Strong field highlights China GT return to Shanghai

Strong field highlights China GT return to Shanghai

12.09.2017: Rnd#7/8 2017 China GT Championship Shanghai International Circuit, China 8-10 September, 2017 28-car China GT GT3/GTC field keeps

Rnd#7/8 2017 China GT Championship
Shanghai International Circuit, China
8-10 September, 2017

• 28-car China GT GT3/GTC field keeps the big Shanghai crowd on their feet

• JRM and Kings Racing claim victory in GT3

• Points leader wins again in GTC, as GT4 field delivers big shakeup

The China GT Championship made a return to Shanghai International Circuit for the fourth stop of the 2017 season with high expectations from teams and fans of a season standout event with the pre-race announcement that for the first time this season, GT3 and GTC would be combined, delivering a 28-car grid for the two 60-minute races.

The spectacle didn’t disappoint, nor did the invitational entries and new drivers that forced the series regulars to dig deeper than they had at any point during the first half of the season, as the pace across increased across all three competing categories.

Ultimately the big winners would be the JRM pairing of Li Chao and Chris van der Drift who finally broke Audi’s stranglehold on China GT this year in their #991 Porsche GT3-R with the win in round seven, whilst in round eight, Kings Racing’s Xu Jia returned to the top step of the podium for the third time this season, after three-time Audi R8 LMS Cup champion Alex Yoong crossed the line for victory in the #07 Audi.

In GTC, CJ Huang continued his domination of the field, claiming his fifth win of the season in round seven, whilst fellow Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo drivers Bian Hao and Will Bamber grabbed their second win of the year after a late race Safety Car bunched up the field allowing the New Zealander to jump his rivals on the restart.

With GTC once again joining GT3 as they did during the maiden season of China GT, for the GT4 category, Shanghai would present a significant historical milestone for the emerging category, with the class running alone for the very first time anywhere in Asia, and whilst a conservative field, the racing was no less impressive.

GT4 Points leader Roelof Bruins and ‘super-sub’ Dong Liang provided McLaren their fifth victory of the season in round seven, whilst a technical challenge sidelined them in round eight, opening the door for the mighty #86 KTM X-Bow GT4 of Chen Yinian and Ling Kang to claim their first win of the year.

GT3 - Rnds#7/8

The big news ahead of the Shanghai round was the addition of two high-profile local teams into the outright category - Anthony Liu’s BBT Audi team, and Jiang Xin’s Spirit of Race Ferrari operation. Both teams were entered as single-event entries so not eligible for the championship, and as a result, would be classified only in the outright results.

That though didn’t stop them dominating the timesheets in both qualifying sessions, before running away with both race wins, Xin and former China GT race winner Max Wiser claiming victory for Ferrari in round seven, whilst Liu and new team-mate Franky Cheng were the victors for Audi in round eight, the teams alternating positions on the podium.

Those two teams aside though, the action at Shanghai was fantastic, with some big championship moves taking place in both races.

For Shanghai, the big question was whether anybody could do anything about the ongoing success of the Audi marque, especially coming to an Audi supported event at an Audi supported circuit, but that question was answered emphatically in round seven, with the JRM team delivering Li Chao and New Zealander Chris van der Drift with their maiden win of the season, with title rivals Kings Racing and FAW T2M completing the podium.

Bao Jinlong started strongly off the start of round seven to move into third into turn one with Li Chao, Alex Au, Xu Jia and Li Jiaqi in close pursuit.

There were some great battles right through the field, but the big mover was Alex Imperatori in the ‘Hard Memory’ Bentley Continental, the locally-based Swiss driver charging from rear of field after failing to qualify, into the top five in just a handful of laps, before ultimately stopping at the end of the compulsory pit stop window as leader to hand over to his high-profile team-mate.

Once the stops had been completed the action really started to heat up, with van der Drift forging his way very quickly into the lead, although the main focus was on the fight for the minor placings, with a hard-charging Martin Rump looking to keep team-mate Liang in the championship lead, but with Martin Ragginger moving into second, it looked very much like the FAW T2M team would finally claim the points lead. The young Estonian though had other ideas..!

Heading into the final lap, Ragginger looked like he had Rump covered, but the Audi R8 LMS Cup star was not to be denied, taking second from the Porsche driver just half a lap from home, maintaining Liang’s points lead, and in the process, moving himself into second overall in points.

Ragginger kept he and Bao in the title race with third, ahead of a charging Alex Yoong, the three-time Audi R8 LMS Cup champion bringing Xu Jia’s #07 Kings Racing Audi right back into the title fight. Marchy Lee was fifth for Audi Hong Kong ahead of team-mate Melvin Moh, with Maxx Ebenal gaining valuable points for the D2 Mercedes team in seventh.

Jinlong and Maxx Ebenal were the stars off the start for round eight, the pair forcing their way past invited guest Jiang Xin to be second and third behind Anthony Liu, with Ebenal impressing the big Shanghai crowd with a move through on the FAW T2M Porsche to take second soon after.

Again Alex Imperatori was on a charge and quickly through the field to be battling with the leading trio, although all had to negotiate the stranded Li Jiaqi on the exit of turn one, the JRM driver forced into a spin off the start in a squabble for position with the leading GTC teams, but was then unable to restart the Porsche, effecting the team’s immediate retirement.

Audi Hong Kong’s Melvin Moh too was on a charge, quickly catching Li Chao in the round seven winning Porsche, the two making light contact at turn eight, the Porsche driver forced into a spin as a result, fortunately though he avoided contact with the barriers and was able to continue.

As the field started to settle into a rhythm after the compulsory pit stops, the fans were gifted a Safety Car intervention to close out the final stages of the race, with a GTC class car spinning to a stop across the circuit at turn eight.

Whilst Franky Cheng and Max Wiser led the field outright, the focus was squarely on the battle for China GT honours with Alex Yoong leading the way in the #07 Audi, now mere inches clear of Martin Ragginger in the #99 FAW T2M Porsche, Kuo Kuo Hsin in the D2 Mercedes, the twin Audi Hong Kong entries of Eric Lo and Marchy Lee, Chris van der Drift and Martin Rump who had moved right back into contention thanks to the appearance of the Safety Car.

As expected, it was a torrid affair off the restart, with a mix of GT3 and GTC cars all looking to take advantage of the tight-knit field, the action starting immediately with the luckless Hsin spinning on the run into turn one, again out of a podium position as he had been in Zhuhai, this time though he wasn’t turned around, instead suffering a tyre deflation of the left rear as a result of debris on the circuit.

That allowed van der Drift back into an outright podium position, with the focus turning again to Martin Rump who had come from almost the full length of the main straight behind the leaders on the restart to catch Marchy Lee on the final lap, the Hong Kong veteran defended hard but the young Estonian wasn’t to be denied, winning a drag race out of the final corner by a mere 27 one thousandths of a second to claim fourth.

The winner though was Xu Jia who used Yoong’s win to catapult right back into the title fight, the Kings Racing team boss now just seven points from the championship lead, and six behind team-mate Liang. Martin Ragginger’s second placed finish though was the game-changer, elevating he and Bao to the points lead by a solitary point over Liang, and three points clear of Martin Rump.

GTC - Rnds#7/8

Having started three events of the 2017 season from the front of the combined GTC and GT4 field, this time around the GTC front-runners would face a new challenge starting mid-pack in amongst the faster GT3 cars.

Qualifying saw the mighty Radical RXC of Xu Wei and Liang Kang claim the top spot with a combined time of 2:11.210, some 5-seconds back from the pole-sitting GT3 Audi, and with GTC championship points leader CJ Huang alongside. Andrew Tang and Pan Chao claimed third, with the #100 TSRT Audi of Liang Kaifeng and Pu Shu immediately behind.

Off the start for round seven the Xtreme Motorsports Radical was swamped by his rivals, dropping back to sixth on the run into turn one, Bian Hao the biggest mover leading into turn two with Pan Chao looking to take the front running at the turn three right-hander in the R+ Racing JRM Porsche.

Very quickly though it became a two-horse race after Xu Wei was turned around by the #19 TSRT Audi at turn three, with points leader CJ Huang overcoming a massive success penalty ballast to take the early lead from Liang Kaifeng, the two teams separated by very little as the compulsory pit stop window approached.

Behind them Xu Wei was mounting a recovery in the Radical, moving into a great battle mid-field with Hao in the #303 JRM Lamborghini, Lu Zhuwei in the #18 DMS Porsche, Dominic Ang in the recovering #25 Xtreme Motorsports Radical - which had been forced to start rear of field after failing to record a qualifying time - and 300+ Audi driver Zhang Jian.

Sadly for Bao all his great work came undone with a spin at turn ten, although the JRM Lamborghini was soon firing back up the order after the compulsory stop to hand over to Will Bamber who was able to charge through to fourth, setting the fastest lap of the race in the closing stages.

Up front though, the speed and consistency of Huang handed the D2 Lamborghini driver his fourth win of the year and an extension in his championship points lead, the yellow and green machine across the line six seconds clear of Liang Kang in the pole-sitting Radical, with Pu Shu third in the #100 TSRT Audi.

 Fifth behind Bamber was JRM team-mate Andrew Tang in the R+ Racing Porsche, from Yang Yuan in the Kings Racing Lamborghini.

Zhang Dasheng was seventh in the JRM Porsche, mounting a solid attack on the front-runners across the closing stages, to cross the line ahead of the #25 Radical, Li Huiwei in the #58 300+ Audi and Yuan Bo in the #26 DMS Porsche.

The experienced TSRT team led the field away for round eight, with their two cars side-by-side on the run into turn one with Huang and Pan Chao in the #777 Porsche in close company. Sadly for the TSRT team, the #19 Audi was ejected off the circuit as the tightly knit field negotiated turn one having been squeezed into Li Jiaqi’s GT3 Porsche, dropping Huang Yiqing back to the rear of the field.

The round seven battle between Huang and Liang Kaifeng continued for a number of laps before the #100 TSRT Audi spun on the exit of turn two, although he lost very little ground in his recovery to soon be back battling inside the top three.

Things settled into a comfortable rhythm after the compulsory pit stops before another spin, this time by Tingting in the #11 300+ Audi, which saw her stranded sideways across turn eight.

That saw a Safety Car intervention which promised an epic battle for victory across the closing laps. As he had done during round four at Zhuhai, Will Bamber duly delivered what the fans were hoping for with another stunning drive through the pack to give the #333 JRM Lamborghini its second win of the season and with it, gain 25 valuable championship points.

Behind Bamber, Huang again confirmed his qualification as champion-elect with a brilliant closing lap battle with the #100 TSRT Audi to claim second, whilst Pu Shu crossed the line for another great podium result.

 Andrew Tang gave the #777 JRM Porsche team fourth ahead of Lu Zhuwei in the #18 DMS Porsche, Yang Yuan in the Kings Racing Lamborghini, Li Xuefeng in the #333 JRM Porsche and Zhou Fan in the #998 JRM Porsche, eight cars all that remained of the 16-car GTC field after a race of attrition.

GT4 - Rnds#7/8

Despite setting pole position in qualifying, Zhou Yong in the #618 China Equity Aston Martin was jumped off the start of round seven by Ling Kang in the #86 KTM X-Bow and championship points leader Roelof Bruins in the ‘Winning Team’ McLaren 570S GT4, Bruins making it all the way to the lead by turn one.

Sadly for Kang, he spun on the run into turn three whilst second, with the field fortunately able to make their way around him, fortunately without making contact with the Xtreme Motorsport KTM.

The big charger early was former Porsche Carrera Cup Asia star Rodolfo Avila in the #721 ZIA FEA Aston Martin, the Macanese driver through to second in fairly short order to set off in pursuit of race leader Bruins.

Shi Liang had also been progressing through the field in the second of the Xtreme Motorsport KTMs but a spin on the astro turf on the exit of turn 14 whilst fighting with the pole-sitting Aston dropped him back down the order.

Light rain began to fall after the completion of the compulsory pit stops which made conditions challenging for the largely inexperienced field, allowing Dong Liang in the McLaren to stretch the advantage that Bruins had established prior to the stop, the white #570 machine crossing the line more than eight seconds clear of Hexiao Le in the #77 China Equity Aston he shared with Yang Mengqiao.

Reiter Engineering star Naomi Schiff brought the #87 KTM across the line for third after a strong push through the closing laps, the German-based driver using her valuable prior race-winning experience from Shanghai to be amongst the fastest drivers on track across the closing laps.

Ross Gun brought the pole sitting #618 China Equity Aston across the line in fourth place, ahead of China-based veteran Bill O’Brien in the #98 Lotus Evora he was sharing a cameo appearance with alongside Robert Webb.

Whilst round seven delivered an impressive display during the GT4 category’s first ever Asian event (as a stand-alone category), round eight by contrast was a matter of survival with a big attrition rate across the second 60-minute race.

Off the line the pole-sitting KTM of Chen Yinian was swamped, first by the #618 Aston of Zhou Yong, and then by Dong Liang who was starting the #570 McLaren for the second race, the pair of them though unable to shake the KTM who sat in a watching brief in third as the two British built machines fought over the lead.

Sadly for the ‘Winning Team’ that battle ended early with an issue in the engine bay forcing Liang down pit-lane where the engine bay soon erupted in flames. The fire was quickly extinguished by safety crew and the onboard fire suppression system, but the damage had been done and a chance of a fifth season victory extinguished with the flames.

A quick assessment of the situation saw no obvious failure but with an empty fire bottle and an oil or fuel leak somewhere in the line - perhaps as a result of debris, they would not be able to join the race, becoming the first retirement of round eight, joining the #28 and #36 Lotus teams who had been unable to start the round as a non-points scorers.

The demise of the McLaren opened up an opportunity for title rivals Chen Yinian and Ling Kang from Xtreme Motorsport to go after valuable championship points, and they duly delivered, in the end stretching out an insurmountable lead of more than two minutes by the time the chequered flag was shown, Rodolfo Avila next across the line in the #721 ZIA FEA Aston with Bill O’Brien third in the sole remaining Lotus.

The final finisher, and the only team not on the lead lap, was the #999 ZIA FEA Vantage of Zhang Dongqi and Yin Jinge, all other teams failing to gain any further championship points in what had been a tough event for the GT4 teams.

-motorsport media also photo


12.09.2017 / MaP

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