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Thong robbed of win and points lead in dramatic Fuji 4-hour

Rnd#2 2017/2018 Asian Le Mans Series (4-Hours of Fuji)

Fuji International Speedway, Japan               1-3 December, 2017

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Having secured the Silver Cup trophy in Paris just days before for his result in the 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia, Hong Kong’s Shaun Thong was fired up for his return to Japan for the second round of the 2017/2018 Asian Le Mans Series behind the wheel of the Taiwan Beer GH Motorsport Ligier LMP3.

Hot off their second-placed finish during the season-opener at Zhuhai in late October, Thong and team-mate Hanns Lin were looking for a strong haul of points as they pushed for the LMP3 series lead heading into the Christmas break.

Joined in Fuji by Chinese Formula 3 driver Ye Hong Li, the trio struggled through practice and qualifying with a string of technical challenges, the last of which kept them from recording a single lap in qualifying, forcing them to start rear-of-field for the 4-hour Fuji endurance event, something which ultimately didn’t phase Thong.

“It’s not like the GT3 sprint races I’m used to which are just one hour long with two drivers sharing the car,” Thong explained. “There you’re driving at almost ten tenths every lap, whereas in an endurance race, the focus is different, you need to be quick, but you need to be consistent and race against the clock, there’s a little more room to recover from setbacks, and certainly starting from the rear gives us an opportunity to get through the first corner a little more safely!” 

Lin started the green, red and white Ligier JS P3, moving up the order to hand the car to Thong during the first stop within striking distance of the leaders. With their title rivals in the KCMG LMP3 finding trouble early, Thong knew that he was in a position to not only strike at top step of the Fuji podium, but also be in a position to lead the championship at the mid-point of the season.

His stints were inspiring, the 22-year old clearly the fastest LMP3 driver on the circuit, at times more than a second a lap faster than his rivals, his best coming just prior to the two hour mark of the race, where he’d opened up a gap of almost a minute and a half over his nearest rivals.

With a bit over an hour to go, he hit pit lane to hand the car to Ye to complete the four-hour journey, but sadly the dream result fell just 20-minutes short, a broken drive-shaft ending their run after recovering from a drive-through penalty for a pit lane infringement late in the race, dropping them from a certain podium finish.

“That’s motorsport sometimes, there’s not much you can do about it,” Thong lamented. “I drove as well as I could have done during my stint to bring us to the lead after starting last, so it shows great promise from the car. Endurance racing can often be brutal - so much work from so many people, only to have a mechanical failure to bring it all to an end within striking distance of the finish.

“For now the focus is on Buriram in Thailand in January - another circuit I really enjoy - to go after the top step of the podium and get back into the title race.

“Till then, I’d like to wish my friends, family, supporters and fans a fantastic Christmas and a prosperous New Year after what has been an outstanding season of competition. I can’t wait for what 2018 has in store!”

4-Hours of Fuji (Rnd#2 Asian Le Mans Series) 

Fuji International Speedway, Japan (2 December, 2017)

Qualifying

1. 37. Liu/Rizzo/Derani (Ligier JS P2 LMP2) - 1:32.102

2. 8. Richelmi/Newey/Laurent (Oreca/Nissan LMP2) - 1:32.259

3. 7. Cheng/Jaafar (Oreca/Nissan LMP2) - 1:32.698

4. 33. Mori/Asmer/Andrews (Ligier JS P2 LMP2) - 1:33.610

5. 18. Burdon/Prette/Wei (Ligier JS P3 LMP3) - 1:35.255

7. 1. Lok/Descombes/Bradley (Ligier JS P3 LMP3) - 1:36.470

DNQ. 11. Hanss Lin/Shaun Thong/Ye Hong Li (Taiwan Beer Ligier JS P3 LMP3) 

4-Hours of Fuji (3 December, 2017)

1. 8. Richelmi/Newey/Laurent (Oreca/Nissan LMP2) - 149-laps

2. 37. Liu/Rizzo/Derani (Ligier JS P2 LMP2) +60.354

3. 7. Cheng/Jaafar (Oreca/Nissan LMP2) - 147-laps

4. 4. Konopka/Calko/Breukers (Ligier JS P2 LMP2) - 145-laps 

5. 6. Cosmo/Byrne (Ligier JS P3 LMP3) - 141-laps

10. 65. Khoo/Ang/Winslow (Ligier JS P2 LMP2) - 136-laps

11. 99. Sano/Kamimura/Shirasaka (Ligier JS P3 LMP3) - 124-laps

DNF. 11. Hanss Lin/Shaun Thong/Ye Hong Li (Taiwan Beer Ligier JS P3 LMP3) - 128-laps 

 

2017/2018 Asian Le Mans Series - calendar

27-29 October, 2017 - Zhuhai International Circuit, China

1-3 December, 2017 - Fuji International Speedway, Japan

11-13 January, 2018 - Chang International Circuit, Thailand

2-4 February, 2018 - Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia

 

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