Four Asia Racing Team drivers took a spot on the podium over the course of the first round of the 2019 Asian Formula Renault Series at the Zhuhai International Circuit. Australia’s Kurt Hill saw two third place finishes as Brazil’s Bruno Carneiro and China’s Ryan Liu Zexuan took a second place each. On a mixed-weather conditions weekend Jack Chan won the Elite Class trophy in the second race and Liu clinched a Master Class win in race one.
Qualifying in the morning brought a very strong performance by the Zhuhai based team in the wet. Setting the grid positions for race one, Hill set a superb lap time of 1:45.081 min to sit in second on the time sheet. Carneiro stopped the clock a mere three hundredth of a second behind him, with Liu Zexuan taking the final top five position with a 1:46.361 min quick lap. Jack Chan set an impressive qualifying lap to put him on the 4th row of the grid for the start of race one on Sunday as Weiliang posted ninth-fastest lap time.
Under treacherous weather the race one took place on Saturday afternoon. Hill lost one position in the start, but was able to keep up with the front of the field on 3rd position ahead of teammate Carneiro. The two Asia Racing Team drivers run together until the safety car came out.
Hill’s restart was hampered by a backmarker and Carneiro took the chance to overtake and emerged third. Carneiro and Hill crossed the finish line in third and fourth, respectively, but they were both promoted one place up the order after the race [due to a jump start penalty to Joey Alders].
On tricky wet conditions Liu Zexuan took his FR2.0/13 by Tatuus to the sixth place and won the Master Class trophy. Weiliang took the chequered flag in seventh, collecting valuable points for the championship.
Less luck had Jack Chan. The Hong Kong racer went off track on lap six while leading the Elite Class.
Sunday’s race two was run on dry conditions. The starting grid order was determined by ranking the second fastest time of each driver in qualifying. Hill and Carneiro shared the second row as Liu Zexuan was just behind. Taking off from the 4th row were Jack Chan and Weiliang.
Spectators were treated to a seven-way battle for the third place. Motorsport’s stars of the future showcased exceptional racecraft with Liu Zexuan emerging triumphant. Unfortunately Carneiro was forced to retire after nine laps with a gear selector problem when he was fourth. He was not the only one with electronic issues as the car running in second also had to park.
Knowing that the race leader was going to be penalize with a jump start, Liu Zexuan was very close to win the race until a backmarker slowed him up just enough to overtake. The Chinese driver then cruised to a much-deserved second place, moving to third in drivers’ standings.
With plenty of touch-and-go moments out on track, Hill returned to the podium with another flawless performance. The Australian driver sits now second in the drivers’ championship standings.
Weiliang was much closer to the frontrunners in this race. The Singaporean was forced into a spin to avoid a contact with a backmarker in the last quarter of the race but he bounced back to round off the top five. He moved up to fifth in the points’ standings.
Jack Chan completed his second ever single seater weekend with a top-10 finish. The Hong Kong resident won the Elite Class trophy for the FR2.0/13 participants.
After two races Asia Racing Team is leading the teams’ standings.
Rodolfo Avila, Team Manager:
“We knew coming into the weekend that this race wouldn’t be an easy one cause most of our drivers were missing pre-season mileage. In the end the team’s pace throughout the whole weekend was very strong on both wet or dry. Four podium positions out of six and three drivers in the top five in qualifying showed our true pace. There is still room for a great deal of improvement but all in all, overall it was a good result for the team.”
#3 Ni Weiliang (Q: P9 / Race 1: P7 / Race 2: P5):
“Wild weekend with a lot of lessons learnt. I leave this weekend in Zhuhai with clarity on what to work on, and only look forward to the next race.”
#6 Ryan Liu Zexuan (Q: P5 / Race 1: P6 / Race 2: P2):
“It feels good to be back fighting in the front! On Saturday’s race I couldn’t see anything so I felt back and keep my position. The car set-up was really good in the dry and I don’t think I took the maximum out of the car. Unfortunately a backmarker slowed me down in T14 and I lost the first position. All in all if was a good weekend and I will keep working to improve.”
#21 Bruno Carneiro (Q: P4 / Race 1: P3 / Race 2: DNF):
“This weekend I had the chance to start off my 2019 season. From the start we had some difficulties with extremely limited track time in a car new to me, but I was given a great car to work with and advance in the weekend! On Saturday we showed good pace in a damp qualifying and in the race in tricky rain conditions we pulled through to get a 2nd place podium on debut! Race 2 was not as successful with some early contact damaging my front wing and hindering performance in the car. Unfortunately I had to retire the car after a gearbox failure happened to nobody’s fault of their own. We move forward now knowing we have pace and can fight. I look forward to the next time on track in AFR with Asia Racing Team.”
#36 Jack Chan (Q: P7 / Race 1: DNF / Race 2: P10):
“I am happy with the weekend and I’ll work harder this year. There is still a lot of room for improvement but I learnt a lot this time. I can be quick in a single lap but a race is a totally different thing. In the first race I was too aggressive and tried to overtake in the wet. I was too late on braking and too much pressure on the brake pedal so I spun. It is not easy to overtake the class A cars. Even if you’ve a much faster exit, they pick up much faster.”
#96 Kurt Hill (Q: P2 / Race 1: P3 / Race 2: P3):
“I couldn’t think of a better way to start the season than a double podium finish! I knew that by simply applying what I know then I’d be able to come away with some strong results. Rodolfo and the guys at Asia Racing Team this weekend did an absolutely amazing job and these great fantastic results are also a reflection of their work as well.”
– Ends –