Sunday, Apr 7 07:17am
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Chris van der Drift wins on Super Trofeo Asia debut

Chris van der Drift and Evan Chen overcame trying conditions at Sepang International Circuit to win the season opening Lamborghini Super Trofeo race.


Damp conditions ensured the 50-minute race under the floodlit circuit started behind the safety car. Several teams opted to take wet weather tyres for the race start, but not second place starter van der Drift.


Finland’s Juuso Puhakka led the field away from the line, but van der Drift went nowhere. His slick tyres gave him no grip as the race got underway and he plummeted down the order and fell from second to sixth. Meanwhile, fellow series debutant Brendon Leitch pushed up the order to go from ninth to seventh.


Fortunately the conditions were changing in favour of van der Drift. Slowly but surely the 15-turn circuit began to dry and the times began to come the way of the Kiwi.


Pit stops began midway through the race and Puhakka’s lead was diminished as he swapped over with Japanese driver Takashi Takai.


Takai lost the lead soon after the pit stops when Malaysian driver Afiq Yazid blew by on lap nine. He quickly built up a six-second lead.


GAMA Racing opted to leave van der Drift on track to the last moment and pitted him late in the piece. With slicks already on their car there was no need to change tyres. That saved them plenty of time and they launched up the order.


Now up to third, van der Drift’s co-driver Chen began making headway. He got by Takai and then began to narrow the lead to Yazid.


The slick-shod car of Chen was too quick for the wet-shod Yazid. With a lap to go the Taiwanese driver cruised by after Yazid made a mistake out of Turn 2 and the lead was his.


Watch the race replay below: 


“I nearly crashed to the grid! I thought to myself, ‘what the hell are these rain tyres?’,” van der Drift said after the race.


“And then I realised ‘oh, they’re slicks, that makes sense!’ So as soon as I got some temperature in, I could manage.


“It was really, really wet in the middle sector – the fast corners were soaking there. And then at least the water ran off so you could sort of drive on that, just brake really early and try and stay on the track.


“There were a few corners that were just bone dry, so you could haul ass around there. Then the other ones, you just had to stay on and then wait. Just balance it like that. Just before the pitstop window, I just started hauling ass. I thought ‘now we’re on the money’.


“I knew, compared to the others, Evan would have warm tyres anyway as everything was warm on the slicks. It’s cool. My first race in Lamborghini!”


Like van der Drift, Chen was surprised by the conditions and he too nearly ended up in a spin on his first flying lap.


“Obviously Chris didn’t give me enough of a brief, so on my first lap I almost crashed,” he said.


“I couldn’t see the dry and wet because of the lights. But seriously, Chris did the toughest job of the stint at the start. It was really difficult, I could see that. Luckily at the end, sector 1 was pretty much dry. Everyone was on wets, so we just found our way past.”


Brendon Leitch finished ninth overall and fifth in Pro-Am in his debut for Leipert Motorsport alongside Lim Keong Wee.


One more race remains in the weekend for Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia on Sunday at 7:20pm NZST.


CLICK HERE for Race 1 results