VICTORY AGAIN IN BLANCPAIN ASIA FOR GRUPPEM RACING WITH GT4 SUCCESS IN SUZUKA
- Points leader Reinhold Renger and Ryuichirou Ohtsuka win GT4 in Rd6
- GruppeM Racing maintains lead in GT3 Team Championship
- Podium in GT3 for Markus Pommer and Patric Niederhauser
- Pro-Am silverware for Alexander Mattschull and Raffaele Marciello
GruppeM Racing continues to lead the Blancpain GT Series Asia GT3 Team Championship standings following the third event of the season at Suzuka in Japan at the weekend, 30th June/1st July, with German racer Reinhold Renger also increasing his advantage in the GT4 driver standings.
Joined for the first time by Japanese sensation Ryuichirou Ohtsuka, Renger and his new team-mate were second in GT4 during round five on Saturday in the No.666 Mercedes-Benz but secured a fantastic victory in round six on Sunday to help Renger open a championship lead of 39 points.
In GT3, Silver class pairing Patric Niederhauser and Markus Pommer bettered a top five in race one with third place in the second encounter in the No.999 car and, as a result of a strong points haul, the former maintained second overall in the GT3 driver standings. Pro-Am duo Alexander Mattschull and Raffaele Marciello were eighth and sixth in the two contests, finishing second in class in each.
Car No.999 – Markus Pommer
“I’m really happy to be back on the podium. Of course, it’s not like the win we had in Thailand but, to be honest, it wouldn’t have been possible to repeat it at Suzuka. Despite Mercedes not being the favourite car here, GruppeM found a great set-up and we were able to have a good pace during the races. From my side, I didn’t want to take any risk as I’m here to support Patric in the title race and with all the situations we had to face, a third place is the maximum we could achieve.”
Car No.666 – Reinhold Renger
“It [round six] was an awesome race, very crazy to be honest with all of the Safety Cars – I’m happy we managed it in the end. We were maybe one lap too early in the pit for the driver change, we lost a lot of time and came out in fifth position so the Safety Car at the end helped us a lot.”
In qualifying on Saturday, 30th June, Pommer secured third on the grid in GT3 for race one in the No.999 car with Mattschull ninth fastest – second in Pro-Am – in the sister Mercedes-AMG. In GT4, Ohtsuka secured a superb class pole position on his series debut by an incredible 0.9 seconds.
Taking the opening stint of round five on Saturday, Pommer was edged back to fourth place overall through the first couple of corners by one of the Porsches but then remained glued to the back of the rival machine for the first nine laps. Although losing some ground in traffic, Pommer swiftly closed back in before serving the mandatory pit-stop at the end of lap 12.
Niederhauser climbed aboard for the second half hour and, when the race order settled, he held fifth place. Similar to how the opening stint went for team-mate Pommer, Niederhauser swarmed all over the back of the fourth placed car but ultimately had to settle for fifth at the flag on lap 28.
In the sister No.888 Mercedes-AMG GT3, Mattschull unfortunately lost out at the start after slipping to 13th position and he was shuffled back another place on lap three. Managing to regain a couple of spots before pitting on lap 12, he handed over to Marciello who held 13th when the order settled.
During the second half of the encounter, the Italian ace charged through impressively and carved his way into an eventual finish of eighth and second in the Pro-Am class – a notable achievement with the duo having had to serve a 15 second success penalty in the pits, a result of Mattschull winning round four last time out.
From the GT4 pole Ohtsuka dropped to third on the opening lap and although attempting to quickly recover the lost ground, he had another set-back on lap three. As the race neared mid-distance, the Japanese racer had moved back into podium contention before pitting to hand over to Renger.
After an extended pit-stop, Renger was required to remain in the pits for an additional 15 seconds as a result of winning the previous round in Thailand, the GT4 points leader performed strongly during the remainder of the encounter to finish runner-up, closing to within five seconds of the winner.
For round six on Sunday, Marciello started as the highest placed GruppeM driver in third position on the grid with Niederhauser sixth – despite having a lap time removed in qualifying for a track limits infringement – and the GT4 car of Renger second in class.
Marciello made a good, clean launch at the rolling start to maintain third and he challenged the second placed Ferrari of Tim Slade mid-lap before the Safety Car was deployed. Racing resumed on lap four with Marciello third, Niederhauser holding sixth and Renger second in GT4.
With no changes in GT3 as the laps ticked by, albeit Marciello and Niederhauser pushing hard to pressurise their respective rivals, on lap nine the Italian moved up into second when Slade tagged a backmarker which triggered another Safety Car period. Before the action resumed, Marciello and Niederhauser pitted at the end of lap 11 to serve their mandatory stops from second and fifth.
Renger, meanwhile, had pitted the lap prior to hand over the GT4 Mercedes-AMG to Ohtsuka and when racing was back underway on the 14th tour, and with all stops served, Mattschull held second place in the No.888 car, Pommer was sixth in GT3 and Ohtsuka was fifth in GT4.
Mattschull came under pressure from the No.19 Lamborghini and on lap 17 the GruppeM racer was edged back to third. Then, an unfortunate spin the next time around meant a slip to sixth behind the sister GruppeM GT3 car.
Pommer made excellent progress during the closing stages and after taking fourth on lap 21, following the third Safety Car intervention of the race, he then grabbed third place on lap 22 where he stayed to the finish. Mattschull did move back into the top five with four laps to go but was nudged back down to sixth before the conclusion by the No.911 Porsche.
In GT4, Ohtsuka worked hard to slice through the order into the lead and the late race Safety Car helped to wipe out their 10 second pit-stop success penalty. Taking victory in only his second race with GruppeM in Blancpain GT Series Asia, the result also marked points leader Renger’s fourth win.
There are just three weeks to wait until the fourth race meeting of the Blancpain GT Series Asia season, over the weekend 21st/22nd July at Fuji Speedway in Japan.
Blancpain GT Series Asia GT3 Team Standings
1st GruppeM Racing, 152pts
Blancpain GT Series Asia GT4 Team Standings
2nd GruppeM Racing, 133pts
Blancpain GT Series Asia GT3 Overall Driver Standings
2nd Patric Niederhauser, 75pts; 5th Raffaele Marciello, 52pts; 6th Markus Pommer, 50pts;
9th Brice Bosi, 40pts; 10th Alexander Mattschull, 37pts; =14th Maxi Buhk & Nico Bastian, 25pts
Blancpain GT Series Asia GT3 Pro-Am Driver Standings
3rd Raffaele Marciello, 86pts; 5th Alexander Mattschull, 67pts;
7th Brice Bosi, 50pts; 12th Maxi Buhk, 31pts
Blancpain GT Series Asia GT3 Silver Driver Standings
3rd Patric Niederhauser, 81pts; 7th Markus Pommer, 56pts; 10th Nico Bastian, 25pts
Blancpain GT Series Asia GT4 Overall Driver Standings
1st Reinhold Renger, 133pts; 6th Ryuichirou Ohtsuka, 43pts; 7th Russell Ward, 40pts