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Jun 04, 2014 - 06:44 AM
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Another Podium For The NB Team Aston Martin In Japan
Posted by: newsla on Jun 04, 2014 - 06:43 AM
Sports Cars
Another Podium For The NB Team Aston Martin In Japan

After an outstanding debut at Korea during the opening two rounds of the GT Asia Series, China’s new NB Team were looking forward to their second event of the season, at the Autopolis International Circuit on the southern Japanese Island of Kyushu.


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Unfortunately - due to his Super GT commitments in Japan at the same venue, on the same weekend - car #5’s Korean pole-sitter Andrea Caldarelli was forced to ‘sit out’ the Japanese round, Fu Song Yang [Sean Fu] instead joined by former Indycar regular, Joel Camathias.

The NB Team were also forced to make an engine change in their V12 Vantage GT3 after the problems the #5 car had during race two in Korea, the crew - alongside Aston Martin’s mechanics effecting a change on Wednesday night ahead of Thursday’s two ‘unofficial’ practice sessions provided to give teams time for their drivers and teams to become accustomed to the 19-corner, 4.673-kilometre ‘international’ circuit.

With little time to check their cars after the Korean round, the NB Team technicians also went right through the #9 car of Jiang Xin [Kane Jiang] and Max Wiser, discovering a broken circlip in the gearbox, forcing them to make a change to ensure no further damage occurred.

By Thursday practice the main focus was on establishing a strong baseline setup for both cars, and on getting valuable laps for both Kane and Sean.

A regular in the GT Open category in Europe, Camathias quickly settled into a rhythm in the #5 car setting the fifth fastest time overall, whilst the experienced Wiser completed just a handful of laps before handing over to Jiang, in the process setting the tenth fastest time of the day, immediately behind the similar Vantage GT3 of Carlo Van Dam.

Further improvement during Friday’s two official practice sessions saw Wiser gain half a second on the leaders, whilst Camathias and Fu dropped to 12th, both teams suffering from understeer on the technically challenging Japanese circuit.

“It’s a real compromise here at Autopolis,” Wiser explained. “There’s a big mix of third and fourth gear corners with fast changes of direction, a long straight and a couple of slow hairpins. Experience really comes to the fore here, and drivers like Richard Lyons - who has been racing here for ten years - can find that extra few tenths, and their team too has good experience at Autopolis.

“For us we have quite severe understeer which we’re trying to dial out, whilst also trying to make Kane and Sean feel more comfortable behind the wheel. We need to match their pace as closely as possible to the ‘Pro’ drivers [Wiser and Camathias] to ensure we maximise the performance of the cars over the full race length, not just make it quick for us to drive over half the race distance..!”

By qualifying both teams found improvements to reduce their overall lap-times, however their opponents too took a step forward, Wiser qualifying the #9 NB Team Aston in position 11, with Camathias immediately behind him, the pair separated by just 17 one hundredths of a second.

In qualifying two, Kane Jiang qualified with an impressive fifth place, whilst Sean Fu admitted that he really wasn’t 100% comfortable on the twisty Autopolis circuit, qualifying further back in the field, although at an improved pace over Thursday and Friday’s practice sessions.

A cautious start in the opening race melee saw both Wiser and Camathias pick up a couple of positions on the run into turn two, to be ninth and tenth by the close of the first lap.

Wiser continue to charge to be eighth by the time the compulsory pit stop [CPS] window opened, whilst Camathias appeared to be battling an issue, a problem which ultimately brought the Swiss driver to a stop on lap ten with a drive belt failure.

“It actually felt like a steering issue, because it got heavier and heavier,” he admitted post race. “There wasn’t anything I could do, and I couldn’t get the car back to the pits.”

That brought out the Safety Car, with many drivers electing to pit to make their CPS, the #9 car one of those to make their stop with Wiser handing the car over to Jiang who drove brilliantly across the final stanza of the race to claim sixth at the chequered flag.

“That’s okay, but the car still wasn’t 100% perfect,” Wiser admitted. “We’ll keep working on it, because we know we can be faster.”

Race two was delayed slightly after the Lamborghini of Dilantha Malagamuwa caught fire on the grid prior to the start of the race, officials quickly dealing with the problem and removing the car from the circuit.

Jiang made a brilliant start to move into P3 on the run into turn one, diving down the inside of the opening race winning Ferrari of Mok Weng Sun under brakes to latch onto the tail of Korean round winner Anthony Lui and McLaren’s Hiroshi Hamaguchi.

Behind him, Fu spun on the run into turn one trying to avoid another car, as a result dropping to the rear of the field.

Up front though Jiang joined Liu and Hamaguchi as the leaders drove away from the field, the Chinese driver clearly capable of matching the two drivers in front of him, but with overtaking opportunities difficult on the Autopolis circuit, he held position and was well placed to hand over to Wiser during the stop with a chance to leap-frog the McLaren due to it’s podium result in race one, and subsequent additional time penalty during the CPS.

Liu ultimately made his way into the lead before the CPS, with Hamaguchi spinning shortly afterwards whilst looking to take back the position, in the process elevating Jiang to second, a position he held to the CPS before handing over to Wiser.

Rejoining second behind race leader Liu, Wiser put his head down and focused on extracting as much speed from the #9 NB Team Aston as he could. Liu finally stopped to hand over to Rizzo, the Ferrari emerging just in front of the Aston, as Richard Lyons and Rob Bell closed in from behind to first take Wiser, and then Rizzo.

Max continued to push, ultimately taking the Ferrari driver a few laps from home to be classified third outright and get the NB Team back on the podium for the second event in succession, although post race it was revealed that they would provisionally be elevated to second after an infringement was revealed for the race winning Aston of Richard Lyons.

“Whichever way it goes, we’re happy to have come to another new circuit and be competitive,” Wiser admitted. “Kane drove brilliantly to put us into a position to challenge for the podium, and although the car wasn’t 100% perfect, we were still quick.”

Despite being a lap down after a second spin by Fu just prior to the CPS, Camathias was one of the quickest cars on the circuit in the closing laps, the tall Swiss driver crossing the line 12th. “That was a tough weekend,” he shrugged post-race. “The car was fantastic to drive, but we had a couple of little problems. “Sean unfortunately wasn’t 100% comfortable behind the wheel, probably because the circuit was just so busy, but it was more valuable miles for him and that’s what counts..!”

The NB Team will now travel to the Fuji International Circuit for a two-day test ahead of the third event on the GT Asia Series calendar at the same venue on 11-13 July.

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