Blancpain GT Asia: Patel & Gilbert take double podium finishes at Shanghai
The Indo-Malaysian pair bounced back in Silver class to keep itself in the title fight.
The start of Round 5 in the 2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia at the Shanghai International Circuit saw the pair of Aditya Patel & Mitchell Gilbert finish fifth and first overall in the two practice sessions on Friday.
Driving the #86 OD Racing’s Audi R8 LMS GT3 in the first session, Patel was first in the Silver class, while Gilbert continued the form to end the same in FP2.
The Saturday morning practice had Patel & Gilbert finish eighth overall and fourth in the Silver class, ahead of the two qualifying sessions on a wet circuit.
The first qualifying saw Gilbert finish third overall and in Silver class, a mere 0.434s off pole-sitter #66 Vincenzo Soapiri Racing pair of Sandy Stuvik & Yuki Nemoto in the Lamborghini Huracan, with #277 HubAuto Racing’s Hongli Ye & Tim Bridgman in the Porsche in second.
The Qualifying 2 for the second race had Patel finishing sixth overall and second in Silver class – only 0.878s off pole-sitter #7 J-Fly by Absolute Racing’s Alessio Picariello & Jeffrey Lee in the Audi R8 LMS GT3 car, while #6 Audi R8 LMS Cup’s Alex Yoong & Alex Au were second in the Audi and #18 KCMG by Champion Racing’s Martin Rump & Sanghwi Rick Yoon third, also in the Audi.
The first race in the penultimate weekend posed stiff challenge to the competitors due to the mixed conditions at the drying Shanghai International Circuit.
Starting in the #86 Audi, Gilbert ran in the Top 3 after early laps melee, which saw him drop positions off the line, before having to make up ahead of his pit stop.
When the pit window opened up, Gilbert shot into the lead for a brief moment when battling with Stuvik and the #5 Audi Hong Kong’s Marchy Lee (with Shaun Thong), before diving in himself to handover the car to Patel.
The Indian remained in the winning position after the stop, which was further boosted due to a drive-through penalty to the #66 Lamborghini of Nemoto.
However, a mistake in the final car, which led to a 360-degree spin from Patel, allowed for the #5 Audi of Thong to take the lead. Patel pushed hard from the spin for a last gasp effort.
The gap which shot up to over eight seconds was brought down to under three seconds by the final lap, but it was too late for the Chennai-born driver, as he had to settle for second – but he was comfortably ahead of third-placed #6 Audi of Yoong and Au, which made it an Audi 1-2-3 finish.
The second race started under wet conditions at Shanghai, with Patel in the #86 Audi in for the first stint of the 24-lap race.
The Indian got off to a decent start, to make up couple of positions while defending from the #98 Arrows Racing Porsche of Earl Bamber (with Will Hardeman).
The duo battled for few laps, before Bamber took the position with Patel dropping to sixth but keept Bamber in check, while also managing to stay ahead of Thong.
The pit window opened as the track was under FCY due to an incident. Patel dived in, to hand over the car to Gilbert, who stayed in sixth behind Hardeman.
Meanwhile, Gilbert was on the man on charge as he quickly cleared the three-second gap to Hardeman to take third place overall, while he finished second in Silver class.
After five rounds in the season, the pair of Patel & Gilbert still sit third in the overall GT3 standings on 110 points, 24 behind the joint leaders. In the Silver class, the pair is second with 138 points, 38 behind Lee & Thong.
With 50 points in play still, both the titles are to be decided in the season-finale during the October 20-22 weekend at the newly laid Zhejiang Circuit in China.