese driver pushing hard and pulling out a healthy advantage. With ten minutes remaining on the clock, however, Sasahara could tell all was not well with his car, his pace slowing dramatically.
Behind him, Leitch was on the warpath but Dempsey and Walls were also chasing hard. Walls made a move on the inside of Dempsey, the pair side-by-side and neither giving an inch, until the Australian found a way past with a text book move.
Leitch had now closed right up to the struggling Sasahara, finding his way past on the inside. His podium contention was short-lived however, a puncture picked up during the overtake seeing him limp back to the pits.
As Cao headed towards his first victory, Doohan was still pushing hard in his pursuit of the local hero. However, Cao kept his nerve, crossing the line more than a second ahead of the Red Bull Junior driver. Sasahara was relieved to have made it to the finish and to collect the crucial 15 points for third, while Walls crossed the line in fourth ahead of Dempsey. Zen Motorsport’s Yu Kuai was sixth ahead of Absolute Racing’s Eshan Pieris.
Daniel Cao/Absolute Racing/1st – Race 13
“Before the start, I knew my tyres were the newest out of the three cars, so my car had more grip at the start. Before turn one, I had passed the two Hitech GP cars and then led the race. During the race it was a bit dangerous for me because Jack Doohan was so fast in the last few laps. But I’m very happy and thanks to everyone! Tomorrow, from pole, I will do my best to repeat this.”
Jack Doohan/Hitech GP/2nd – Race 13
“It was not a good start, but Ukyo didn’t get a good one either – a lot of wheel spin. Daniel got it right and went around the outside of us. Then I saw an opening of the entry to turn two. Ukyo was a little bit wide. I didn’t really have anything else to lose, so I just went for it. I thought maybe I could go to Cao but I didn’t know he had the better tire, and at that point Ukyo was on it. He was really quick in the first few laps. My pace wasn’t too good so Ukyo was coming and keeping the pressure really hard. Then, once the tyres came on, already it was a bit too late to get the victory, but I think it was a good pace and a good pace going in to tomorrow. I’m going to give [the championship] the best I can. I’m going to keep on going to try and get the championship right to the last lap of race three!”
Ukyo Sasahara/Hitech GP/3rd – Race 13
“Firstly, congratulations to Daniel who deserved this victory today. It was a shame we couldn’t win as a team. Suddenly I lost the pace in the middle of the race. There was something really not right on the left and right corners. I just tried to finish the race and bring the car home in one piece. At one point, Brendon overtook me but unfortunately he got a puncture.”
Paul Wong/852 Challengers/1st Masters – Race 13
“I’m very happy to have won the Masters class championship, and very surprised! This is only my first season and I’ve only been taking it race by race and trying my best in each. I hope to improve more next season and fight for even better results.”
Race 13 Results
Ukyo Sasahara was crowned 2019 F3 Asian Champion after the penultimate round of the season having earned himself an unassailable points advantage over Hitech GP teammate and championship rival, 16-year-old Jack Doohan. Taking eight victories in 15 races, the title is the first single-seater championship win for the highly-regarded Japanese talent, and the win earns him 18 super licence points.
Heading into the penultimate round of the season, Sasahara held a 35-point advantage over Red Bull Junior driver Doohan and, despite just missing out on a podium finish in Race 14, his fourth-place finish was enough to clinch the crown.
Absolute Racing’s Daniel Cao took a second sensational series win, followed across the line by BlackArts Racing’s Brendon Leitch and championship runner-up Doohan.
Despite missing out on the title, and vowing to end the season on a high, Doohan did exactly that, leading home a triumphant 1-2-3 finish for Hitech GP in Race 15, with Sasahara in second and an impressive Jackson Walls in third, his second podium finish in the nine races he has contested this season.
In addition to Sasahara and Doohan, Cao, Leitch, Absolute Racing’s Eshan Pieris, Walls, Pinnacle Motorsport’s Jordan Dempsey, Zen Motorsport’s Yu Kuai and Super License driver Yu Kanamaru all earn super licence points from their F3 Asian Championship season.
With the fastest laps in Saturday’s Race 13 setting the grid for Race 14, Ukyo Sasahara lined up alongside pole-sitter Daniel Cao for the penultimate outing of the season with the championship tantalizingly close, his 35-point advantage putting him in a strong position to lift the title with a race in hand. However, Sasahara, along with the rest of the grid, was acutely aware that in motorsport, anything can happen.
As the field roared from the grid, Cao made another blinding getaway, rocketing clear of his rivals and setting off on the hunt for his second series victory. Behind him though, despite both the Hitech GP drivers getting a poor start, it was clear Jack Doohan was not prepared to leave anything on the table in his pursuit of the title, diving past Sasahara and up to second. Brendon Leitch, however, was on the hunt for his maiden series win and dived past both Sasahara and Doohan to snatch second.
Straight away, Sasaharawas all over the back of teammate Doohan, diving on the inside and getting alongside in the run down to the parabolica. Doohan was having none of it though, fighting tooth and nail to keep the more experienced Japanese driver firmly behind him as Sasahara threw every weapon in his arsenal at the young Australian, but to no avail.
Likewise, Cao, who had been caught by Leitch, was showing superb pace, carrying impressive speed out of the corners with his perfectly set up Absolute Racing.
Behind the top four, Jackson Walls faced an early-race challenge from a quick Kuai Yu, the Chinese driver making a move on the inside but going in too deep. A lightning reaction by Walls saw him sidestep the incident, with Dempsey replacing Yu as his challenger as the Zen Motorsport driver dropped to eight in the order behind Eshan Pieris.
The rollercoaster season continued for Masters driver Thomas Luedi. With a new engine fitted after an incident with Tommy Smith in Race 13, the BlackArts Racing driver disappointingly came to a stop trackside, bringing out the safety car.
Having clinched the title with a race to spare, Sasahara lined up on pole position for the final time this season, but without fresh rubber for the final showdown. Doohan took his place alongside ahead of Leitch and Dempsey.
The Australian wasted no time in making good his vow to take the final honours of the year, diving on the inside of Sasahara and snatching the lead. Walls was a man on the move too, thundering past first Dempsey then Leitch and up to third behind Sasahara. Next, the 16-year-old Walls honed in on Sasahara ploughing past and up to second behind Doohan, who had pulled a gap of more than 1.5 seconds by the end of the opening lap.
It was another disappointing outing for Leitch’s BlackArts teammate, Masters driver Thomas Luedi, who once again retired with technical issues early on in the race. That left Masters champion Paul Wong to take his seventh win of his debut season.
Back at the front of the pack, Leitch was having a look at Sasahara, who was still struggling to find his pace on worn tyres, while further back Cao was making headway through the field from the back of the pack having missed out on the second qualifying session. The Shanghai local hero was up to eighth by the end of the opening lap, moving up another place by the end of lap 3 having found his way past Smith.
Five laps in and Sasahara had found his pace and made his move on Walls, getting alongside and moving across to shut the door. Walls mounted a spirited fightback, but the more experienced Sasahara prevailed.
Out in front, Doohanwasn’t letting up, pounding out rapid, faultless laps, extending his advantage and setting the fastest lap of the race for good measure.
With 10 minutes remaining, Doohan was untouchable as he charged towards the flag and the final victory of the championship’s second season. Behind him, Sasahara maintained his pace and held Walls firmly at bay, with Leitch unable to make any headway into the dominant Hitech GP trio.
Pieris ended his season with a strong finish in fifth, ahead of Dempsey, Cao, Smith, Yu and Gowda.
As the curtain comes down on a second superb season of junior formula competition, the F3 Asian Championship is already preparing to burst back to life for the 2020 season in just a few short weeks, with the opening triple-header at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit on December 14 and 15. In the meantime, fans can stay up-to-date with championship news via its Facebook page and on www.f3asia.com
Hitech GP/2019 Asian F3 Champion
“Thanks to Hitech GP who have been fantastic all year. This is my first championship in formula cars for me, so hopefully it will be a boost for the future. I’m happy to be here and to win the championship. In this race, I just tried to finish the race. Yesterday, I didn’t have any tyres left at the end and today, I didn’t need to take any risks.
Absolute Racing/1st – Race 14
“It’s not so easy to drive from the front because Brendon’s car was right behind him. I think I’m very lucky because the two Hitech cars were fighting. On the big straights, sometimes I watched my mirrors, but in the corners, I focussed on the car.”
BlackArts Racing/2nd –Race 14
“[At the restart] I found it quite hard to get rid of some of the pick-up on the tyres. I was being a bit cautious after yesterday probably as well, which wasn’t so confidence-inspiring. The car was really nice to drive today. Awesome drive by Daniel. He was faultless. I couldn’t put any pressure on him as he wouldn’t let me get close enough. We just need to find that little piece to try and challenge for a win as I’d love one of those to finish it off this afternoon. We’ll try and get the big W, but it depends on so many things.”
Hitech GP/1st – Race 15
“Of course, I wanted to win the championship, but Ukyo did a phenomenal job all year and made it very tough. I’m happy he was in the team because I learned a lot and improved – I think we improved ourselves as drivers to push each other. It was good to get the win. It’s all on the start here, there’s not much overtaking. I tried to manage the tyres but as there’s no other race for the rest of the year, I just pushed.”
Hitech GP/3rd – Race 15
“Ukyo put up a great fight! I honestly thought I had him for a while, but once he got past it was almost impossible to get back. He’s such a good blocker – he’s like a wall, impossible to get past.”
That closed up the pack, wiping out Cao’s hard-won advantage, giving Leitch another shot at his maiden series win, and intensifying the pitched battle between the Hitech GP title contenders.
At the restart, though, a composed Cao was once again away like a rocket, leaving Leitch in his dust, the New Zealander forced to switch to defensive mode as Doohan loomed large in his mirrors. Likewise, Doohan had his adversary Sasahara right on his tail, the Japanese driver resuming his furious assault.
The next few laps witnessed arguably the best racing the championship has seen, with a master class in close, no-holds-barred motorsport of the finest order as Doohanand Sasahara diced it out. Sasahara got by Doohan, but the Australian quickly reclaimed the position after a nail-biting drag race down to Turn 14. Every time Sasahara made headway, Doohan skillfully closed the door in a furious, fair, flat-out fight.
Further down the order, Pieris made a move on Dempsey for sixth, but went into the corner too deep and spun defending from Yu. That put the disappointed Sri Lankan right down the order, who eventually crossed the line in tenth behind Pinnacle Motorsport’s Tommy Smith and ahead of 2019 Masters Champion Paul Wong of the 852 Challengers
As the clock ticked down, Doohan eventually managed to break free of Sasahara, but the battle with his rival had allowed Cao and Leitch to pull too far clear to challenge for the win, dashing his championship hopes. Cao, meanwhile, had put in a wheel-perfect performance to keep his BlackArts Racing challenger far enough away not to threaten the win after the restart, and the Shanghai native sailed across the line to his second Formula 3 career victory.
While missing out on a podium finish, Sasahara had done enough to clinch the title with an unassailable points advantage and with a race in hand. A disappointed Doohan had proved his undeniable talented and, as seven years Sasahara’s junior, his enormous championship-winning potential.
2019 F3 Asian Championship Certified by FIA
Race 14 Result
Fastest Lap：Daniel Cao/Absolute Racing/2:02.788/159.81KM/H
Race 15 Result
Fastest Lap：Jack Doohan/Hitech GP/2:02.322/160.42KM/H
2019 F3 Asian Championship Certified by FIA
Overall and Masters Driver Classification
2019 F3 Asian Championship Certified by FIA