Eurasia first to the flag in Sepang before being denied Asian Le Mans victory
A faultless performance for Eurasia Motorsport and the crew of the #36 title-contending Ligier LMP2 in round three of the four-round Asian Le Mans Series, came to a bitter and disappointing end, as with just six minutes remaining of the four-hour race under the night skies at Sepang Circuit, Malaysia, the Ligier’s rear lights failed whilst comfortably on its way to victory.
The team still took the chequered flag first, with Aidan Read crossing the line 25 seconds in front of the nearest challenger, but a post-race 36-second penalty for the light infringement saw the win cruelly taken away by just 10.9 seconds, handing victory to championship rivals Carlin Thunderhead Racing.
Torrential rain and technical issues caused by the sudden electric storm forced the race start to be pushed back 100 minutes but when the race did eventually start, behind the safety car, it was Nick Foster chosen for starting driver duties for the #36 crew.
The Australian pushed on in challenging conditions to put the car into the lead, having benefited from more misfortune for the team. Started by Kiwi Dan Gaunt, the second Ligier LMP2 entry was forced into retirement from the lead after 19 laps with a technical failure. It’s premature finish was all the more disappointing as the #1 “Racing New Zealand” car had started from pole position after a dominant qualifying by Nick Cassidy.
Foster handed the car to Roberto Merhi, who battled for more than an hour with the Carlin entry, trading fastest laps as the conditions improved and darkness fell over the track. When Read took over the car with 1 hour 40 minutes remaining, it was guaranteed to be a tense second half of the race to keep their rivals in their mirrors. However, after first resisting the charging Ben Barnicoat for 25 laps, Read pulled away from Jack Manchester to cross the line certain that victory and the championship result was firmly in Eurasia’s hands. That was until the stewards’ decision halted their celebration.
The final result gave victory to the Carlin entry, with second place going to Eurasia – still meaning that they have successfully closed down the points advantage of championship leading rivals, G Drive Racing. With the final round taking place next week in Buriram, Thailand; Eurasia are third in the Championship – trailing by just 10 points and still very much in the hunt.
A bitterly disappointed team were left searching for words after such a blow late on in the race, with Nick Foster summarising the team’s emotions: “We are all gutted.”
Team Principal Mark Goddard added “for such a strong and dominant team performance to end this way is really beyond belief, but we will have to gather ourselves together and regroup for the final round in Thailand.”