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Jeffrey Lee and Alessio Picariello victorious at Sepang, whilst Darryl O’Young and Christina Nielsen fight through the field from 19th to 3rd, and the GT4 pairing of Frank Yu and Jean-Marc Merlin finish 2nd

9 April 2019
For Immediate Release

The opening rounds of the 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia season were held at the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia, and it also marked Craft-Bamboo Racing’s first outing in the series as an Official Performance Team of Mercedes-AMG. The team began the 2019 season in style, victorious in Race 1 after a stellar drive from the #88 crew, and finished on the podium again in Race 2. In the GT4 class, the #77 bounced back after a difficult first race to finished 2nd on Sunday.

Qualifying Results
#55 Mercedes-AMG GT3 | Daniel Au & Melvin Moh
Q1 | P25 – 2:10.867
Q2 | P8 – 2:04.602
#88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 | Jeffrey Lee & Alessio Picariello
Q1 | P12 – 2:06.986
Q2 | P7 – 2:04.455
#99 Mercedes-AMG GT3 | Darryl O’Young & Christina Nielsen
Q1 | P5 – 2:05.381
Q2 | P19 – 2:05.948
#77 Mercedes-AMG GT4 | Frank Yu & Jean-Marc Merlin
Q1 | P2 – 2:19.710
Q2 | P3 – 2:20.126

Race 1 Report
#55 Mercedes-AMG GT3 | Daniel Au & Melvin Moh
Daniel Au started the race for the #55 car in P25 in tricky conditions, and unfortunately was hit from behind and pitched into a spin at turn 7, and sustained damage to the rear right corner from the contact. Due to the safety car from the heavy rain, Au made a pit-stop and re-joined the back of the field. Thereon, Au was on a recovery drive, battling through the slower traffic throughout his stint along with other cars that decided to pit early from the rain.

At the driver change the team managed to carry out a quick repair from the earlier contact, and teammate Melvin Moh emerged in 28th, determined to make up positions. As the track dried, the local driver fought his way through traffic and impressively made up 8 places in 5 laps, to 20th place. The Malaysian then continued to push hard but ultimately finished 20th overall.

#88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 | Jeffrey Lee & Alessio Picariello
Starting P12 after a difficult Qualifying session, Jeffrey Lee and Alessio Picariello had their work cut out for them. The Taiwanese GT driver started the race in challenging wet conditions for the #88, and aggressively defended his position in the mid-field. Lee kept his head down despite an unexpected rain shower and two ensuing safety car periods during his stint. When he handed the car over to teammate Picariello, smart work in the pit-stops from the team meant the #88 car emerged in P4.

Picariello then set his sights on the leading cars in what was a thrilling closing stint by the Belgian. In the ensuing laps, he passed the sister #99 car and the 2nd placed car not long after. He then had 15 minutes to close the 10 second gap to the leader. In what was a display of sheer determination, Picariello pushed hard and by the penultimate lap, was within striking distance of the leader. Going into the Turn 9 hairpin, Picariello dived down the inside and muscled his way past to take an incredible victory for the #88 car.

#99 Mercedes-AMG GT3 | Christina Nielsen & Darryl O’Young
Hong Kong race driver Darryl O’Young took the start in very tricky conditions in 5th place, but his reaction to the lights at the rolling start gave him a good run into the first corner. In an audaciously brave move, he went 5 wide into the first corner and managed to take the lead of the race. The rain began to fall on lap 2, and O’Young scrapped for position in an exciting 5 way battle for the lead where positions changed every lap right up till the pit-stop.

Christina Nielsen took over the controls with window, the battle for the lead resumed, with Nielsen pushing hard to get into the podium positions from 5th position. Throughout her stint, she was under immense pressure from the cars behind and displayed her talent, positioning the car perfectly to defend from the cars behind and keeping her lap-times on target. Positions changed every lap and unfortunately despite her best efforts, the Dane crossed in 9th place.

#77 Mercedes-AMG GT4 | Frank Yu & Jean-Marc Merlin
Frank Yu started the race from 2nd place in GT4, but in the first lap chaos in extremely tricky conditions, he lost two positions due to him having to avoid contact. Yu then managed to recover quickly, and closed up the gap during the safety car period. Keeping calm, he continued to push when the race resumed. It was a tricky stint for the Hong Kong race driver, as he had to push hard whilst letting the faster GT3 traffic through.

When Yu handed the car to his teammate Jean-Marc Merlin, the Frenchman emerged still in P4 in class, and quickly set into a rhythm in an attempt to make up for lost ground. He set several personal best lap-times as the track dried and closed the gap to the cars ahead. But despite his best efforts, he ran out of time to catch the top 3, and finished in 4th position.

RACE 2 REPORT
#55 Mercedes-AMG GT3 | Daniel Au & Melvin Moh
Moh took the start in 7th place, and lost one position in the first lap scramble into turn 1. During his stint, the Malaysian driver was involved in an enthralling battle which saw him having to defend hard but fairly whilst trying to catch the car in front. Under the searing 35 degree heat, Moh demonstrated his experience managing the tyres amidst his battle for position right up to the pit-stops.

When Moh handed the car to his Singaporean teammate Daniel Au with 25 minutes to go, the #55 car emerged in front of a gaggle of faster cars. Au drove exceptionally in his second ever GT3 race, even managing to hold off several overtaking attempts from behind. Despite his best efforts, the #55 crossed the line in 22nd position. Despite the result, Au demonstrated his fast progression behind the wheel of the Mercedes-AMG GT3, improving throughout every session of the weekend.

#88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 | Jeffrey Lee & Alessio Picariello
Picariello started the race for the #88 car in P12, and got his elbows out on the opening lap. The Belgian passed sister #55 car, and then scythed his way past 3 other cars and set his sights on the cars ahead. In the ensuing laps, he was involved in a tense battle for P7 during the entire opening stint and exchanged positions several times. He then pitted with 25 minutes to go.

After the pit-stop window, Jeffrey Lee found himself in P14 after dicing for position with cars on older tyres. He then set his sights on making his way up the order with confidence after the win in the previous race. However on lap 19, he was hit from behind and pitched into a spin. Lee found himself facing the wrong way at turn 1, but the spin meant that the Taiwanese driver dropped down the order to 21st place. Lee recovered quickly and pushed hard till the end, managing to overtake one car ahead but ultimately finished in 20th.

#99 Mercedes-AMG GT3 | Christina Nielsen & Darryl O’Young
Nielsen had her work cut out for her starting 19th amongst the faster pro drivers, but was determined to fight through the field. At the start, she got her elbows out and quickly made up 2 places. It was a tense opening few laps for the Dane, as she jostled for position. In the ensuing laps, she maintained the gap perfectly to the cars in front whilst managing the tyres in extremely high track temperatures.

Crucially, during the pitstop window, a combination of clever strategy, decisive overtakes and a series of fast out-laps whilst the others pitted meant that O’Young emerged in P4, straight into an intense 3 way battle for the final podium spot. The 3 cars diced bumper to bumper with O’Young in the middle for several laps and when the opportune moment arrived, he cleverly set up a move using a slower GT4 car and passed for P3. O’Young then held off the chasing two for the closing laps and scored Craft-Bamboo Racing’s second GT3 podium of the weekend!

#77 Mercedes-AMG GT4 | Frank Yu & Jean-Marc Merlin
Race 2 saw Jean-Marc Merlin start in 3rd on the grid, and the Frenchman pulled off a move in the run towards turn 1 to pass for 2nd position. The experienced French GT driver set his sights on the leading BMW and pushed hard to close up the gap. Despite his stint appearing uneventful, the Frenchman was working hard behind the wheel of the Mercedes-AMG GT4 and made no mistakes whilst managing the gap to the leader.

When Yu took over the controls of the #77 car on lap 11, he found himself still in P2, but with a slightly smaller gap to the leader due to the team’s good pit-stop. Yu’s driving during his stint was impeccable and made no mistakes. His speed and consistency to keep the 2nd place meant that the 2017 GT4 champions crossed the line with a podium result at the opening weekend of the 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia season, setting a high benchmark for the rest of the year!

After Craft-Bamboo Racing’s successful first weekend of the 2019 season, the #88 car of Jeffrey Lee stands in 3rd overall in the championship, with the #99 of Darryl O’Young and Christina Nielsen in 5th. In GT4 class, the #77 of Frank Yu and Jean-Marc Merlin begin the season strongly in 2nd in class. This shows the strength and quality of the overall package, and the team are already looking forward to the next round in Buriram, Thailand, on the 11-12 May 2019.

Quotes
Daniel Au | Driver #55 Mercedes-AMG GT3
“It was my first time in a GT3 and I was a bit anxious and cautious to avoid any incidents over the weekend. Melvin was really helpful and fantastic with his input on improving my driving throughout the whole weekend. I spent a lot of time going through the data and it was very addictive to continuously improve. I think we can do much better and I’m looking forward to the next round in Buriram.”

Melvin Moh | Driver #55 Mercedes-AMG GT3
“Having a new car for the weekend was a bit tough for us, as we needed to run-in certain components. But we worked well with the engineers and the team to make big strides in the right direction. Qualifying went pretty well and in race 1 with the tricky weather, Daniel did a great job to stay on track and not get into any big trouble. During my stint it was pretty straight forward and drove as hard as I could. In Race 2, I was in a few battles on track where I had to defend hard, but it was enjoyable overall and I think we will do much better in the upcoming rounds in Buriram and the rest of the season.”

Jeffrey Lee | Driver #88 Mercedes-AMG GT3
“It was a special feeling to get the win with the new brand and new team, and to achieve this great result in just my second season in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia is something I never thought would be possible! Coming from the situation we were in during qualifying. We’re still looking for some answers to improve on our qualifying pace, but our race pace proved that we could do it. In the second race, we were aiming for a points finish but unfortunately a combination of the grid penalty, success ballast and the contact from behind by the Porsche, we weren’t able to score more points. We’ve got work to do, but overall it was a great start to the season.”

Alessio Picariello | Driver #88 Mercedes-AMG GT3
“It was a really interesting weekend in terms of many aspects, the track conditions were always changing every session and sometimes we were fast and at times a bit lost. Qualifying wasn’t ideal but the team bounced back in a great way in Race 1 and the car felt so good! Everyone did a great job including the pit-stops and I could push hard with a great feeling in the car to achieve a victory. In the second race we knew it was going to be tough with the success penalty in the pit-stops, but we were close to being the fastest on track and was happy during my stint. Winning the first race of the championship is a special feeling and I feel the team is getting stronger the more time we spend with each other and I’m looking forward to more success this year!”

Darryl O’Young | Driver #99 Mercedes-AMG GT3
“It was a really positive start to the season, coming into the first race of the season is always difficult with new engineers, team members and teammates. Lots of things to pull together in a short time, but it worked really well and we were able to most importantly gel together as a team and this will bode well for the rest of the season. We will keep working hard to get stronger and there’s a lot more to come from car #99. Overall It was really fun, with lots of tough battles and finishing on the podium was a great result and start to the season! “

Christina Nielsen | Driver #99 Mercedes-AMG GT3
“It was a challenging weekend for us, we left with a great result but also with work to do. We leave Sepang with a podium which is a really nice start to the season, big thanks to the team and to Darryl for pushing and continuously improve. We have some things to work out but luckily its just the beginning of the championship. We managed to achieve a 3rd and a 7th, which means we should aim for top-5 finishes throughout the year.”

Frank Yu | Driver #77 Mercedes-AMG GT4
“Had a pretty bad first race of the weekend as it started raining on the formation lap. The most difficult part was because it was raining only in certain areas of the circuit. Tried to fight for position at the start but it was chaos due to the changing conditions. I tried to catch-up but spun from pushing too hard. It was much better in race 2; Jean-Marc did a great job and handed the car to me in 2nd. I went out and just kept the 20-second gap and achieved a podium result, a nice way to begin the season!”

Jean-Marc Merlin | Driver #77 Mercedes-AMG GT4
“I am very happy to continue my successful partnership with Craft Bamboo and to team up again with my dear friend frank. Our pace was good all weekend but the current BOP gives us no chance against the BMW that is way quicker than us in the straights. We stayed the fastest of the AMGs which is really satisfying. An unfortunate gremlin in the pit-stop cost a precious minute on Saturday unfortunately. Overall I feel confident that we can attack this championship with high ambitions.”