Saturday, Apr 6 10:33pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Chris van der Drift promoted to Blancpain podium

Porsche pilots Chris van der Drift and Li Chao have scored a Pro-Am podium in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia season opener.


The 60-minute race began under dark skies at Sepang International Circuit. Rain threatened from the outset and played its part.


The opening laps were dogged by damp conditions, but not consistent throughout the course of the race. Initially it was third row starter Darryl O’Young in his Mercedes-AMG GT3 who took the hole shot into Turn 1.


The Hong Kong chucked his elbows out and relegated the front row starting Porsche pilots Tanart Sathienthirakul and Yuan Bo of Asbolute Racing to second and third.


Inthraphuvasak split the to teammates in his Porsche 911 GT3 R afte Bo made a mistake on the opening lap. Further behind, van der Drift’s co-driver Li Chao made headway up from 16th to 13th by the end of lap one.


It didn’t take long for the safety car to come out after the sole McLaren 720S GT3 parked up facing the wrong way on the exit of Turn 2. Only five minutes had elapsed when the safety car came out.


That was good news for Chao. As long as the safety car was out, the difference between van der Drift and the Chinese driver was narrowed.


As the race went green the rain began to get heavier. The second placed car of Sathienthirakul nearly spun on his own after a big slide. Only halfway through the first lap of green flag running and the safety car was back out again.


The intermission was brief but several took the opportunity to take wet tyres, a move that wouldn’t pay off for the few who chances their arm.


Sathienthirakul got spun when Wayron Chan and Yuan Bo made nose-to-tail contact and sent the second placed Porsche into a spin. Still it was O’Young who led.


With 20 minutes in the race complete Chao made his way up to ninth. He maintained position until them midway mark in the race when the third safety car came out for a stricken Porsche in the gravel.


What followed was chaos. Almost all of the field pitted. Several cars lost time over fist due to double stacking and awkward positioning in the pit lane. Chao came in and swapped seats with van der Drift. As the race restarted van der Drift sat seventh in the order.


Late in the race he moved up to fifth but eventually fell back after the Tripl Eight Race Engineering Mercedes-AMG GT3 blew by with a lap to go.


At the head of the field Piciariello made a last lap pass on Piana for the lead. Australian driver David Russell was third, but is under investigation for an incident.


Initially van der Drift and Chao finished sixth but were promoted to fifth overall and third in the Pro/Am class.The pair were the first Porsche pilots home, an admirably achievement being one of the smaller teams.


Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing’s no.59 Audi R8 LMS GT3 shared by Bhurit Bhirombhakdi and Kantasak Kusiri was handed a 30-second post-race penalty as a result of overtaking behind the Safety Car.


Craft-Bamboo’s no.99 Mercedes-AMG, Absolute Racing’s no.911 Porsche and the Panther/AAS Motorsport Porsche all moved up two places post-race as a result of penalties after Modena Motorsports committed the same Safety Car offence as Singha Plan-B.


The second and final race of the weekend takes place on Sunday. 


CLICK HERE for Race 1 results