Podium finish at Sepang 12 Hours for Porsche 911 GT3 R as Cayman GT4 Clubsport makes Asia premiere
Shanghai/Malaysia. It was a hard-fought podium win for the #911 car at the Sepang 12 hour race in Malaysia as Earl Bamber, Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet fought through the ranks to finish the race in second after sudden rains broke a solid early lead in the final race of the 2016 Intercontinental GT Challenge, just hours after the Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport made its debut in the Asia market.
Two factory teams represented Manthey Racing with the Porsche 911 GT3 R in the final race of the series‘ inaugural season with the #912 car, piloted by Richard Lietz, Michael Christensen and Frank Makowiecki, finishing in fifth after promising start from the pole position.
Nick Tandy got a brief warm-up before the race as he took to the Sepang International Circuit in the Cayman GT4 Clubsport, unveiled in the Asia Market the previous day, for its first official test lap in Asia. With a lower driving requirement and reduced maintenance costs, the Cayman GT4 Clubsport already enjoys popularity among amatuer, young and gentleman drivers throughout the US and Europe. It is expected to appear in GT races throughout Asia next year, with one team already eagerly announcing their Cayman GT4 Clubsport entry into the Blancpain GT Series Asia shortly after the car’s debut on Friday.
“ The Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport Asian premier was quite a success. We’ve already received several bookings from teams and customers in Asia who are looking forward to testing the limits of the latest member of Porsche’s GT family,“ Porsche China Motorsport Manager Alexandre Gibot said following the premiere.
Enduring Malaysia’s hot and humid weather in the first hours of Saturday’s race, both teams managed a fierce start, with 2015 Le Mans Champion and two time Porsche Carrera Cup Asia winner Earl Bamber leveraging his familiarity with the 5.543-kilometer Sepang International Circuit to conduct a clean overtake on teammate and FIA World Endurance Cup GT winner Richard Lietz in the early chapters of the race, taking up the lead after the first turn.
It looked like a clear shot for victory as both teams led the pack of 26 cars comfortably for much of the first stretch, with the #911 car successfully engaging in a dramatic overtake on the leading Ferrari and holding the front for the first 4.5 hours of the race.
But a sudden torrential downpour a third of the way through the race forced the two Porsche teams onto wet tyres, breaking their race-winning rythm and cedeing their one-two position at the front. By the fifth hour of the race, the #911, now being driven by Bamber’s 2015 Le Mans winning teammate Nick Tandy, had dropped to second place and the #912 car to fourth.
With two unscheduled pit stops to replace brakes further diminishing their advantage and pushing the #911 car back to fourth – just 1 spot ahead of the #912 car – both teams soon found themselves fighting an uphill battle. But the sudden loss of lead didn’t deter Bamber, who once more proved his champion status in a fierce lunge from the back that saw a tactful overtake of both the top-placed Audi and Ferrari drivers in a dramatic charge to second place where he finished the race.
“ It’s fantastic to finish the season on the podium. We were going very well in the dry and we were leading for a long time. When it began to drizzle we had problems with the tyres. But once heavy rain set in we were back in strong form. It was a very difficult race, but a good result from Porsche,“ Earl Bamber said after the race.
Also joining onsite was Porsche China Junior Programme Driver Andrew Tang, who observed the race under the guidance Earl Bamber and Patrick Pilet over the weekend as part of the training he receives as the Porsche Junior. Tang was recently selected to continue on as the Porsche China Junior in 2017 after showing huge promise during his first year joining the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia in 2016.