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When reigning GT Asia Series GTM Class champion Jacky Yeung revealed at the end of the 2014 season that he would be graduating to the outright GT3 category of Asia’s leading GT championship, he always knew he would be on a steep learning curve in 2015.
Frustratingly too for the Hong Kong-based driver, teething issues with his new twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 powered Bentley Continental GT3 has meant that practice laps have been limited, something which is vital to any driver coming to terms with a new machine, but despite the challenges, a replacement factory co-driver and some testing conditions, Yeung has shown himself to be more than capable of taking that important next step in his career.
GTAsia_TigerGT_77_grid_JY_DT_Fuji_0715_med“I knew coming into the 2015 GT Asia Series season that it would be a tough year,” the successful property developer admitted. “I’ve driven the Audi with great success over the last couple of seasons, so was becoming very comfortable in that car, but for 2015 I knew I needed a different challenge, and Absolute Racing adding the Bentley to their stable provided just the opportunity I was looking for.
“I drove the car late last year in Shanghai, and loved it. It’s very different to the Audi which is powered by a naturally aspirated, mid-mounted V10, whereas the Bentley has the engine in the front, and the twin-turbo V8 develops its power differently to the Audi, so there was a lot to take in.
“Initially Bentley offered me the services of factory driver Steven Kane for the season, but just prior to South Korea he was forced to pull out due to other commitments, and they installed Duncan Tappy in his place, and I have to say, I couldn’t be happier, Duncan is not only a first class driver, but a fantastic coach as well.”
Tappy is no stranger to Bentley, having been a part of their maiden season in the Blancpain Series in Europe, but the popular Englishman has plenty of experience, much of it open-wheel as a former British Formula Renault champion, and A1 Grand Prix, Indy Lights and Superleague Formula driver.
Whilst the pair have developed a great working relationship, the opening two rounds were hampered by an almost complete lack of laps by Yeung, the former Audi race winner forced to watch much of unofficial practice at both South Korea and Okayama from the garage as teething problems kept the #77 Bentley sidelined.
“The car is brand new, so it’s not unexpected, but small electrical issues cost me some serious time behind the wheel in South Korea and Okayama, where the weather also had an impact,” Yeung explained.
“Ultimately that had an effect on my race pace and my speed in the car because it was all still very new, but by Fuji, things started to fall into place despite again losing valuable practice laps, although this time thanks to mother nature.”
GTAsia_TigerGT_77_MtFuji_Fuji_0715_medIn South Korea Tappy did a brilliant job to qualify as fastest of the three Absolute Racing Bentley’s in Q1. He moved as high as third off the start, before pitting in position four to hand the car across to Yeung who completed the race in P6 – an outstanding start to their 2015 championship.
In race two, Yeung started the car from P12, a position he held onto ahead of the stop, but ultimately the team were lapped by the leaders during their compulsory pit stop, forcing Tappy to work hard for their 12th placed finish, the Englishman though one of the fastest cars on the circuit.
A lack of miles in practice at Okayama, once more impacted the JV Global Bentley’s pace early in Japan, although Tappy was still able to put the car inside the top four despite limited laps in unofficial practice, but by qualifying the #77 car claimed P3 in Q1, with Tappy just a quarter of a second off the pole-sitting time of Bentley team-mate Andy Soucek.
Yeung too had improved his pace, picking up a couple of seconds in the deficit to his team-mate’s performance, to qualify just off the tail of the top ten.
Tappy again made a lightning start to have the #77 Bentley into P2, right under the rear wing of team-mate Soucek, the duo pulling a 15-second lead ahead of the compulsory pit stops [CPS] before Yeung jumped behind the wheel to take over second place. He quickly came under fire though from the hard-charging Hiroshi Hamaguchi in the McLaren, who ultimately worked his way into the lead ahead of the round victory, whilst behind him, Yeung held on to eighth place, still lamenting a lack of time behind the wheel.
Race two saw a similar situation with Yeung starting and handing Tappy the car at the CPS within reach of the top ten, the Englishman fighting through in the closing stages to claim ninth, and more valuable championship points.
For Fuji, the weather once again played a part in unofficial practice, with Yeung recording limited miles, however in official practice on a drying circuit, the Hong Kong-based driver saw some significant improvements, and much celebration amongst his Absolute Racing crew after the third session of the day where he recorded the tenth fastest time.
“I was actually quite surprised with the time,” Yeung admitted post-session. “It’s all down to my co-driver Duncan who has been working with me on where I can improve on each corner. I still have a lot of room to improve, but I’m very happy with my pace.”
“Productive has been the word for us today,” Tappy added. “The weather has been against us, but we had Jacky in the car for all of session one despite the rain, because he needed the laps and the time on track, and that showed in session two where he started to close down the difference between us, so that’s a great positive.
“From my perspective we were third in the dry, and well within reach of P1, so it’s all looking good so far, especially just four races in.”
The weather once more had an impact on proceedings ahead of qualifying, with traffic and a one-lap window to make the best of the control Michelin wet weather tyre forcing teams to choose their moment carefully before electing to make their run, the #77 Bentley sadly caught up in traffic forcing a frustrated Tappy back to tenth for race one.
Yeung didn’t fare much better with conditions improving slightly for Q2, his 14th placed starting position not fairly reflecting their outright pace, something they both showed in the opening race in challenging and constantly changing conditions.
A dramatic start saw two of the three Absolute Racing Bentleys eliminated by turn two, but not the #77 JV Global car, Tappy threading the needle between a number of spinning cars to quickly move into third behind the two leading Ferraris. Ultimately he lost the position late in his stint to the hard-charging Nissan GT-R of Andre Couto, handing Yeung the car from P4.
Yeung then completed one of the best races of his career to hang on to fifth at the flag, more than 50-seconds clear of former champion Dilantha Malagamuwa.
“That’s fantastic, but most of the thanks has to go to Duncan who did the hard work at the start,” a typically humble Yeung admitted.
“I didn’t have a bad start, but I have to say that’s the best I’ve seen Jacky drive, a fantastic result for us,” Tappy added.
For race two conditions were finally dry, with Yeung battling hard early in the race with Malaysian Lamborghini driver Zen Low, the two fighting from corner to corner before the Bentley driver finally broke free to hand Tappy the car from inside the top ten, the Englishman working his way up to eighth at the flag.
“I’m very happy with the overall result,” Yeung admitted with his trademark wide smile. “In race two I started P14 and we finished in eighth position, so I cannot ask for any more than that. I had a great race with Zen Low, there were areas where I was much faster, so I dived in, but I gave him plenty of room, but still almost clipped him with the nose of the car, and the battle continued for a number of laps – it was a great fight, but I’m still learning although getting quicker every time.
“Braking and high-speed corners are where I will find more time, but I have three hours ahead in Sepang, and I’m really looking forward to that on a track where I have tasted victory in the past in the Merdeka 12-Hour event.”
With the Fuji round now completed, focus turns to the fourth event of the year, and the GT Asia Series’ first ‘mini’ enduro, with a single, double-points scoring three-hour race at Malaysia’s Sepang Circuit on September 4-5.
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Ben Potter

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