A victory of the No. 999 Mercedes AMG GT3 was deemed as unlikely for GruppeM Racing at Suzuka during the Blancpain GT Series Asia weekend, but the Race 2 proved the contrary, with an Audi front row lock falling little by little and Maximilian Götz and Hunter Abbott taking the most of the Audi nightmare.
Conditions for the start changed from sunny to overcast, but initially was nothing that could affect the performances that much. Once they crossed the start line the Audi-filled front row was soon dominated by the No. 7 J-Fly Absolute Audi while the No. 39 Spirit of Race Ferrari had a heavy contact with the barriers at the Esses after a rub of the No. 28 ARN Ferrari, which called the Safety Car for the first time. While that other the No. 13 Milestone Audi also suffered with the crowded start as rear left broken bodywork was rubbing in the tire, forcing an early pit entry for repairs.
The green flag took 10 minutes to get back but soon another accident took place as the No. 18 KCMG Audi smashed the barriers in a side impact, calling another yellow flag period with the Safety Car back on track. With a slightly wetter track and 37 minutes to go the race restarted with the leading car having a slight off at the start of the lap, although Alessio Picariello kept the No. 7 on top, while the No. 86 OD Racing Audi lost second place to the No. 999 GruppeM Mercedes as the slippery condition proved to be pretty troublesome for Mitch Gilbert.
It wasn't hard for Maximilian Götz in the No. 999 to reach Picariello and fight for the lead, with the No. 7 going to pits in the half of the race while the No. 999 kept racing on slicks while most of the teams that did their pit stops were already into rain tires. Once the pit window closed Aditya Patel found more pace in the No. 86, overtaking the No. 999 with 24 minutes to go, with the top two swapping positions again and again thanks to a mistake of Patel.
Things were being carried as smoothly as possible by the leaders until a tire blow in the middle of the main straight knock out the No. 86 OD Racing Audi with 15 minutes to go, handling the lead again to the No. 999 GruppeM Mercedes. The second place battle was open for the No. 7 J-Fly Absolute Audi and the No. 888 GruppeM Mercedes while the No. 66 VSR Lamborghini was approaching quickly, which soon turned into and overtake to third thanks to backmarker interference, meaning that Sandy Stuvik now had open road to chase Jeffrey Lee, with the position swap happening a few moments after the third place pass.
The No. 999 was 7 seconds ahead of the No. 66 and unrivaled as it was, Abbott just had to carry his Mercedes to the checkered flag, with the VSR coming in second and the No. 7 completing the podium.
The GT4 class started with the No. 77 CRAFT Bamboo Porsche until the pit window when the No. 11 TTR Team SARD took top honors, losing at the end of the race to the No. 17 Taiwan Top Speed Porsche.
Hunter Abbott leads the championship with 94 points against 84 of Marchy Lee and Shaun Thong, with Mitch Gilbert and Aditya Patel slightly outside the title fight with 73 points. GruppeM Racing is dominating in the teams' standings with 128 points. The GT4 standings have Eric Lo and Byron Tong on top with 109 points, Keo Chang with 105 and Frank Yu and Jean Marc Merlin in third with 103 points.
The season continues its Japanese trip with the Fuji Speedway event on August 19th and 20th.
PHOTO: Blancpain GT Series Asia