Nine degrees and a light shower before the start of the 4-hour race, made the conditions really difficult for the 20 Asian Le Mans Series teams at the Fuji International Speedway.
United Autosports #22 started from Pole Position in LMP2, with Phil Hanson and Paul Di Resta. Viper Niza Racing #65 with Douglas Khoo and Nigel Moore had taken LMP3 Pole, while Car Guy Ferrari #11 with James Calado, Takeshi Kimura and Kei Cozzolino started from GT Pole.
There had been a change compared yesterday’s qualifying result, since Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen #79 had lost all times. At the post session scrutineering, they found the front splitter being too high, and therefore not confirming with the car’s specifications. So they would have to start the race from the back.
The difficult conditions resulted in the drivers getting two formation laps, before the cars were released.
There were troubles already in Turn 1, when Algarve Pro Racing #25 and ARC Bratislava #4 made contact. Luckily it was only a light contact between the cars, but enough to send them to the back of the field. That ended up giving Mark Patterson in the #25 a Drive-Through penalty, for turning the LMP2 Am competition around.
Harrison Newey managed to take the lead of the race with the Algarve Pro Racing #24, by outbraking Phil Hanson in the United Autosports #22, going into Turn 1.
Tianshi Racing Team Audi #88 with Anthony Liu Xu behind the wheel, had taken the GT category lead.
Nigel Moore in the Viper Niza Racing #65 delivered a bit of a sensation in his LMP3 car, by going into third overall – ahead of several LMP2 cars!
There was actually an explanation of why #88 had taken the lead – the stewards noticed a jump start, which cost the Audi a Drive-Through penalty.
The drivers slowed got more and more confidence in the cars, and with good heat the tires, it was possible for Matthieu Lahaye in the LMP2 Panis Barthez Competition #35 to pass the #65 LMP3 competitor, and taking P3 overall.
Car Guy Ferrari #11 was leading the GT category, but was under a lot of pressure from the Tianshi Racing Team Audi #66, which had the nose in front a few times, at the end of the long start-finish straight.
There was a sudden drama for #11, when white smoke emitted from the rear of the Ferrari, which made Takeshi Kimura immediately dive for the pits, to get a new rear tire. That was the only apparent problem for the team, but enough for them to lose a lap to the GT opposition.
Tianshi Racing Team #88 managed to fight their way back from the Drive-Through penalty, and took the GT category lead once again, ahead of their teammates in the #66.
A slight drizzle drifted over the circuit, after 40 minutes of racing, which resulted in a couple of spins for Spirit of Race Ferrari #51 and TF Sport Aston Martin #5. Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen #7 with Nick Adcock also joined in with a trip across the grass, but got back on the track again.
The laptimes dropped by almost 15 seconds compared to the laptimes earlier in the race.
Algarve Pro Racing #25 were the first to do a regular pitstop, where Mark Patterson was swapped for Chris McMurry. Surprisingly he got sent out back on the track with new slicks, which quickly turned into being the least of his problems. The car had been caught speeding in the pitlane, resulting in a Drive-Through penalty.
Nick Adcock in the Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen #7 had another spin, but he clattered the barrier this time, resulting in damage to the nose, which had to be changed.
Car Guy Ferrari #11 also had a spin, and it took them a bit of time, before Kimura managed to get it going again.
The teams were starting to come in for their first fuel stops, and took the change to put on rain tires. The laptimes for the drivers on slicks were almost 25 seconds slower per lap!
Algarve Pro Racing #25 pitted again, to get rain tires on their car.
The leading Algarve Pro Racing #24 had a slight off, but luckily didn’t hit anything. That made Harrison Newey pit for rain tires as well.
Phil Hanson in the United Autosports #22 had pitted for rain tires one lap earlier, and that was just enough for him to be able to grab the lead of the race.
Eurasia Motorsport #36 with Nobuya Yamanaka had a spin in Turn 11, and was unlucky to get beached. The marshals managed to pull the car away, with only a local yellow, so we avoided a break in the race.
Spirit of Race #8 also had a spin on the circuit, but didn’t hit anything.
Panis Barthez Competition #35 and TF Sport Aston Martin #5 was caught speeding in the pitlane too, and was awarded a Drive-Through penalty each.
Algarve Pro Racing #25 managed to do a hattrick of Drive-Through penalties, since they had crossed the while pit entry line. So Chris McMurry had to do another slow trip down the pitlane. Three times Drive-Through penalty in just 80 minutes of racing is way WAY too much, if you want to win the category, and/or finish on the overall podium. Not even a fast driver like Anders Fjordbach can make up for that.
The R24 #50 LMP3 car, with Sayaka Kato had a spin, going out of the final corner, so she ended up parked in the middle of the track. Luckily everybody made it around her, but it was a very bad place to be stuck.
Tianshi Racing Team Audi #88 got a 1-minute Stop & Go penalty, for overtaking under yellow flags plus what was described as dangerous driving on the track. That was their second penalty of the day, and not even a superman like Dries Vanthoor would be able to gain so much time back – at least not under normal circumstances.
Algarve Pro Racing #25 scored the fourth Drive-Through of the day, when they were caught overtaking in a yellow flag zone. It started to get quite embarrassing for them, with four penalties in just 90 minutes – in a 4-hour race…
One and a half hours into the race, and post all the tire stops, we had United Autosports #22 leading the LMP2 category. Inter Europol Competition #13 had grabbed the LMP3 lead, while Tianshi Racing Team Audi #66 led the GT category.
Spirit of Race #8 with Come Ledogar were in troubles again, out on the track. Ledogar had been in the car for about 15 minutes, when he had a trip through an escape road. Some plastic barriers had been out up there, so slow the cars down, but he managed to smash into one of those and puncture it, so ballast water was leaking out.
The rain kept falling slowly over the track, which made all the cars keep the rain tires on – or in some cases, put some fresh on, during their fuel stops.
Spirit of Race Ferrari Ferrari #51 with Ozz Negri Jr behind the wheel, had a solo spin at Turn 3, but recovered very quickly.
United Autosports #23 with Guy Cosmo had just managed to grab third place in the race, but outbraked himself in Turn 1, losing all the gained time once again. That send the Panis Barthez Competition #35 with Francois Heriau back into P3, with an eight second lead to Cosmo.
Only ten minutes later, we had Cosmo back in front again, since his laptimes were significantly faster than Heriau’s.
With just over 90 minutes to go of the race, the slick tires started to come back on the cars, since a dry line had developed, and they were instantly faster again.
Anders Fjordbach got into the Algarve Pro Racing #25 with 94 minutes left, and got four fresh slicks mounted.
Tianshi Racing Team Audi #88 also managed a hattrick of penalties, with their second Drive-Through penalty of the day, because of a mistake that they had made during their pitstop.
Algarve Pro Racing #24 took the race lead again, when they had pitted for slicks about 10 minutes prior to the United Autosports #22, gaining a lot of time on them. The difference was the fuel level in both cars, since both would have to pit at least once more – but with very different amounts of fuel needed.
R24 #50 got a 1-minute Stop & Go penalty due to a dangerous drive on the track, and for crossing the while pit exit line. There were already not only last in the LMP3 category, but also overall in the race.
With 80 minutes to go, we had Martin Hippe in the Inter Europol Competition #13 coming under a lot of pressure from Kay van Berlo in the United Autosports #3, for the lead of LMP3. Even though van Berlo appeared to be the faster of the two, it wasn’t easy to overtake, since there basically was just one dry line, while everything outside the racing line was still damp.
Matthieu Lahaye onboard the Panis Barthez Competition #35 had a huge slide all by himself, losing just over 15 seconds, before he was back running again.
Algarve Pro Racing #24 made a stop with 47 minutes to go. That was right on the edge of what a LMP2 car is capable to do fuel wise.
Eurasia Motorsport #36 had the second issue of the day on the track, with Aidan Read stopping without his left rear wheel. The Australian jumped out of the car, without any chance of getting it back to the pits.
Tianshi Racing Team Audi #66 had a spin, where Zhang Ya Qi lost a lot of time, before he got it restarted.
The Safety Car was deployed with 38 minutes to go, to get #36 retrieved.
That gave a whole new twist to the race, since United Autosports #22 had just pitted for the final time in the race, returning to the track just behind the Algarve Pro Racing #24, who had grabbed the lead of the race.
The Car Guy Ferrari #11 was lucky just to get out of the pits before the Safety Car, which gave James Calado a who lap of advantage to all the GT competitors.
The race went green again with 28 minutes to go, with lots of action through the field, with several fights for podium positions.
There was a fight for the LMP2 lead between Algarve Pro Racing #24 and United Autosports #22, plus Inter Europol Competition #13 and United Autosports #3 regarding the LMP3 lead
Anders Fjordbach received the 5th Drive-Through for the Algarve Pro Racing #25, since the Dane had gone a bit too fast in the pitlane during his last pitstop. A real off day for the LMP2 Am team.
United Autosports #23 lost third place in the LMP2 category, but more importantly, the LMP2 Am lead, falling behind both ARC Bratislava #4 and Panis Barthez Competition #35. #35 isn’t part of the Am classification, but it was still a position on track.
Kay van Berlo in the United Autosports #3 took the lead of the LMP3 category from Martin Hippe in the Inter Europol Competition #13 car.
United Autosports #2 got a Drive-Through penalty, since they had made an overtake under yellow flags. That was just perfect for Christian Stubbe Olsen in the Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen #7, who was handed fourth in LMP3 without a fight.
Andrea Pizzitola in the Algarve Pro Racing #24 had slowly pulled away from Paul Di Resta in the United Autosports #22, and had just over 5 seconds leads with 12 minutes to go.
Algarve Pro Racing #24 with Andrea Pizzitola and Harrison Newey won the race, ahead of United Autosports #22 with Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson, and ARC Bratislava #4 with Miro Konopka, Darren Burke and Ling Kang in P3.
In LMP2 Am we had ARC Bratislava #4 winning, ahead of United Autosports #23 with Guy Cosmo, Patrick Byrne and Salih Yoluc, having Algarve Pro Racing #25 with Anders Fjordbach, Mark Patterson and Chris McMurry in third.
United Autosports #3 with Kay van Berlo, Christian England and Matt Bell won the LMP3 race, ahead of Inter Europol Competition #13 with Martin Hippe and Jakub Smiechowski, joined by Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen #79 drivers Colin Noble and Tony Wells in P3.
Christian Stubbe Olsen and Nick Adcock finished P4 in the LMP3 class for Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen #7. Had they had their early off, during the tricky weather conditions, they could have been a podium contender today.
Local team Car Guy Ferrari #11 with James Calado, Takeshi Kimura and Kei Cozzolino won the GT category, ahead of Spirit of Race Ferrari #51 with Alessandro Pier Guidi, Ozz Negri Jr and Francesco Piovanetti, while Tianshi Racing Team Audi #66 with Xu Wei, Max Wiser and Zhang Ya Qi finished in third position.
In the Championship standings we have United Autosports #2 leading in LMP2, ahead of Spirit of Race #8 (Pipo Derani, Come Ledogar, Alexander West) and ARC Bratislava #4.
United Autosports #23 and ARC Bratislava #4 are joint LMP2 Am Championship leaders, while Algarve Pro Racing #25 are P3, 13 points from the lead.
Inter Europol Competition #13 are in the lead of the LMP3 Championship, ahead of Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen #79 and United Autosports #2 (Chris Buncombe, Garett Grist, Wayne Boyd).
The GT category is led in demanding style by Car Guy Ferrari #11, after two victories in two races, ahead of the Spirit of Race Ferrari #51 and Tianshi Racing Team Audi #66.
The Asian Le Mans Series will have a Christmas holiday, before the racing will be resumed on 12 January, for the 4-Hour of Buriram in Thailand.