Craft Bamboo Racing leave Fuji with joint GT Asia lead

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Craft-Bamboo Racing team has a reason to celebrate even after some mixed results at Fuji. Drivers Darryl O’Young and Jonathan Venter of the #99 VLT Aston Martin were able to take the joint drivers’ championship lead after a hard fought second place podium in race two. The #88 Interush sister car of Richard Lyons and Frank Yu had a run of bad luck this weekend, suffering contact at the start of both races which prevented them from being able to challenge for any podium positions. This was made more frustrating by their excellent qualifying performance that saw them start race one in P3. Venter achieved another brilliant qualifying lap that saw the #99 car take pole position for race two and was instrumental in helping them secure the joint lead in the GT Asia drivers’ championship.


It was Richard Lyons who would take to the circuit first and as with the other Japanese circuits featured in the GT Asia Series, Lyons was certainly no stranger. Having raced at Fuji for the past 15 years, expectations were high and Lyons did not disappoint, setting a 1:52.329 which secured them P3 for race one.

Frank Yu was up next to contest the starting position for race two and began to push hard as soon as he hit the circuit. Confident with the Aston Martin’s abilities around Fuji, Yu was showing good pace as he went about his qualifying lap. The Hong Kong driver set a 1:55.778 which would see the #88 car starting from P8 for race two.

It was, Darryl O’Young, who would take to the Fuji Speedway first in the hopes of recording a strong qualifying time. However, the track conditions were not playing along, with intermittent rain making it difficult to set a flawless qualifying lap. O’Young pushed hard and set a 1:54.247 to take P12 for race one at Fuji.

Teammate Jonathan Venter would be tasked with setting the time for race two and after a string of good sessions behind him this season, he was keen to see it continue. Venter focused on taking the car to limit and in the process set a 1:53.642 which was all that was needed to secure pole position for race two.

Race One

As the lights went out and the GT Asia gird stormed into the first corner at Fuji, it was Richard Lyons who was jostling for a position at the front of the pack between the two Ferraris. Unfortunately, as he made his move into turn one he suffered heavy contact on the right side from one of the Bentleys. He managed to stay his course and continue his fight near the top of the field but as Lyons headed into turn two it was another Bentley that would appear and careen into the front right of the #88 Interush Aston Martin. Due to the resulting contact, the Irishman was dropped further down the order but he continued his challenge, mustering all available pace in an attempt to catch the leaders. 

By the second lap though, the damage had taken its toll on the #88 car, smoke poured from the damaged body work and resulting tyre puncture, forcing Lyons to head into the pits on the next lap. The Craft-Bamboo Racing pit crew performed flawlessly, returning Lyons to the track as quick as possible. From here, Lyons was intent on clawing back the time that he had and he settled into attack mode. Using his knowledge and experience of Fuji to his advantage, the GT ace charged ahead.

The weather was now beginning to turn and the rain would gradually become heavier as the race progressed but Lyons was still pushing, right up until he pulled in for his compulsory pit stop and driver change to teammate, Frank Yu, on lap 16. After another smooth pitstop, Yu was out on track and after adjusting to the wet conditions continued the #88’s push to whittle away the time lost at the start of the race.

Yu did everything possible over the closing stages of the race and was unfaltering in his performance around the wet Japanese circuit but the #88 Interush Aston Martin was unable to claw back the time it had lost earlier on in the race. Yu never gave up and drove hard right up until the flag fell, crossing the line a respectable P11 and still managing to score some points.

It was O’Young who would start the #99 Aston Martin’s Fuji campaign and it began without a hitch, managing to avoid any of the first lap incidents that plagued his other competitors, O’Young was able to focus on chasing down those ahead of him. On only the third lap a sensor failure resulted in the car losing ABS and traction control, something that made the car very difficult to control in the deteriorating weather conditions.

By the 10th minute, the #99 VLT car had moved up three positions into P9 as the rain started to fall on the circuit. As the race progressed, the weather situation worsened and O’Young’s performance was starting to be affected, unfortunately losing a position as he struggled for grip.

O’Young decided to pit early to try and resolve the sensor issue and due to the light rain the team opted to stay on slick tyres. However, the issue was unable to be resolved and the rain worsened, leaving Venter in a difficult position. Venter put in an amazing drive to keep the car on the circuit and take the car to P9 with 16 minutes left on the clock.

Venter continued to push on but later found himself under attack from the GT-R Nismo. The pair battled and Venter’s defence was impenetrable, keeping the Nissan at bay with 15 minutes left on the clock.

Through the closing stages of the race, Venter held his position and continued his smooth drive, avoiding any mistakes as the track dried out. The young driver crossed the line in P9 and was able to collect some championship points in the process.

Race One Results
Van Dam/Bhirom Bhakdi – F-458 GT3
Vilander/Mok – F-458 GT3
Griffin/Wee – F-458 GT3
Liuzzi/Hamaguchi – 650s GT3
Tappy/Yeung – Continental GT3
9. O’Young/Venter – Craft-Bamboo Racing – Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3
11. Lyons/Yu – Craft-Bamboo Racing – Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3

Race Two

Frank Yu started race two from P8 and as the field of GT cars dove into the first corner, Yu was involved in a turn one incident which caused his car to spin. For the second time this weekend, the #88 would have a difficult challenge from the back but would be doing everything possible to score some points. Yu quickly re-joined the pack but on lap four he was hit from behind, sending him off the track and into the wall. Yu headed into the pits on the fifth lap to have the damage repaired, eager to get back onto the circuit to continue his challenge.

From here, the #88 was disadvantaged but was not giving up, its two drivers were still giving it their best, lap after lap they set out to regain as much time as possible in the hopes of scoring more points. Yu put in consistently quick lap times until it was his turn to hand over to Lyons during the compulsory pit stop window. The Craft-Bamboo Racing crew performed another fantastic pit stop and Lyons was soon on his way and able to continue his teammates work of chasing down their competitors.

After doing all he could, Lyons crossed the finish line in P17 and put an end to an unlucky weekend for the #88 pair of drivers. They will be looking to the Sepang three hour and the double points to reignite their championship campaign.

Jonathan Venter was in control at the head of the field for the start of race two and he did not disappoint. Making a smooth getaway, he began to defend his P1 position right from the start and managed to exit the first corner fray still ahead of the competition. From here, Venter began to pull away, using the clear air ahead of him to create a commanding 2.5 second lead by the third lap.

It was now a battle between Venter and Adderly Fong in the Bentley, lap after lap saw Fong constantly attacking Venter but he was unable to find a way around. Eventually, Venter could defend no more and allowed the Bentley through, not wanting to risk his valuable position.

Once the compulsory pit window opened, Venter entered the pits to swap to teammate Darryl O’Young. The Bentley was just ahead and had entered the pit lane moments earlier. The Craft-Bamboo Racing crew decided to leave the Aston Martin on warm tyres and got O’Young out onto the track as fast as possible. In what was a tense moment, O’Young left the pits in front of the Bentley and was now in the lead.

It was now a great battle between Keita Sawa and O’Young, the pair trading places as they fought for the lead. O’Young was defending well but as the race drew to a close, he could not hold on. The Bentley found a way around and as the flag waved, the #99 VLT Aston Martin crossed the line in P2. This superb result has allowed the #99 drivers to become joint leaders in the drivers’ championship thanks to a successful weekend filled with points.

Race Two Results

Sawa/Fong – Continental GT3
2. O’Young/Venter – Craft-Bamboo Racing – Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3
Wiser/Jiang – F-458 GT3
Griffin/ Wee – F-458 GT3
Vilander/Mok – F-458 GT3
17. Lyons/Yu – Craft-Bamboo Racing – Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3

Source material - Craft Bamboo Racing
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