In a race staged in ambient temperatures of well over 30C, in stark contrast to the near freezing conditions of the previous race in Japan, #23 Ligier of Patrick Byrne (US), Guy Cosmo (US), Salih Yoluc (TUR) finished third in the LMP2 Am class – sixth overall – their Ligier down on power.
#22 (PH) & #23 (PB) started from second and fourth places, #22 dropping to P3 at the start but led after six minutes with #23 P5 (P2 in Am class) – #22 impressively extending its lead to 34 seconds after just 30 minutes, #23 moving up to P3 overall and Am class lead after 34 minutes. At one-quarter distance (39-laps) and with all opening scheduled pit-stops completed, #22 (PH) led overall by 41 seconds with #23, now with Yoluc aboard, continuing to head the Am class in P4 overall before being given a drive-through penalty pit-stop violation.
After 90 minutes, #22 led by 81 seconds with #23 now P2 in Am (P5 overall), Yoluc encountering a loss of power while the pole-starting #24 ran P2 and out of sync with pit-stops with the leading United Ligier. Moments later the race’s first – and only – Full Course Yellow occurred, #22 and #23 both benefitting from excellent pit wall strategy and pitting with the race neutralised. #22 led the #24 by 46 seconds at mid-distance (77-laps) with #23 P5 overall, second in class, having served a second drive-through penalty for contacting the now Am class leading #4 .
Hanson finally handed over the leading #22 to Di Resta after a marathon 143 minutes stint, having led from lap four, in plus 32C ambient weather conditions – now with a 39 seconds advantage – while the #23 followed the sister Ligier into the pits with 96 minutes remaining, losing time in the garage during its scheduled stop in an unsuccessful attempt to rectify its power problem, Cosmo resuming P6 overall/P3 in class. With 60 minutes remaining (117-laps completed), #22 led #24 by 55 seconds, the latter losing time with a spin and subsequent puncture. #22 made a pit-stop with 47 minutes remaining, Hanson having to take over due to Di Resta’s regulation restricted driving time – #22 ultimately taking the chequered flag almost two laps ahead after 158-laps – Phil taking on a splash of fuel with less than two minutes of the race remaining.
“It’s an extremely disappointing result and now we have a lot of work to do at Sepang in terms of the championship – it’s going to be a massive showdown. Unfortunately the Ligier was down on power for much of the race. I had nothing to fight with which was very frustrating plus having to fuel save in the closing stages. The previous day, I was very happy with my qualifying lap – the car’s handling was phenomenal.”
“It’s an unfortunate end result which does us no favours in terms of the championship. Despite being overtaken by a couple of cars at the start, I brought the car in for Salih in P2 overall. But then he encountered our power problems. I liked the Chang circuit. Turns 4, 5, 6 & 7 are flat, big-turns and ask a lot from a driver but now I’m already planning for Sepang.”
“It’s been a very tough event – I feel the car hasn’t been performing that well this week. We need to find out why and put it right for Sepang. I was given a drive-through for contact with another car which I feel was very unfair. In my opinion it was hard racing. We now must put this behind us and focus on Malaysia.”