Chris van der Drift and Evan Chen triumph
at Suzuka with Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia victory
Japan. (June 23 2019) – Gama Racing drivers Chris van der Drift and Evan Chen avenged disappointment in yesterday’s opening race at Suzuka Circuit to emerge triumphant today with a thrilling victory in the second race of Round 2 of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia. Chen crossed the line just 0.299 seconds ahead of fellow Pro pairing, Juuso Puhakka and Takashi Kasai of FFF Racing Team. Third overall and taking their first Pro-Am class victory were Brendon Leitch and Massimo Vignali of Leipert Motorsport.
It was a second consecutive Am class win for T Squared Racing driver Huilin Han, who finished fifth overall behind Australians Richard Muscat and Daniel Stutterd of GDL Racing, second in the Pro-Am class. The Lamborghini Cup class win went to the all-Hong Kong, China 852 Challengers team of Paul Wong and Clement Li.
Following a Safety Car period in the second half of the 50-minute race, the field emerged ready to fight for position, each hungry for victory. Chen, who was running third but had the advantage of life in his tyres, found an opportunity to get past his rivals to storm into the lead. Although Puhakka piled on the pressure in the closing laps, Chen fended off the challenge to take the win. Victory was made sweeter given yesterday’s misfortune: having raced their way through the field to cross the line first in Race 1, Chen and van der Drift’s #68 car was later disqualified due to a technical infringement.
The weekend at the iconic 5.807km Suzuka Circuit also saw the launch of the new limited-edition Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo Asia Collector Edition. The car carries a striking livery in Asopo White & Elios Gold, designed by Automobili Lamborghini Centro Stile, and inspired by the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Huracan Performante watch.
With a production run of only eight cars, the Collector Edition celebrates the auspicious eighth season of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia. The car carries the V10 Huracán Super Trofeo Engine, combined with a dedicated ECU to output 630hp. Each car is numbered 1 of 8 and comes with a Certificate of Origin signed by Stefano Domenicali (Chairman and CEO, Automobili Lamborghini) and Maurizio Reggiani (Chief Technical Officer, Automobili Lamborghini).
With the first two double-headers of the season complete, Kasai and Puhakka are on 53 points in the Pro category, six ahead of Chen and van der Drift. Alex Au of Vincenzo Sospiri Racing leads the Pro-Am class ahead of Hojust Racing drivers Yazid and Ochiai. With three consecutive Am class victories, Han is on 59 points, 19 ahead of PSC Motorsports drivers Sarun and Saravut Sereethoranakul. Leading the charge in the Lamborghini Cup are Wong and Li, who have a 29-point advantage in the category.
Hojust Racing driver Afiq Yazid lined up for Race 2 from pole position, with Vincenzo Sospiri Racing driver Yuki Nemoto alongside him. On the second row were van der Drift and Promotion Racing driver Satoshi Furuta.
Yazid made a clean getaway at the start, with Nemoto quickly following suit and van der Drift in third. PSC Motorsports driver Sarun Sereethoranakul was the early Am class leader, having moved up a position to fourth overall after Furuta dropped a place. It was also a strong start for Vignali, returning to motorsport after an 18 months absence, who moved up four places to ninth after the first corner. In the Lamborghini Cup, Dai Yoshihara of yh Racing was the early category leader.
Nemoto continued to push Yazid, while van der Drift made the decision to save the tyres for Chen. FFF Racing Team driver Takashi Kasai was also in pursuit of Sereethoranakul, but couldn’t find a way past early in the race.
As the pit window opened, many of the teams and drivers took the opportunity to take the mandatory pit stop and driver change early. However, the leading trio remained out on track and were among the last to make their mandatory stops. Pro driver Yazid handed over to Am driver Toshiyuki Ochiai, van der Drift to fellow Pro driver Chen, and Am driver Au took over driving duties from Nemoto. Au emerged in the lead, just ahead of Ochiai and Chen.
Just after his pit stop, solo driver Han, who had felt sluggish during his opening stint, ran wide at the hairpin and nearly found himself in the gravel. The Chinese driver was jolted back into action and rediscovered his form to take the class lead.
The Safety Car was called out just after the pit window closed to recover the #69 Aylezo Motorsports car, closing up the 19-strong field. When racing resumed three laps Iater, Au held the lead, again with Ochiai and Chen in hot pursuit. But Puhakka was now in the mix, having made quick work of a backmarker to close up behind Chen. Han was now fifth overall to lead the Am class, with Leitch just behind him.
A lap later, Chen found an opening to get past Ochiai and then set his sights on the race lead, getting past Au just a few corners later. Ochiai, meanwhile, found himself defending against Puhakka, ultimately succumbing to the Finn’s attack. Having passed the Japanese driver, Puhakka was now in pursuit of Au, the pair right up against one another before the experience of the Pro driver won out.
Leitch, meanwhile, had steadily begun moving his way up from seventh, getting past Muscat and then Au, Han and Ochiai to go third. Muscat moved up to fourth and continued to battle for the final overall podium place but, in spite of late pressure from the Australian, Leitch was able to maintain the position.
In the Lamborghini Cup, 852 Challengers’ Li was also able to capitalise on opportunities that came his way. Having taken over driving duties from Wong, Li was soon locked in a battle with class leader Takamichi Matsuda. Li found a way past to take the class win, ahead of GDL Racing driver Samson Chan – returning to the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia this weekend – and the yh Racing pairing of Matsuda and Yoshihara.
Round 3 of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia resumes in just two weeks when the championship heads into the foothills of the famed Mount Fuji for a double header at the Fuji International Speedway.
Chris van der Drift, #68 Gama Racing, Pro Winner, Round 2, Race 2
“The other two went like bulls out of the gate and went really quick, so I said ‘I’ll just sit back and wait and keep the tyres for Evan’. Right when the pit window opened I was catching them up without doing anything differently. They’d already burned through their tyres for sure, and if I needed to even at that point I could have caught them up even more. But I thought no, leave it to Evan and he can do the rest and get the best out of [the tyres]. It was a bit of a shame the Safety Car was out for so long, but otherwise it’s good to win again. It was close at the end. Evan drove really well to keep them behind.”
Evan Chen, #68 Gama Racing, Pro Winner, Round 2, Race 2
“Thanks to Chris, who saved me some tyres. But then the Safety Car came out which was quite unfortunate. The tyres kind of overheated at the end and the car was bouncing around, so I just tried to keep [Puhakka] behind and hold him back as long as possible. I’d rather have him crash into me than let him by, that was my idea!”
Brendon Leitch, #7 Leipert Motorsport, Pro-Am Winner, Round 2, Race 2
“It was awesome today. Massimo was in the car first and did the drive of his life – it was incredible and if wasn’t for how he finished, we definitely wouldn’t have been on the podium. That Safety Car was everything we needed. We had a big gap to the cars ahead and I knew that nothing was going to happen unless there was a Safety Car. The Safety Car came out just to my luck and from there it was chaos. I decided to play it smart and let some cars do what they were going to do, and then I capitalised when the time was right.”
Massimo Vignali, #7 Leipert Motorsport, Pro-Am Winner, Round 2, Race 2
“I haven’t driven a racing car for a year and a half so finally today something happened. I had a very good start – I think I took four or five positions by the first corner. I managed to settle in a good rhythm and I kept the gap to the guy behind and tried to push the guy in front just to be able to give the car to my team mate, who is much faster than me. It’s great to be back. A massive weight has been lifted off my chest. Yesterday we had a podium and today third overall is great and first in class is amazing.”
Huilin Han, #39 T Squared Racing, Am Winner, Round 2, Race 2
“It was again tough, I’m so tired. I drove an hour yesterday and today I felt a bit not on the pace in the first stint. I made a mistake and went wide in the hairpin and almost got caught in the gravel. It kind of woke me up and for the last 20 minutes I did okay – I got past a couple of cars to get P1 in class and fifth overall.”
Clement Li, #44 852 Challengers, Lamborghini Cup Winner, Round 2, Race 2
“The first stint, luckily Paul managed to keep the position and not lose too much time to the car in front. We went into the pits early and swapped to me to try and catch up some time and then luckily there was a Safety Car, which helped us in [closing] the gap. After the Safety Car I had a good fight with Matsuda-san – it was pretty tough, but I managed to overtake [him]. I enjoyed this race a lot.