The #111 Winning Team McLaren of Joe Osborne and Han Han took second successive GT3 victory in Round 9 of the 2019 China GT championship at Tianjin on Saturday.
With Han Han initially at the wheel, the #111 car led the field away from pole position, but was soon passed by the #90 FIST-Team AAI BMW driven by Nick Yelloly.
The Briton was keen to build as much of a gap as possible before the pit stops and pulled away from the chasing pack at a rate of around four seconds a lap, but all his efforts came to naught when the #92 BMW of Ivan Lee tangled with Jeffrey Lee’s #88 Craft-Bamboo Mercedes on lap 10, putting both cars out of the race.
With the wreckage forcing the introduction of the safety car, Yelloly’s lead of over twenty seconds was reduced to nothing, and though teammate Lam Yu began his stint at the wheel still in the lead, the Chinese driver quickly gave best to Osborne and Jesse Krohn in the #91 BMW.
Krohn’s teammate Betty Chen had benefitted from the safety car’s deployment to close up to the front of the pack, leaving the Finnish driver in a good position to challenge for the win in the second half of the race. Krohn on fresh tyres soon found himself second and was catching Osbourne for the lead, but a puncture forced the Finn into an unscheduled pit stop for a new wheel.
With Krohn now out of contention, Osborne duly cruised home to take his and Han Han’s second consecutive win, with the new McLaren 720s now having scored two wins and a second place in its first three China GT outings.
Behind Osborne, the #66 YC Racing Mercedes of Lin Nan and Min Heng benefitted from others’ misfortune to finish an excellent second after having qualified ninth, and Peter Liao kept his nose out of trouble to complete the top three in his #2 D2 Racing Mercedes.
Yelloly and Lam Yu took fourth, while Krohn and Chen was the final classified GT3 runner in fifth on a day that had promised so much more.
Into the GTC category, Zhou Bihuang and Zheng Wenchang once again took the spoils in their #918 YC Racing Lamborghini Huracan, finishing first in class and sixth on the road, comfortably ahead of stablemates CJ Huang and Wang Tao in their #75 car.
Dominic Ang and Song Bo finished third in class and eighth overall after an eventful race which saw the #25 Xtreme Motorsports Radical take a trip across the escape road and make an extra pit stop to change tyres.
Li Jiaqi and Xiao Min ended the race ninth overall and fourth in GTC in their #186 YCRT Lamborghini, followed by fellow YCRT runner Wu Pei in his #8 Porsche, the sole representative in the one-make trophy category.
Shang Lei’s #82 Lamborghini was the final classified runner, 11th overall and fifth in GTC.
Chris Chia and Alex Fontana took victory from the second row thanks to a combination of strong pace, an efficient pit stop by the Phantom Pro team and a touch of good fortune. The duo returned to the top of the GT4 Drivers’ championship and secured Team’s title in the process. Charlie Fagg and Will Bamber crossed the line nose to tail and took second and third for Winning Team and D2 Racing.
Front-row starters David Pun and Dong Liang went wheel to wheel at the start, but the #570 McLaren came out ahead going into the second sector. This move was a defining moment for pole-sitter David Pun, as he soon had Dong’s teammate Luo Kailuo in the #868 entry for company.
Luo had been aggressive from the get-go. Started from sixth, he tipped Kuo Kuo Hsin’s #2 D2 AMG into a spin at the T11 hairpin on the opening lap, which eventually earned him a drive-through penalty for Sunday. Then on lap two, he dived down the inside of the unsighted David Pun in the same place, which spelled the end for both his own race and that of the hapless BSEM Aston Martin Racing #618.
The race resumed after the safety car, with Dong Liang leading from Phantom Pro Racing’s #5 Chris Chia and #6 Rainey He.
The pit stop has shaken up the field with #999 Team Master Champ’s Wang Tao coming out the de facto leader. He was soon vaulted by the #5 AMG of Alex Fontana but was able to hold off two fast charging professional drivers for 10 laps while Fontana pulled away in the lead.
Charlie Fagg in the #570 McLaren spent laps trying to find a way past Wang Hao, while under pressure from a charging Will Bamber. The McLaren Junior driver finally managed to dispatch the BMW on lap 24, but still had the New Zealander breathing down his neck. In the end he just managed to hold off Bamber and edged the Kiwi to the line by merely 0.2s.
Wang Hao finished fourth ahead of #6 Phantom Pro’s Rainey He and Yang Xi, who spent a long time in the pit during driver change. Sixth place went to #17 FIST-Team AAI Qi Peiwei. He was running as high as fifth on his China GT debut, but had to serve a drive-through penalty for a race-ending contact with #87’s Gao Yang/Wei Tianyi.