Japan’s Ukyo Sasahara drove a flawless 19 laps of the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to take his third F3 Asian Championship victory in four races. The Hitech GP championship leader resisted a spirited opening-lap challenge from team mate Jack Doohan to cross the line more than four seconds clear of the 16-year-old Australian, setting the fastest lap in the process and locking in pole position for Race 5. Behind Doohan, Absolute Racing’s Daniel Cao fought back after an opening-lap tangle to claim the final podium place.
With three wins and a podium finish, Sasahara strengthens his lead in the F3 Asian Championship driver classification with 93 points, 14 clear of Doohan in second. BlackArts Racing’s Brendon Leitch remains third in the standings ahead of Cao and Absolute Racing’s Eshan Pieris in fifth. Wong takes the lead in the Masters classification following his Round 4 win and now lies 11 points head of B-Max Racing Team’s DRAGON, who is absent due to other commitments this weekend.
As the F3 Asian Championship field roared off the grid in anger for the first time at the 4.554km FIA Grade I track, Sasahara launched from pole and immediately shut the door on Doohan. The youngster wasn’t about to yield without a fight though, and the pair were two-abreast into the opening series of turns in a superb display of clean racing right on the limit. Outpaced this time around, Doohan then slotted in behind his more experienced rival and the Hitech GP pair pulled away from the chasing pack.
Behind them, a clutch issue for Cao meant a slow getaway as the lights went out, dropping him down the order to seventh from his P3 start behind team mate Pieris, Leitch, BlackArts Racing’s Tom Beckhäuser and series newcomer Ayrton Simmons of Pinnacle Motorsport.
There was opening lap drama too for Simmons’ team mate Smith when an alternator belt broke, bringing an early end to his race.
As Cao began to climb back through the field, an intense three-way battle was brewing between Beckhäuser, Simmons and the Chinese driver, with the Czech losing out after spinning off. He eventually managed to rejoin the race, crossing the line in 11th.
Cao was now up to fifth and on the hunt to catch Leitch and Pieris up ahead, who were engaged in their own battle for position. With 20 minutes to go, Cao had caught the pair, pulling out of Leitch’s slipstream and diving past and up to fourth. Next it was Pieris who fell to the unrelenting Absolute driver, who regained his starting position but was unable to make any headway on the leading pair.
Simmons crossed the line sixth in his maiden F3 Asian Championship race and on his Asian debut, followed over the line by W Series driver Miki Koyama, Zen Motorsport’s Yu Kuai of China and Super License driver Yu Kanamaru of Japan. However, post-race both Koyama and Yu Kuai received 10 second penalties for track limits infringements. That dropped Koyama down to ninth and Yu to tenth. Leitch was another driver to receive the penalty, although it did not affect his fifth-place finish. The penalties promoted M-Sport Asia’s Akash Gowda up to eighth in the classification.
The F3 Asian Championship Certified by FIA continues tomorrow (Sunday) with Races 5 and 6 begin at 10:00 and 14:15 respectively. Sasahara starts both races from pole position. All races will be live streamed on www.f3asia.com and on the series’ Facebook page.