PRESS RELEASE/Asian F3 Championship – Photo: supplied
•Doohan and team mate Ukyo Sasahara continue clean sweep of 1-2 finishes for Hitech GP
•Third win for Doohan closes gap to championship leader Sasahara as season mid-point approaches
•BlackArts Racing driver Thomas Luedi takes Masters victory on iconic track
Sixteen-year-old Australian Jack Doohan swept to victory in Race 7 of the F3 Asian Championship Certified by FIA as the series made its debut in Japan at the legendary 5.807km Suzuka Circuit. Team mate and championship leader Ukyo Sasahara crossed the line just over half a second behind, continuing Hitech GP’s unbroken run of 1-2 finishes this season. Taking the final podium place was another 16-year-old talent, championship newcomer Petr Ptacek of the Czech Republic, racing with new team Seven GP.
In the Masters category, BlackArts Racing’s Thomas Luedi took the win having mastered the notoriously-unforgiving figure-of-eight FIA Grade 1 track. Second over the line was Masters championship-leader Paul Wong of the 852 Challengers. The race finished prematurely for category pole-sitter Takashi Hata after a collision with Super License team mate Tomoki Takahashi off the grid.
After seven of this season’s 15 races, Sasahara retains his lead in the championship, but team mate Doohan’s third win reduces the Japanese driver’s advantage at the top of the leaderboard to just seven points. Absolute Racing’s Daniel Cao of China remains third, while BlackArts Racing’s Brendon Leitch is now just three points behind, eight points clear of Cao’s team mate Eshan Pieris of Sri Lanka in fifth.
Starting from pole, Sasahara didn’t make the best getaway on his home track when the lights went out. Doohan, on the other hand, has mastered the challenging track with astonishing speed and got a superb launch from the grid, immediately snatching the lead from his team mate. Making his first-ever series start, Ptacek also didn’t get away fast enough, and Pinnacle Motorsport’s Jordan Dempsey didn’t need a second invitation, diving past and up to third.
The opening seconds of the race were high on drama, however, when Super License driver Takahashi failed to get away when the lights went out. While several drivers were able to swerve and avoid the stationery car, team mate and Masters driver Hata made contact. The collision ended the race for the Super License pair, both of whom were unhurt in the incident.
As a result of the incident an extended Safety Car period ensued, and the 17-strong field was released with around 10 minutes remaining on the clock. Doohan controlled the restart, getting away well and skillfully keeping Sasahara at arm’s length.
By the end of lap 6, Ptacek had reclaimed third place from Dempsey, the Irishman then coming under fire from series debutant Jackson Walls.
As the minutes ticked down, Sasahara tried to reel in Doohan, but with his third championship victory within sight, the determined Australian kept his team mate firmly at bay, setting the fastest lap of the race and securing pole position for Race 8.
Leitch was a man on the move meanwhile. Starting from P11 after a challenging qualifying session, the New Zealander was up to ninth by the Safety Car period and resumed his charge once the field was released. Seventh by the end of lap 7, he then dived past Walls before getting by Dempsey to climb to fifth by the flag behind Cao.
There was late-race drama for Tommy Smith on Lap 10, when the Pinnacle Motorsport driver fell victim to the notoriously tricky circuit, going off at the Esses just two laps from the flag.
As the chequered flag came out for the first time on the F3 Asian Championship in Japan after 11 laps of the challenging Suzuka Circuit it was Doohan who took the historic win for the series, crossing the line 0.611 of a second ahead of Sasahara with Ptacek taking a well-deserved podium place on his debut. Fourth over the line was Absolute Racing’s Cao, ahead of Leitch, Dempsey, Walls and series newcomer Kiyoto Fujinami of B-Max Racing Team.
Races 8 and 9 continue tomorrow (Sunday). Race 8 gets underway at 09:35 local time (GMT+9), with Race 9 starting at 15:25. Both races will be live streamed from the championship’s Facebook page and on www.f3asia.com
Jack Doohan/Hitech GP/Winner – Race 7
“I knew it was going to be pretty tough given the Suzuka Circuit and Ukyo’s knowledge around here. Luckily, I managed to get a good start, which I’ve rarely been able to do lately. I did it when it counted. Then I tried to get away on the first lap, but then there was the Safety Car. I tried to keep everything cool; not over-think it. After the restart, I tried to pull a gap but Ukyo was pretty on it. I tried not to over-push or make any mistakes.
Suzuka Circuit] is high-speed, corner-after-corner. Everything happens from the first snakes in sector 1. Everything has to be right from the start. It just seems to be my type of circuit. The fast, flowing tracks seem to suit me better. I just picked it up from the start and have been able to build on that since.”
Ukyo Sasahara/Hitech GP/2nd – Race 7
“I think the start made the results. I made a bad start. The overall race pace, I think, I was quicker than Jack. But I know here it’s a bit difficult to overtake, especially at the high-speed corners. I’m happy for the team – 1-2 again. Let’s see for tomorrow. My target tomorrow is to make a good start. I found from race one that our overall race pace was quite good, so let’s keep pushing like this.”
Petr Ptacek/Seven GP/3rd – Race 7
“The track is really cool. I’m really enjoying every lap I drive, especially the Esses. It’s really nice to drive; pretty high-speed with this car. The qualifying was kind of a surprise to us that we are pretty quick. The race was not that good and we have to look at it.”
Thomas Luedi/BlackArts Racing/Masters Winner – Race 7
“It’s my first time at Suzuka. It’s a difficult circuit. I’m still learning the track but I think I’m getting faster – race by race, session by session. I’m certainly enjoying it a lot. It’s a wonderful circuit.”
|1||2||Jack DOOHAN||AUS||Hitech GP||31:45.898|
|2||1||Ukyo SASAHARA||JPN||Hitech GP||+0.611|
|3||21||Petr PTACEK||CZE||Seven GP||+9.366|
|4||5||Daniel CAO||CHN||Absolute Racing||+10.396|
|5||86||Brendon LEITCH||NZL||BlackArts Racing||+11.581|
|6||3||Jordan DEMPSEY||IRL||Pinnacle Motorsport||+14.633|
|7||17||Jackson WALLS||AUS||Hitech GP||+15.326|
|8||30||Kiyoto FUJINAMI||JPN||B-Max Racing Team||+16.526|
|9||15||Eshan PIERIS||LKA||Absolute Racing||+25.680|
|10||4||YU Kuai||CHN||ZEN Motorsport||+27.696|
|11||33||Akash GOWDA||IND||M-Sport Asia||+28.734|
|12||95||Miki KOYAMA||JPN||BlackArts Racing||+29.236|
|13||9||Thomas LUEDI (M)||HKG||BlackArts Racing||+48.965|
|14||44||Paul WONG (M)||CHN||852 Challengers||+1:24.969|
|15||16||Tommy SMITH||AUS||Pinnacle Motorsport||+2 Laps|
|–||7||Tomoki TAKAHASHI||JPN||Super License||DNF|
|–||8||Takashi HATA (M)||JPN||Super License||DNF|
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