Christchurch’s James Munro has claimed a class win at the Sepang 12 Hours with Giti Topspeed Racing Lamborghini Super Trofeo Huracan team mates Afiq Ikhwan, Martin Rump and Bob Yuanthe.
Once the #23 car took the lead it dominated rest of the race, eventually winning with a five lap advantage over the #7 Team NZ Motorsport Porsche 997 Cup (John Curran, Graeme Dowett, Will Bamber and Alif Mohamad Hamdan) and the #26 B-Quick Racing Audi.
“We did not expect to be this competitive,” commented Munro. “Our main goal was to show the strengths of the Giti Tyres and they proved to be excellent for endurance racing, lasting longer than our competitors. Once we were in the lead, we focused on our race, to be sure to make no mistakes in the difficult conditions.”
The polesitter in the GTC class, the #69 Team Fydis Aylezo Lamborghini, had an unfortunate opening hour of the race, when the car caught fire during the first pitstop. The Huracan was able to continue, but lost a lot of time.
The overall win went to the #17 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 Blancpain GT Series-drivers Laurens Vanthoor, Stéphane Ortelli and Stuart Leonard in one of the most difficult editions of the Sepang 12 Hours ever.
Thirty minutes from the end of the race Vanthoor took the lead away from Christopher Mies, driving the second of the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT cars. Mies and team-mates Ide and Haase eventually finished second, in front of long-time leader, the #16 Phoenix Racing Audi. It is the first time that the new Audi R8 LMS filled all steps of the podium.
The other classes were dominated by the #23 Giti Topspeed Racing Lamborghini and the #86 Wing Hin Motorsport Toyota, winning GTC and Touring Car classes respectively. The extreme weather conditions on the Sepang International Circuit caused two interruptions.
The Sepang 12 Hours has lived up to its reputation of being a gruelling endurance race, run in both extreme heat and extreme humidity. Extended and sometimes heavy rainfall suspended the race twice, but those red flag-situations set up a nail-biting finish of what must be the most difficult endurance race on the Asian continent. It certainly has its place in the new Intercontinental GT Challenge, which starts next season.
Thirty minutes before the end the gap between leader Christopher Mies in the #150 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi and WRT team-mate Laurens Vanthoor was less than a second. With an audacious passing move on the outside of Mies, the Belgian retook the lead he had lost during the last pitstop.
In his first official race after his accident in Misano ten weeks ago Laurens Vanthoor shared his win in Sepang with his long-time mentor Stéphane Ortelli (in his last race as an Audi factory driver) and Stuart Leonard, who drove his first race with the Audi R8.
The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT made it a double with the #150 Audi R8 of Christopher Mies, Christopher Haase and Enzo Ide finishing only eight seconds behind the winner. Audi R8- and Blancpain GT Series-drivers occupied the three steps of the podium, with Markus Winkelhock, Nicki Thiim and Niki Mayr-Melnhof in the #16 Phoenix Racing Audi finishing in third. They had taken the lead of the race in the second hour, but lost their advantage due to the red flag-situations. During the last safety car-period they lost the lead when WRT proved to be quicker at the driver changes.
The menace from the Ferrari cars never really materialized, although the #11 Singha Motorsport Team 458 and the #1 Clearwater Racing machine led during the opening laps of the race. The latter lost a lot of time after contact with a backmarker and a double puncture, eventually retiring with too much damage.
The Singha Ferrari was among the front-runners but rapidly dropped down the order when the rain made its appearance after four hours of racing. It eventually finished in eighth. The car that made the Audi teams’ life the most difficult proved to be the #55 FFF Racing Team by ACM McLaren, which only lost contact with the leading pack in the final stages of the race. It still won the Pro-Am category, finishing fourth overall, just in front of the first of the Bentleys, the #8 M-Sport Continental.
The Toyota-Subaru duel in the Touring Car division was cut short when the #602 Jim Hunter Motorsport Subaru hit mechanical trouble early on. Afterwards, the drivers of the more developed #86 Wing Hin Motorsport Toyota could keep the almost standard GT-86 of the GTO Racing Team behind, which did well in finishing second in class.