Hitech GP duo Ukyo Sasahara and Jack Doohan take win apiece in Thailand
Hitech GP completed its domination of Round 2 of the F3 Asian Championship Certified by FIA after drivers Ukyo Sasahara and Jack Doohan took a win apiece in Races 5 and 6 on Sunday to add to their unbroken tally of six wins in six races so far this season.
Kiwi Brendon Leitch suffered a DNF in race 5 after puncturing but finished on the podium in Race 6. He now has slipped to fourth equal after the second round.
It was 16-year-old Doohan who took the honours in Race 5 on the 4.554km FIA Grade 1 track, enlisting canny tactics to find his way past pole-sitter Sasahara in the opening stages of the race and holding the lead to take the win. Third was Absolute Racing’s Daniel Cao ahead of team mate Eshan Pieris of Sri Lanka.
Race 6 saw Sasahara once again start from pole and, as he had done in Saturday’s Race 4, execute a wheel-perfect run to the flag. BlackArts Racing’s Brendon Leitch almost spoiled the Hitech GP party by getting past Doohan and racing off on the hunt for the lead, splitting the pair. But Sasahara raised his pace, while Doohan bided his time until the inevitable tire wear hit the hard charging New Zealander, with the Australian eventually claiming second. Leitch took his second championship podium finish, followed across the line by Pieris and Zen Motorsport’s Yu Kuai of China.
After two rounds and six races, Sasahara leads the F3 Asian Championship on 135 points, 14 points ahead of Doohan. The Absolute Racing pair of Cao and Pieris lie third and fourth respectively, one point apart, with Leitch tied in fourth with the Sri Lankan. Next is Super License driver Yu Kanamaru in sixth, three points clear of team mate Tomoki Takahashi, absent for the Thailand rounds. Championship newcomer Ayrton Simmons of Pinnacle Motorsport is eighth after an impressive debut with the series, ahead of Zen Motorsport’s Yu Kuai.
Sasahara got away well from pole but into Turn 1, Doohan immediately came under fire from Pieris in third. Shaking off the Sri Lankan, Doohan was quickly back on the attack, diving first on the inside then the outside of Sasahara. The wily Japanese driver defended well, refusing to be rattled, and the pair charged clear from the chasing pack. Behind Cao in fourth, Simmons had found his way past Leitch and up to fifth in the order off the start.
The second lap saw Doohan make what was to be a decisive move on race leader Sasahara, with a bluff which paid off. Getting a good exit out of Turn 1, the 16-year-old feigned a move to the left. Sasahara went to defend the outside, and Doohan deftly nipped on the inside to snatch the lead.
As Doohan began pulling out what was a substantial lead from Sasahara by the flag, Cao was closing up to Pieris in third, eyes firmly on his second podium of the weekend. Behind them, Leitch was determined to reclaim fourth from Simmons, going around the outside of the British championship rookie to complete the move on Lap 3. Simmons, however, reclaimed the place a lap later, setting up what was later to become the battle of the race.
Lap 6 saw Cao finally find his way past Pieris and into podium contention, but with a lot of ground to cover to catch the race leaders.
Two laps later, it was game on again between Simmons and Leitch, the pair two abreast before locking wheels. Moments later, a puncture saw Leitch dramatically spin off the track. He skillfully avoided swiping the barrier, but was ultimately unable to get his car going again and it was game over.
Simmons now took off on the hunt for Pieris up ahead, reeling in his prey. With just three minutes left on the clock, the Briton made a move around the outside but couldn’t make it stick that time around. Simmons tried once again, and this time Pieris forced him wide, with Simmons attracting a track limits warning in the process.
With the last lap board out, Pieris ran wide, losing ground, and Simmons pounced once again. But the Sri Lankan did a superb job of holding the increasingly-frustrated Simmons at bay, the pair putting on a captivating display of no holds barred racing. In the final run to the flag, Simmons found his way past but Pieris dramatically got him back on the inside at the final turn, just metres from the finish line.
Zen Motorsport’s Yu Kuai of China was sixth ahead of Beckhäuser, who has picked up a 10 second time penalty for a track limits infringement, Koyama, Kanamaru and Gowda.
In the Masters classification, it was a case of déjà vu for BlackArts Racing’s Luedi who once again came to a halt trackside having started from pole and led the class for two thirds of the race. That saw Wong take his second victory in as many races, the 852 Challengers driver clearly enjoying his first outing on the Thai track in the Tatuus F3 T-318 this weekend.
There was heartbreak again too for Pinnacle Motorsport’s Tommy Smith, the technical hitches which saw an early end to his first Thailand outing continuing to thwart the talented Australian.
Sasahara stormed away from pole for the final time on the series’ Thai debut, once again shutting the door on team mate Doohan off the start. The Australian came under early fire from Pieris, but once again he quickly pulled clear of the Absolute Driver. However, further back down the order Leitch was a man on the move from P5, diving past Cao and Pieris and up to third behind Doohan.
Yu Kuai was another driver on the move off the start, up to fifth in the order from a P9 start by the end of the opening lap. Cao lost out at the start, dropping down the order to 10th and having it all to do over the next 30 minutes. Smith, who finally had a chance to show his mettle, was quickly up to ninth from the back of the grid after a weekend plagued by bad luck.
Forced to defend from Leitch, Doohan had his hands full allowing Sasahara to pull a comfortable lead. The New Zealander had places to go though, and on Lap 3, pulled out of Doohan’s slipstream and fired down the inside to snatch second.
Leitch then proceeded to hammer out a succession of blinding laps, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process and closing the gap to Sasahara to a little over a second. The Japanese driver responded, quickening his pace and doubling the gap over the next lap. Cao, meanwhile, had made headway, climbing back up to sixth by the end of Lap 7. Behind him, Simmons had his work cut out, skillfully holding off a trail of rivals; Super License driver Yu Kanamaru, Smith and Beckhäuser.
By mid-race, Sasahara had created an unassailable lead. Behind, Doohan had closed to within a second of Leitch and was right on his tail a lap later, drafting past to reclaim second on Lap 11. The trio were to maintain these positions to the chequered flag.
Behind them though, there were plenty of battles still to be fought. Simmons was unable to shake a tenacious Kanamaru, while behind the pair, Beckhäuser finally found his way past Smith for ninth.
Sasahara sailed across the line to take his fourth F3 Asian Championship win, the sixth consecutive victory for Hitech GP. Doohan maintained his perfect run of podium finishes, and Leitch took a well deserved third place from Pieris, and Yu Kuai.
The F3 Asian Championship Certified by FIA makes its debut in Japan next month, with Races 7-9 set for the iconic Suzuka Circuit where the field of fledgling talent will face arguably its greatest test so far. Stay up-to-date with all the news on www.f3asia.com and on the championship’s social media channels.
Results – Race 5
|1||2||Jack DOOHAN||AUS||Hitech GP||31:32.604|
|2||1||Ukyo SASAHARA||JPN||Hitech GP||+9.260|
|3||5||Daniel CAO||CHN||Absolute Racing||+13.790|
|4||15||Eshan PIERIS||LKA||Absolute Racing||+20.084|
|5||12||Ayrton SIMMONS||GBR||Pinnacle Motorsport||+20.540|
|6||4||YU Kuai||CHN||ZEN Motorsport||+25.760|
|7||95||Tom BECKHÄUSER||CZE||BlackArts Racing||+34.557|
|8||85||Miki KOYAMA||JPN||B-Max Racing Team||+34.565|
|9||8||Yu KANAMARU||JPN||Super License||+35.571|
|10||33||Akash GOWDA||IND||M-Sport Asia||+39.832|
|11||44||Paul WONG (M)||CHN||852 Challengers||+1 Lap|
|DNF||9||Thomas LUEDI (M)||HKG||BlackArts Racing||–|
|DNF||86||Brendon LEITCH||NZL||BlackArts Racing||–|
|DNF||16||Tommy SMITH||AUS||Pinnacle Motorsport||–|
Fastest lap: Jack Doohan/Hitech GP/1:34.322/Lap 5
Results – Race 6
|1||1||Ukyo SASAHARA||JPN||Hitech GP||31:32.259|
|2||2||Jack DOOHAN||AUS||Hitech GP||+10.566|
|3||86||Brendon LEITCH||NZL||BlackArts Racing||+22.494|
|4||15||Eshan PIERIS||LKA||Absolute Racing||+32.477|
|5||4||YU Kuai||CHN||ZEN Motorsport||+33.637|
|6||12||Ayrton SIMMONS||GBR||Pinnacle Motorsport||+41.434|
|7||8||Yu KANAMARU||JPN||Super License||+42.055|
|8||95||Tom BECKHÄUSER||CZE||BlackArts Racing||+42.508|
|9||5||Daniel CAO||CHN||Absolute Racing||+43.772|
|10||16||Tommy SMITH||AUS||Pinnacle Motorsport||+46.962|
|11||85||Miki KOYAMA||JPN||B-Max Racing Team||+53.780|
|12||33||Akash GOWDA||IND||M-Sport Asia||+1:00.300|
|13||9||Thomas LUEDI (M)||HKG||BlackArts Racing||+1:26.833|
|14||44||Paul WONG (M)||CHN||852 Challengers||+1 Lap|
Fastest lap: Brendon Leitch/BlackArts Racing/1:34.193/Lap 6
F3 Asian Championship Certified by FIA Drivers’ Classification after Race 6
|1||1||Ukyo SASAHARA||JPN||Hitech GP||136|
|2||2||Jack DOOHAN||AUS||Hitech GP||122|
|3||5||Daniel CAO||CHN||Absolute Racing||65|
|4||15||Eshan PIERIS||LKA||Absolute Racing||64|
|4||86||Brendon LEITCH||NZL||BlackArts Racing||64|
|6||8||Yu KANAMARU||JPN||Super License||30|
|7||7||Tomoki TAKAHASHI||JPN||Super License||27|
|8||12||Ayrton SIMMONS||GBR||Pinnacle Motorsport||26|
|9||4||YU Kuai||CHN||Zen Motorsport||19|
|10||77||Jamie CHADWICK||GBR||Seven Grand Prix||18|
|11||95||Tom BECKHÄUSER||CZE||BlackArts Racing||12|
|12||33||Akash GOWDA||IND||M-Sport Asia||11|
|13||85||Miki KOYAMA||JPN||B-Max Racing Team||6|
|14||3||Jordan DEMPSEY||IRL||Pinnacle Motorsport||5|
|15||16||Tommy SMITH||AUS||Pinnacle Motorsport||1|