Chen and van der Drift Celebrate Second Consecutive
Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia Victory
Evan Chen and Chris van der Drift made it two Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia wins in as many starts as the Gama Racing pair celebrated victory today at the Sepang International Circuit to close out the opening round of the 2019 season. Just as Chen of Chinese Taipei won yesterday’s first race on the last lap, today New Zealand’s van der Drift pulled a thrilling last-lap move on Hong Kong’s Alex Au to grab the lead – and the win.
Second across the line and 1.3-seconds adrift were Au and Edoardo Liberati, with the Vincenzo Sospiri Racing duo also taking the honours in the Pro-Am category. Third overall and second in the Pro-Am class was Hojust Racing’s Afiq Yazid and Toshiyuki Ochiai.
Juuso Puhakka and Takashi Kasai of FFF Racing Team were second in the Pro class and fourth overall, while Am category winner Han Huilin of T Squared Racing was fifth overall.
The 852 Challengers team of Clement Li and Paul Wong took their second Lamborghini Cup victory in as many races as they get their category title defense off to a perfect start.
With their two victories, Chen and van der Drift lead the Pro standings, six points ahead of Takashi and Puhakka. Yazid and Ochiai are tied with Au and Liberati are tied for the lead in the Pro-Am category, 10 points ahead of GDL Racing’s Richard Muscat and Daniel Stutterd. Han leads the Am standings on 29 points ahead of brothers Sarun and Saravut Sereethoranakul of PSC Motorsports, who are nine points back. With their two class victories Wong and Li lead the Lamborghini Cup standings, eight points ahead of Vincent Wong and Sui Lung Gary Cheung of GDL Racing.
The torrential rain of Saturday’s night race could not have been in greater contrast to the conditions for Race 2, with the searing Malaysian heat sending the Mercury soaring as the field took to the grid for the start. The track temperature of 63.9ºC made it clear that the 50-minute race would not be an easy one.
On pole was Yazid with Liberati alongside him on the front row. Chen started from the second row, with GDL Racing’s Richard Muscat beside him. The third row was comprised of Han and FFF Racing Team’s Steven Lin, an Am class driver, who, like Han, had also entered as a solo effort.
While Yazid did not get the start he intended, Liberati was off like a rocket and stormed into the lead. Yazid slipped back into second ahead of Muscat, Chen and Han. Lin dropped down the order allowing Tedco Racing’s Andrew Haryanto and Li to get past.
Liberati began to steadily build a gap from Yazid, while the leading pair also began to pull away from an intensifying battle for third between Muscat and Chen. Han continued to lead the Am class, while Haryanto moved ahead of Li, as did Kasai.
Chen began to close the gap to Muscat, edging ever closer to the Australian until he was able to make a move and get past on lap 7. Now in third, Chen set his sights on Yazid, who was now more than five seconds back from Liberati.
As the pit window opened, it was yh Racing Team’s Takamichi Matsuda who dove into the pits first, the Japanese Am driver handing driving duties to his Pro partner Kei Cozzolino. Cozzolino immediately set his sights on working his way through the field, eventually finishing ninth overall.
As the field took their mandatory pit stops, race leaders Liberati, Yazid, and Chen stayed out on track, with all three coming in at the end of the pit window. Liberati handed driving duties and the lead to Au, while Yazid passed the reins to Ochiai. Chen handed over to van der Drift who immediately got past Am driver Ochiai and then set off after Au.
By the end of van der Drift’s first lap, the New Zealand driver had eaten into Au’s lead by two seconds, leaving a 4.4 second gap between the top two. Han continued to lead the Am class, but the Chinese driver was soon under pressure from Puhakka. Puhakka would continue to tighten the screws on Han as the two battled for fourth, with the Finn snatching the place with just two laps to go.
Au continued to push and the Am driver put up a strong defence, but van der Drift was right on his tail and had closed up to the Hong Kong driver. On the final lap, van der Drift launched his attack: racing wheel to wheel, Au held onto the lead for the first five corners, but a mistake gave van der Drift all he needed to get by at turn 6, and the New Zealand driver then cruised to the chequered flag and victory.
Season eight of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia continues with Round 2 on June 22-23, with two races at Japan’s iconic Suzuka Circuit.
Chris van der Drift #68 Gama Racing Pro Winner, Round 1, Race 2
“Evan did a really good first stint and for me, I have no idea what I’m doing yet in the dry with this car. I haven’t driven so many laps in a row. I was driving on [used] tyres after Evan started, so it’s all a massive unknown so I was driving, drifting everywhere and trying to figure it out. I slowly started to catch the first-placed car and launched an attack right at the end. I knew if I could get close enough, he’d try to go a bit wide and I could dive on the inside. I managed to pass on the outside at one of the hardest corners. I got a good run out of there and hopefully he wasn’t going to slide into me, but I’m lucky we pulled it off and walked away to the chequered flag.”
Evan Chen #68 Gama Racing Pro Winner, Round 1, Race 2
“Our car has been struggling for the whole weekend, especially the set-up. Somehow today we did a pretty good thing for the race and the car was consistent. During my stint, I was catching up and then I just passed it over to Chris. It just so happens for both races we got the wins right at the end.”
Alex Au #66 Vincenzo Sospiri Racing, Pro-Am Winner, Round 1, Race 2
“Almost – almost won. I tried to put it out of my mind that there was a fast guy behind me. I just tried to do fast laps and when the radio came in [to say] give it a bit more because it’s not quite enough, I thought okay I’ll give it a bit more, take some risks. I almost spun the car two or three times. I almost managed to keep the position – if only the race was one lap shorter. It was a difficult last lap and when I made a mistake, I knew he was behind me.”
Edoardo Liberati #66 Vincenzo Sospiri Racing, Pro-Am Winner, Round 1, Race 2
“I had a very good start at the green light so I got into P1 and my rhythm was really quick so I could take a big lead. The car was handling really well which is important in this heat. Then I handed over the car to Alex. He did a mega job defending on a Pro car. He’s an Am but he’s a really fast Am so he could keep the first position until the last lap.”
Huilin Han #39 T Squared Racing, Am Winner, Round 1, Race 2
“It was very hot – probably the toughest race I’ve done because I did the double stint. It wasn’t an easy one, that’s for sure. The last six or seven laps it was extremely tough because I was worn out from the heat, but I’m happy with the victory.”
Paul Wong #44 852 Challengers Lamborghini Cup Winner, Round 1, Race 2
“It’s very hot out there. The tyres were slippery and I got slower and slower. I wasn’t under any pressure, and we took the win.”
Clement Li #44 852 Challengers Lamborghini Cup Winner, Round 1, Race 2
“I had a good start – I overtook a couple of cars at the start. There was a good driver in front of me and I did some good laps and then I handed over to Paul. It’s good. I’m happy.”