In a race run in extreme heat throughout, both on and off the track, the final race of the 2017/18 Asian Le Mans Series delivered yet another race that came down to the wire.
It was yet another faultless run from the crew in the No.8 Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Oreca 05 Nissan with their drivers, Stephane Richelmi, Harrison Newey and Thomas Laurent coming home first, taking the lead in the final hour of the four-hour race at Sepang International Circuit to give the team a perfect season between the No.8 and No.7 entries.
“It is a very special day today – I did my first endurance race here in Sepang with Jackie Chan DC Racing in LMP3,” Laurent said. “We won all the races, but unfortunately I missed one race, so the team won the Championship, but not me. Second year it was the same, but this year I got what I wanted 3 years ago. So it is really nice for all three of us to win it together this year.
“I think the team has done an amazing job for the last three years – I really enjoy driving with them. It is unfortunately my last race with them but maybe I will come back with them later.
“It is here that I learned the most about racing. My team has taught me a lot, and it is why I am here in this position racing in LMP1 this year.”
In LMP3, as has been the case all season, four teams led at various points during the race. Ultimately it was the No.6 Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport Ligier JSP3, driven by Guy Cosmo, Patrick Byrne and Gabriel Aubry that won the class.
In the closing stages of the race, the class-leading No.18 KCMG Motorsport Ligier JS P3 with Josh Burdon received a penalty for a not meeting their required pit stop time, and the 1-second stop-and-go penalty was enough to cede the lead to the No.6, Aubry fending off Burdon’s late race challenge to bring the car home first and claim the LMP3 class win and the very important invitation to the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the Jackie Chan DC Racing x JOTA Sport team.
In GT it was a similar story with the No.66 Audi Sport Customer Racing Asia by TSRT Audi R8 LMS leading the way deep into the third hour after a very strong start from all three drivers, Massimiliano Wiser, Weian Chen and Mitchell Gilbert. The car lost drive on the main straight, and although Gilbert was able to get the car running again, the team was forced to retire the car shortly in the pits.
At almost the same time, the No.90 FIST Team AAI Ferrari 488 GT3 also hit trouble, with a spin causing the car to get beached in the gravel trap dropping down the order after an earlier lengthy delay with the car refusing to refire.
This left the No.91 FIST Team AAI BMW M6 GT3 driven by Jesse Krohn, Markus Palttala and Junsan Chen to come home first and claim the Championship victory.
The No.90 was able to get back on track and finished the race second, claiming a 1-2 for the FIST Team AAI team in the Championship, and the two invitations to join the LM GTE Class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans later this year.