FAW Audi’s Cheng and Fong weather the storm to claim victory

Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia : Race 1

Franky Cheng and Adderly Fong have converted pole position into Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS victory at Sepang despite the best efforts of Bian Ye whose inspired opening stint helped VSR and Edoardo Liberati finish second overall.

Third went to Origine Motorsport’s Yuan Bo and Leo Ye Hongli who also weathered the real and metaphorical storm on their slick tyres.

The top-three crews comprised as many different classes – Silver, Pro-Am and the new Silver-Am category – while Am honours went the way of Garage 75’s David Tjiptobiantoro and Christian Colombo.

The heavy rain that delayed this weekend’s first hour-long race by 60 minutes also presented each team with a tyre choice conundrum prior to the start. Prevailing logic suggested slicks would be the correct decision despite the track remaining visibly slippery. But 11 of the 32 cars opted for wets, and it was these that powered their way towards the front early on.

Bian Ye was the highest placed wet-shod starter in 12th, but such was his advantage that the Chinese driver’s Lamborghini passed Cheng before the end of lap two and pulled away over the following 10 minutes.

Satoshi Hoshino and Cao Qi completed the top-three soon after despite lining up 17th and 13th, respectively. But both were passed by a resurgent Cheng just as the pit window opened, which coincided with track conditions swinging back towards those on slicks.

Craft-Bamboo swapped Qi for Daniel Morad at the first opportunity, while VSR and Phantom Global Racing – which runs the FAW-bannered Audi – opted to continue for several more laps during which Cheng trimmed Ye’s advantage from 18 seconds to seven.

However, it was the Mercedes-AMG in third that benefitted most. Morad’s Pirellis were fully up to temperature when Liberati emerged ahead, but he struggled for traction, eventually slipped wide and lost the lead halfway around his out-lap.

Fong, who swapped with Cheng next time around, then rejoined between the Mercedes-AMG and Lamborghini. The trio circulated as one for a while until Morad became boxed in by traffic and the Audi managed to nose ahead, albeit via a little contact. The resulting damage proved superficial to the R8 but punctured the Mercedes-AMG’s tyre.

Liberati duly inherited second but he was unable to apply any pressure to Fong who reeled off the final 15 minutes without further drama.

Behind, Yuan kept Origine’s Porsche in podium contention despite running slicks at the start before his co-driver Ye made the most of Craft-Bamboo’s issues to seal third overall. In doing so, they became Fanatec GT Asia’s inaugural Silver-Am class race winners.

Alessio Picariello held off fellow Porsche driver Bastian Buus throughout the opening stint to bring Absolute’s 911 home ahead of AAS/Phantom’s example in fourth and fifth overall. The pair circulated and overtook others as one post-pitstops after their respective co-drivers Anthony Liu and Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak picked slicks and wets prior to the start.

However, those positions swapped post-race when Picariello was penalised five seconds for a robust move on Tomonobu Fujii that dropped D’station’s Aston Martin two places from fourth. Earlier, Hoshino’s decision to start on wets had moved the new Vantage from mid-grid into podium contention. Sixth was still, therefore, a positive result.

Origine’s other Porsche, which starts Sunday’s race from pole, finished seventh in the hands of Lu Wei and Laurin Heinrich, Jeffrey Lee and Fabian Schiller were eighth in Craft-Bamboo’s Mercedes-AMG, the first of Absolute’s Audis – shared by James Yu and Akash Nandy – was ninth, and home favourite Prince Abu Bakar Ibrahim rounded out the overall points paying positions in 10th with Jordan Love.

Qi and Morad, meanwhile, had to settle for 11th.

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