Clazzio Racing Team takes Race 1 Victory
in Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia Fuji Thriller
Malaysian Afiq Yazid and Japan’s Kei Cozzolino took victory in Race 1 of Round 4 of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia at Japan’s Fuji International Speedway, as the new Huracán Super Trofeo EVO made its racing debut on the 4.526km GT course configuration. Second across the line were FFF Racing Team’s James Pull and Jack Bartholomew, although their team mates and Pro championship leaders Artur Janosz and Andrea Amici had dominated most of the race.
Victorious in the Pro-Am class were the on-form Leipert Motorsport pair of Mikko Eskelinen and Juuso Puhakka, the Finn’s third place finish seeing them celebrate on the overall podium for the first time this season.
Another strong outing from Thailand’s Bobby Buncharoen strengthened the solo True Visions Motorsports Thailand driver’s advantage at the top of the Am standings. In the Lamborghini Cup category meanwhile, it was elation for points leaders, Hong Kong’s 852 Challengers Clement Li and Paul Wong, but heartbreak for GDL Racing’s Gabriele Murroni after being hit by YH Racing Team’s Takamichi Matsuda.
Despite the high drama of the Fuji opening race, Amici and Janosz retain their lead at the top of the Pro standings, eight points ahead of team mates Bartholomew and Pull. Despite starting from the back of the grid in Race 1, an epic effort by Leipert Motorsport’s Ben Gersekowski and new father Richard Muscat sees them both third in the standings. In the chase for the Pro-Am title, Eskelinen and Puhakka now top the category leaderboard but with only a wafer-thin single point advantage over Gama Racing’s Evan Chen and Akihiro Asai, second in class in Race 1.
As the international field prepared to line up for the first race of the weekend, local hopes were dealt a blow when mechanical woes befell the HoJust Racing team of Takeshi Matsumoto and Toshiyuki Ochiai, the popular duo forced to sit out Race 1.
When the lights went green on the rolling start, Janosz got away well from pole and kept his nose in front going into the first turn, but Yazid was right on his tail, closing up and getting into the Pole’s slipstream. Behind the pair, Chen was challenging Pull, just two seconds covering the top four, while Muscat was already tearing a path through the pack from the rear.
It was early disappointment for series newcomers Satoshi Furuta and Jun Tashiro of Car Guy Racing. Having taken the Am pole and qualified a superb fifth overall, they pulled into the pits and retired after just two laps.
However, all eyes were firmly on the front of the pack and the transfixing battle between Janosz and Yazid, the Pole doing everything to shake off the Malaysian but his unrelenting challenger piling on the pressure. Janosz made only one error, running wide on the final corner, but quickly recovered to retain the lead.
Just before the pit window opened mid-way through the race, D1 Racing Team’s Bian of China retired, meaning new team mate and fellow countryman Sky Chen will have to wait until Race 2 to make his Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia debut.
Eskelinen was first to pit at the changeover, handing the car to Puhakka second in the Pro-Am chase. Yazid handed the reins to local hero Cozzolino, but rival Janosz stayed out on track, putting in a superb couple of laps to maximize FFF Racing Team by ACM’s advantage before Amici took over.
Just as the second half of the race was shaping up to be a thriller, the incident between Matsuda and GDL brought out the Safety Car with 20 minutes remaining on the clock. With Amici out of position at the back of the pack, eventually the field was waved past the Safety Car and took off to take their places behind the Italian. That meant Amici’s pace behind the course car was slower than his rivals, meaning significantly colder tyres at the restart.
Once Cozzolino, Bartholomew, Asai, Gersekowski and the remainder of the field were lined up behind Amici, the pack was released with just seven minutes remaining.
While the Italian made a good getaway, Cozzolino was sniffing victory and did not have to wait long before falling on his prey. With far less grip, Amici went too deep into the corner and Cozzolino pounced, grabbing the lead and pulling clear. Bartholomew followed him by Amici and, to add to the Italian’s misery, the team was handed a drive through penalty for a pit lane speed infringement. That saw him eventually cross the line down in seventh, a crushing disappointment for the team which had led for most of the race.
Another team to fall foul of the race stewards was Aylezo Motorsports, also handed a drive through penalty in the closing stages of the race, while FPC Racing’s Ken Urata and Daisuke Matsunaga were later given a 35 second penalty for a pit stop infringement.
Cozzolino thundered away on a storming run to the flag, setting the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate lap, and crossing the line more than seven and a half seconds ahead of Bartholomew.
After a truly epic Race 1, the foothills of the majestic Mount Fuji will once again reverberate as the raging bulls return for Race 2, which begins at 10:05 local time (GMT+9). Live streaming will be available on the Lamborghini Squadra Corse website and Facebook pages and YouTube channel.
Afiq Yazid #11 Clazzio Racing Team – Pro Winner Round 4, Race 1
“It was a really, really great race! We worked so hard for this weekend. The first round in Suzuka, we didn’t start with the right plan, so this time we came back stronger. Even though we started P2, we know that our race pace was really good. I just maintained my position and kept the pressure on Janosz. At the end of my stint I handed to my team mate to do the job. He did a really fantastic job and I’m looking forward to Race 2.”
Kei Cozzolino #11 Clazzio Racing Team – Pro Winner Round 4, Race 1
“It was very confusing [behind the Safety Car]. I was P1. The Safety Car consistently kept telling me to overtake. I was double checking with my team. I wasn’t sure as usually when you’re P1 you’re behind the Safety Car. I was double checking with the officials, but then I did [overtake]. It was a really confusing event but I was so confident. I knew that my car was there; I had the tyres, I had the grip. We aimed the car to be fast on the second stint, and you can see I did the fastest lap. I did some good overtakes, which I think was quite fun for the show. We need to keep working. I should have maybe eased off so my adversaries don’t have to work so hard overnight, but you know when you’re a driver, you’re there and you want to be fast. I just kept pushing.”
Mikko Eskelinen #33 Leipert Motorsport – Pro-Am Winner Round 4, Race 1
“Today, in the morning qualification we got quite an OK position and I gained one place more in the race, while I could almost follow the top drivers’ cue and bring the car in a good place to Juuso [Puhakka]. Juuso did a really good job at the end of the race, and also the Safety Car helped us a bit.”
Juuso Puhakka #33 Leipert Motorsport – Pro-Am Winner Round 4, Race 1
“It was our first overall podium of the year so I’m really happy. I think the best thing of today was Mikko’s pace. He’s really improving throughout the season. We are going forward all the time with the speed of our car, so I’m really happy. The circuit it really awesome. The view on the main strait is really awesome and I like the corners; fast corners, slow corners, and it’s really technical. It challenges us drivers. Mega!”
Bobby Buncharoen #59 True Visions Motorsport – Am Winner Round 4, Race 1
“I had a good start. I was very lucky to be the winner. My lap time was the fastest Am lap. I’m very happy and feel confident for tomorrow.”
Clement Li #44 852 Challengers – Lamborghini Cup Winner Round 4, Race 1
“We missed one race in Suzuka where were didn’t finish, so we were a few points back from our original standing. So now, in this race the other two racers didn’t finish so we could get our advantage back. It’s good – another podium, another trophy to take back home. So we’re happy. Next race we’ll push again.”