The third round of the Asian Le Mans Series 2017/18 was run at Buriram in Thailand.
Opposite to the other three rounds this season, this was a 6 hour race, creating a brand new challenge for all the teams, since there hadn’t previously been run a 6 hour race in the Asian LMS.
On the same time, it was the Children’s Day in Thailand and with loads of activities for the families in the paddock area, the stands were full with up to estimated 100.000 visitors.
The race started at 12.00 local time in nice 23 degrees, with the Jackie Chan DC Racing X JOTA #8 on the LMP2 Pole Position, KCMG #18 on LMP3 Pole and FIST-Team AAI Ferrari #90 on GT Pole.
It was a very chaotic start. Stephane Richelmi in the #8 didn’t get quickly away from Pole Position, so the BBT #37 with Anthony Xu Liu and the ARC Bratislava #4 with Konstantin Calko tried to overtake around the outside in Turn 1. That created so much disturbance in the field that Jazeman Jaafar in the Jackie Chan DC Racing X JOTA #7 could go into second place behind their teammates in the #8.
Tianshi Racing Team Audi #66 had taken the lead in the GT category while the two FIST-Team AAI cars were right behind and looming with many hours of racing ahead.
Guy Cosmo in the Jackie Chan DC Racing X JOTA #6 and Nigel Moore in the Viper Niza Racing #65 had an amazing battle for third in the LMP3 category, and when Moore finally made it past, it only took him a few corners to make it past Philippe Descombes in the WIN Motorsport #1 too.
It actually turned out that the BBT #37 had a bit too well of a start, receiving a 5-seconds time penalty at the first pitstop due to a jump start. There were already 20 seconds behind, after just 20 minutes of racing.
Ollie Millroy in the FIST-Team AAI Ferrari #90 took the lead in the GT category just after 20 minutes of racing, but Massimiliano Wiser in the Tianshi Racing Team Audi #66 didn’t let go. Those two had a 53-seconds gap to Junsan Chen in the FIST-Team AAI BMW #91.
The real dramatics started 45 minutes into the race. ARC Bratislava #4 had just been to the pits for a tire change and refuel, and on his way out from the pits, he ran wide and went through the gravel trap. Fortunately he made it through, but it’s never nice to get dirt on your brand new tires.
Jazeman Jaafar in the Jackie Chan DC Racing X JOTA #7 was a little too eager to leave the pits and clipped one of the cones at the pit exit, which got trapped under the car. That cost them an extra pitstop, with the team having to remove the nose of the car, to get rid of the cone. They still however had such a lead, that they kept second – but now more than 60 seconds to the leading #8.
Algarve Pro Racing #25 had a picture on their front right tire, but was able to do the first of their regular stops at the same time, so Dean Koutsoumidis didn’t lose a lot of time.
Hanss Lin in the Taiwan Beer GH Motorsport #11 had a solo spin, but he got the car going again without further issues.
Dramatic scenes happened one hour into the race. Ollie Millroy in the FIST-Team AAI Ferrari #90 got tagged by Guy Cosmo in the Jackie Chan DC Racing X JOTA #6, which cost the #90 a puncture. He did make it back to the pits, but had spread debris all over the track, sending out a Full Course Caution to get it all cleaned up.
Douglas Khoo in the Viper Niza Racing #65 had a solo spin, which cost them almost one minute, before they were heading in the right direction again.But that wasn’t the only problem for the team, who shortly thereafter received a Drive-Through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Just as that message showed up on the screen, Khoo had another spin. So, not their day at all.
FIST-Team AAI Ferrari #90 had two pitstops in short succession, being pushed into the garage the second time. The issues was down to the contact earlier in the race, and cost them 7 minutes to repair, before returning to the track again.’
BBT #37 received a 10 seconds pitstop penalty at the second pitstop, because of a lose wheel nut in the pitlane a their first pitstop. It’s always up to the teams to have those things under control, and if a tire or other equipment is rolling around in the pitlane, it’s an instant penalty for the team.
After two hours of the race, Guy Cosmo handed over the white Jackie Chan DC Racing X JOTA #6 to Patrick Byrne. Cosmo had driven #6 into a solid lead in the LMP3 category, sending Byrne back on track only seven seconds behind the leader, but with pitstop waiting for the leading KCMG #18, the lead would actually go back to about one minute.
Tianshi Racing Team Audi #66 had a one lap lead in the GT category, ahead of the FIST-Team AAI BMW #91, while FIST-Team AAI Ferrari #90 was five laps behind due to their issues earlier in the race.
John Graham in the Algarve Pro Racing #25 was unlucky to get a picture on the left rear wheel shortly before the halfway point in the race. That cost them about an extra minute on the track plus an extra pitstop.
Tianshi Racing Team Audi #66 received a Drive-Through penalty for track limits. That resulted them in losing the GT category lead to the FIST-Team AAI BMW #91.
With about two and a half hours left of the race, the lead changed for the first time. Afiq Ikhwan Yazid in the Jackie Chan DC Racing X JOTA #7 took the lead from Thomas Laurent in the #8 sister car, and even started to pull away from him by several seconds per lap. The two cars were on different pit strategies however, but it was still surprising to see the #8 being caught.
Jackie Chan DC Racing X JOTA #6 had an unscheduled pitstop, since they had lost a rear view mirror on the car, and had to get a new one attached. That cost them several minutes in the pits, making them lose any chance of a win.
Tianshi Racing Team #66 received a 10-seconds Stop & Go penalty for speeding during the FCY period earlier in the race.
Algarve Pro Racing #25 got a Drive-Through penalty for hitting #66 earlier in the race, but #25 was last anyway.
Jackie Chan DC Racing X JOTA #8 also received a Drive-Through penalty for touching the while line at pit entry. Harrison Newey was the reason behind the penalty, since he was coming up on a slower car, but had to take it to the pitlane, not to hit him. But rules are rules, and they received the penalty. So all of a sudden they found themselves 40 seconds behind their teammate.
With just over 90 minutes left of the race, the Jackie Chan DC Racing X JOTA #6 was pushed into the garage, with the mechanics repairing something at the front, which could be the power steering of the car. So from things going very well for the first couple of hours, they suddenly found themselves a long way from the podium.
FCY had to be called again with one and a half hours left of the race, since the Algarve Pro Racing #25 had hit the Armco at high speed, and then subsequently got stuck in the gravel, and had to be removed by a truck. Ate Dirk de Jong fortunately left the car by himself with only mechanical damage. That gave a small break in the race for about 5 minutes, so the car and the debris could be collected.
#8 was gradually losing speed due to a gearbox problem, which made it hard for Thomas Laurent to change gears. But with more than an hour left on the clock, it wasn’t even sure if he would make it to the flag.
With one hour left of the race, Weiron Chen in the Jackie Chan DC Racing X JOTA #7 was leading LMP2, while KCMG #18 and Josh Burdon had the lead in LMP3, and the FIST-Team AAI BMW #91 with Jesse Krohn behind the wheel in front of the GT field.
Harrison Newey fought the best he could, with a #8 going up to 6 seconds per laps slower than the chasing Pipo Derani in the BBT #37. He managed to find a good pace an bring the lap times down again, and keep #37 at bay.
That resulted in the brand new driver combination of Jazeman Jaafar, Weiron Tan and Afiq Ikhwan Yazid take the victory in the Jackie Chan DC Racing X JOTA #7, ahead their teammates in #8, and BBT #37
In the LMP3 category we had KCMG #18 with Josh Burdon, Louis Prette and Neric Wei winning, ahead of Taiwan Beer GH Motorsport #11, and WIN Motorsport #1.
The GT category saw a win for the FIST-Team AAI BMW #91 with Jesse Krohn, Junsan Chen and Chaz Mostert beating Tianshi Racing Team Audi #66 and FIST-Team AAI Ferrari #90.
Algarve Pro Racing #25 was the only car to retire from the race, which was quite impressive since it’s the first time ever with a 6-hours race in the Asian Le Mans Series.
The results from today means that everything is still open in all the Championships. Jackie Chan DC Racing #8 did manage to build up their lead, but the Championship isn’t fully secured yet. The BBT #37 absolutely NEEDS to win the race and the #8 to retire. It’s hard but not impossible.
KCMG #18 is leading the LMP3 Championship now, just one point ahead of the Jackie Chan DC Racing X JOTA #6, while Viper Niza Racing #65 is 12 points further behind.
In the GT category we have FIST-Team AAI BMW #91 leading their Ferrari #90 teammates and the Tianshi Racing Team Audi #66. #66 more or less needs both #90 and #91 to retire from the final round, to have even the slightest chance of winning the Championship.
The teams have to wait for three weeks until the final round is run at the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia on 4 February.