Team NZ Motorsport enjoyed a superb weekend in the Malaysian heat with John Curran and Graeme Dowsett driving the #77 Porsche 997 GT3 Cup to clear cut victories in both 1-hour races that comprised the second round of the inaugural Asian Le Mans Sprint Cup, which was held at Sepang International Circuit.
This was the second appointment on the three-round inaugural Asian Le Mans Sprint Cup 2016; the first event actually took place back in May while the final encounter comes up in a month’s time. All three events comprise of double-header sprint length races so last weekend saw the third and fourth races of the season.
We returned to Sepang Circuit in good form having won the GT class in Race 2 at the first event, however in Race 1 a late race technical problem had caused a DNF when we were comfortably ‘en route’ to the podium and that proved to be very costly in terms of championship points. That meant we went into this round needing to focus all our attentions on achieving a double win, especially as the Drivers’ championship classification leader had opened up a useful cushion.
The first round had also seen us on the backfoot as our Porsche arrived back from Australia on the Thursday before the race, this time the team was well prepared and that meant we were to enjoy a trouble free weekend. Our biggest rival would be the #28 Lotus Evora which included Malaysian pro driver Dominic Ang, a former double Sepang 12 Hours winner, on its strength so John and Graeme would have to push hard in both races and set consistent fast times if we were to pitch for P1.
That turned out to be the case despite having to start at the back of the grid in Race 1 last Saturday. Graeme started the #77 car and he had put it right into winning contention by the time the pitstops came round leaving John to manage the gap to the finishline to take our first victory of the weekend.
In Race 2 the driver stints were reversed and it was up to John to pile on the pressure early in the race, which he did capably, and by the time the pit window opened the Irishman was able to handover to Graeme with the car in a robust P1. This time it was the New Zealander’s turn to keep the time gaps constant over the closing half hour and deliver our second win of the weekend.
“The weekend’s result was fantastic,” said Graeme Dowsett. “A great garage effort and preparation really produced the results. Personal best lap times from John and myself resulted from good data collection and coaching from Will along with a great car setup. All the guys in the team have to be credited with this great result.”
That double victory in fact made it three wins in a row for TeamNZ if we count back to Race 2 at the last round. We had required nothing less than a double victory last weekend if we were to get back into title contention and with that mission accomplished it all means John and Graeme move up to 75 points in the Drivers’ standings while the championship leaders are on 81 points.
From a wide 19 point deficit off the top of the table going into last weekend’s event the gap has narrowed down to just 6 points and that means it’s going to be game on for an all out title fight during the final double header round of the year next month where there will be a potential maximum of 52 points on offer.
“This race weekend was better prepared with preps starting on the Tuesday which allowed us to focus on the finer details,” said Curran. “The mechanics did an awesome job and the race engineering by Will Bamber was superb. Graeme and I both set personal best times this weekend and the car felt like it was on rails. Two wins out of two, I cannot ask for more than that. A great team effort as always with lots of fun and smiles to ease the pain.”
However for Team NZ the biggest focus of the three round Asian Le Mans Sprint Cup is for John and Graeme to use the available track time as a platform to continue their development as race drivers and pleasingly both set personal best times and were able to consistently lap in in the mid teens which was a very positive result from the weekend.
The team, under the direction of Team Manager (and driving coach) Will Bamber, prepared and ran the car superbly all weekend and as we start to take our first look ahead towards our big objective of the year, December’s Sepang 12 Hours, there were a lot of positives to take away from the weekend as well as the wins.
We would also like to thank the organisers’ who did an excellent job to accommodate the teams and put on an event that ran very smoothly and that once again brings the prestigious ‘Le Mans’ brand name to our ‘home’ track, Sepang Circuit.
Team NZ Motorsport is being supported in the 2016 Asian Le Mans Sprint Cup by Completion Products, Asia-Pacific Spiral, Motosure, Pioneer Consultants and Bamber Design.