Rinus Veekay maintains championship lead despite two dominant wins from Ye Yifei

Rinus Veekay maintains championship lead despite two dominant wins from Ye Yifei

23.02.2019: ASIAN WINTER SERIES Sepang International Circuit Saturday, February 22nd, 2019 •Victories in Races 7 and 8 see Ye close down Dutchman’s lead to 12 points •Championship battle goes down to wire between Hitech GP ace a

Sepang International Circuit
Saturday, February 22nd, 2019

•Victories in Races 7 and 8 see Ye close down Dutchman’s lead to 12 points

•Championship battle goes down to wire between Hitech GP ace and Chinese Absolute Racing talent

•B-Max Racing Team’s Tairoku Yamaguchi clinches Masters title at Sepang

Two brilliant victories in Races 7 and 8 of the Asian Winter Series by China’s Ye Yifei has closed his points deficit to championship-leader Rinus ‘Veekay’ van Kalmthout to just 12, with one, title-deciding race remaining.

A coming together between the Dutchman and championship contender and team mate Alessandro Ghiretti in Race 7 put an end to the young Frenchman’s title aspirations, lining up a two-way battle to decide the Asian Winter Series’ first-ever champion between Veekay and Ye.

The two races saw standout performances from several drivers, foremost amongst them series newcomer Jack Doohan, son of five-time MotoGP champion Mick. The Red Bull Junior finished second in both races on his series debut. Third in Race 7 from seventh on the grid was Pinnacle Motorsport’s Victor Martins, the Frenchman denied a second podium in Race 8 by Veekay.

With guest drivers ineligible to score points in the final round of the series, held at the 5.543km Grade 1 Sepang International Circuit, Veekay picked up points for second despite being sixth over the line in Race 7, following up with a third place in Race 8 to stay 12 points clear of Ye. Ghiretti currently lies third ahead of Super License driver Tomoki Takahashi of Japan, Hitech GP’s Pavan Ravishankar, and local hero Akash Nandy. With his fifth Masters win of the season in Race 8, B-Max Racing Team’s Tairoku Yamaguchi clinched the class title with a race to spare.

The final round of the 2018/19 Asian Winter Series begins at 10:20 on Sunday, February 24. All races will be live streamed via and on the series Facebook page.

Race 7

As the lights went out on the epic, 13-lap race there were plenty of upsets to the grid order. Ye got away well but Doohan was right on his tail off the grid after a similarly lightning start. Championship contender Veekay launched like a rocket from the third row, diving past Ghiretti and up to third. Absolute Racing’s Eshan Pieris, who had started alongside Ye on the front row, got caught up in the melee of the opening lap and dropped down to sixth behind Martins.

The opening lap saw the first of two safety car periods after a coming together between Masters driver Yamaguchi and Vivien Keszthelyi at Turn 6. Ye masterfully controlled the restart, immediately pulling clear of the chasing pack and setting a scorching lap time. Behind him, Doohan was three tenths clear of Veekay, with the Dutchman’s Hitech GP team mate Ghiretti never far behind in fourth.

By the end of lap 5, Ye had pulled an advantage of more than 2.5 seconds from the chasing pack, a gap he had increased to almost four seconds by the end of Lap 7. However, that lap saw the second safety car intervention after Pieris and Nandy came together at Turn 15, ending the race for both drivers. Once again, Ye’s advantage was wiped out and he had it all to do once again.

With less than 10 minutes remaining on the clock, the safety car pulled off and Ye made another flawless restart, breaking the slip stream for his rivals and setting off on the hunt for his third victory.

Behind Ye, having bided his time behind the Australian newcomer, Veekay attempted a move down the inside of Doohan but, seconds later, came together with Ghiretti at Turn 4. Side-by-side, the pair ran wide and made impact, but Veekay was able to rejoin to cross the line in sixth and collect eight valuable championship points. Ghiretti was not so fortunate, and his race – and his championship aspirations – ended there.

That incident promoted Pinnacle Motorsport driver Martins to third in the order and a podium finish ahead of Takahashi and Lundgaard.

In the Masters classification, Yoshida took the win after Yamaguchi’s early retirement. B-Max Racing Team newcomer, female driver Miki Koyama finished tenth behind F3 Asian Championship Certified by FIA 2018 driver Leong.

With just two races remaining, the championship title battle was now between Veekay, whose points advantage had been reduced to just 19, and Ye. Ye had driven another flawless race, setting the fastest lap and securing pole position for the start of the penultimate showdown of the inaugural Asian Winter Series.

Race 8

Another brilliant start from Ye saw him storm off in pursuit of his fourth win in eight races. Doohan, starting from third on the grid, made a move on Veekay off the start, snatching second. Other drivers on the move were Absolute Racing’s Pieris and Pinnacle Motorsport’s Nandy, climbing to fourth and fifth respectively.

Lap 4 brought drama for Keszthelyi when the Hungarian BlackArts Racing driver pulled into the pits which technical issues. The team had done a superb job to repair the damage sustained in Race 7 and get her out on track in time for the start of the second race of the day. Happily, BlackArts Racing were able to get her out on track again, and she was eventually able to rejoin and finish the race

As Ye pulled away at the front, there was action further down the tightly packed field. Leong made a successful move on Pavan Ravishankar, before Ghiretti found his way past Nandy to go sixth behind Ghiretti on Lap 7.
With a little over 10 minutes remaining on the clock, Ye was untouchable having pulled out a lead of almost 5.5 seconds, and advantage that was only to increase before the flag.

In the closing minutes of the race, Martins ploughed past Pieris to go fourth, but there wasn’t enough time on the close for him to challenge for a second podium.

After quick work from his B-Max Racing Team after damage sustained in Race 7, Yamaguchi took his fifth Masters win of the season to clinch the title. Team mate Motoyoshi Yoshida finished second in class.

- Nikki Kemp photos ASW


23.02.2019 / MaP

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