The Absolute Racing started its 2019 season in strong form over the weekend (11-12 January) with a race win and a podium finish for the squad’s two Tatuus T-318s in the opening round of the new Asian Winter Series at Thailand’s FIA Grade 1, 4.554km Buriram International Circuit.
Team Director Fabien Fior was happy with the weekend: “The team did a good job over the winter and we showed how quick we are from the first outing. Both drivers did a great job this weekend and we leave this race knowing we’ve got speed to win. Unfortunately a few technical problems beyond our control prevented a much better overall result for one of our drivers and this won’t happen again. We can go into Malaysia with our heads held high and aiming stronger results.”
Friday morning qualifying sessions saw China’s Ye Yifei qualifying second for Race 1 and Race 3, while Eshan Pieris from Sri Lanka posted the fifth fastest time in both sessions.
The first race of the weekend took place later in the day and wasn’t kind for the Absolute Racing duo. Lining up from second on the grid, Ye went to the front on the opening lap. The Chinese youngster led the first few laps of the race but retired while battling for the lead with a radiator failure.
Teammate Pieris had an eventful Formula 3 race debut. He crossed the finish line in third but the #15 Absolute Racing entry driver was demoted to fifth after a ten second penalty for exceeding track limits and a five second penalty for allegedly causing a collision.
Race 2 and Race 3 took place on Saturday. If Pieris didn’t take part of Race 2 due to a clutch problem right before the start, Ye took the maximum out of his Absolute Racing car. Starting from fourth on the grid Ye moved to third in lap 3. Looking strong Ye was a man on a mission and over the next ten laps closed the gap between himself and the two frontrunners.
Towards the end of the race the Chinese driver pace was increasing, and without surprise, lap 15 saw Ye diving past and securing the second place from the two-time Macau Grand Prix winner Dan Ticktum. Unfortunately there wasn’t time enough to make a move on the race leader.
The best was kept for the end at Buriram. Ye made a brilliant getaway as the lights went out for Race 3 to seize the lead from pole-sitter Ticktum. Despite a heated dispute for the first position, Ye once again displayed impressive race-craft and maturity holding the first position through the duration of the 19-lap race to claim his first Formula 3 victory.
On the other side of the garage, the bad luck struck again. Ever-improving Pieris was forced to retire after seven laps with technical problems.
After the first three rounds Ye leaves Thailand in second place in the drivers’ championship standings, while teammate Pieris is now in 10th.
The Asian Winter Series continues next week at the Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia.