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Craft-Bamboo Racing victorious in Suzuka after a stunning drive from Jeffrey Lee and Alessio Picariello!

25 June 2019
For Immediate Distribution

Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Jeffery Lee and Alessio Picariello score another victory at Suzuka, after a stunning performance from both drivers in a thrilling race on Sunday. After a supreme qualifying lap from Picariello to put the #88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 on pole position for Race 2, the Belgian led for his entire stint before handing the car over to teammate Lee. The Taiwanese GT veteran then defended the lead despite two safety-car periods to score the #88’s second victory of the season.

In the GT4 class, Frank Yu and Jean-Marc Merlin displayed front-running pace all weekend, and after sustaining damage in Race 1 whilst fighting for the lead, the #77 pair came back strongly in Race 2 to score their 4th podium result this year.

- Jeffrey Lee and Alessio Picariello earn hard-fought win after starting from pole position
- Frank Yu and Jean-Marc Merlin score fourth podium of the season
- Points scored in GT3 Silver Cup, GT3 Pro-Am and GT4 Classes
- Craft-Bamboo Racing increases win tally to 3 in 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia series

QUALIFYING RESULTS
#55 Mercedes-AMG GT3
Qualifying 1 | P20 – 2:11.462 - Daniel Au
Qualifying 2 | P6 – 2:01.935 - Melvin Moh
#88 Mercedes-AMG GT3
Qualifying 1 | P12 – 2:05.700 - Jeffrey Lee
Qualifying 2 | P1 – 2:01.233 - Alessio Picariello
#99 Mercedes-AMG GT3
Qualifying 1 | P3 – 2:02.968 - Darryl O'Young
Qualifying 2 | P20 – 2:04.167 - Christina Nielsen
#77 Mercedes-AMG GT4
Qualifying 1 | P4 – 2:16.616 - Frank Yu
Qualifying 2 | P2 – 2:15.437 - Jean-Marc Merlin

RACE 1
#55 Mercedes-AMG GT3 | Daniel Au & Melvin Moh
Singapore’s Daniel Au started from 20th position, and on the first lap scramble for position whilst taking care to avoid contact, dropped 2 positions. Despite it being Au's first time at the Suzuka circuit in the Mercedes-AMG GT3, his stint was incident free, and handed the car over to Melvin Moh from 22nd place.

After the pit-stop window, Moh emerged in 22nd and got to work fighting through traffic to make up ground. The Malaysian closed up the gap whilst battling through the slower GT4 cars. In the closing laps, Moh managed to catch up and he overtook two cars. The Malaysian race driver then drove a measured remainder of his stint and crossed the line in 20th.

#88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 | Jeffrey Lee & Alessio Picariello
After a strong qualifying that saw Jeffrey Lee start P11, the Taiwanese GT driver then defended strongly and held his position on the first lap scramble. Finding a good balance with the car, he then got to work, attacking the cars in front. However, whilst battling for position in the high-speed section of the circuit, Lee spun and dropped down to 20th place, losing the ground that he had made up.

After the pit-stop window, Picariello emerged in 19th position. He continued to push hard in an attempt to close up the gaps. During his stint, Picariello sliced his way through traffic, and managed to move up to 17th with 10mins to go. In the closing laps, he came across lots of slower traffic, but despite that, he still managed to finished in 16th.

#99 Mercedes-AMG GT3 | Darryl O’Young & Christina Nielsen
A great qualifying performance that saw Darryl O’Young start on the second row of the grid from 3rd, the Hong Kong race driver got off to a good start with lightning reactions and immediately started attacking the 2nd placed car. Due to the tight and twisty nature of the Suzuka circuit, O’Young was unable to find his way past, but a puncture for the 1st placed car meant he entered the pits in 2nd place to hand the car to Nielsen at just under the half way point of the race.

When Christina Nielsen took over the controls of the #99 Mercedes-AMG GT3, she emerged in 4th position due to lost time from avoiding an unavoidable unsafe release in the pit-lane. Nielsen was immediately on the pace, and sought to make up for lost ground. During an early battle, she was forced wide taking pick-up on the tyres, which took several laps to clean up. However, Nielsen continued to push hard and showed strong pace during her stint until the checkered flag, maintaining the gap to a five-car pack of chasing cars. She eventually crossed the line in 7th place in the 22 strong GT3 field, a solid finish for Nielsen’s first time visiting the historic Suzuka Circuit.

#77 Mercedes-AMG GT4 | Frank Yu & Jean-Marc Merlin
Frank Yu started the #77’s race from 4th position, and a great start reaction meant that he was immediately fighting from the lead, overtaking 2 cars even before turn 1 and attempted to overtake on the outside of the sweeping double right-hander for 1st place. Due to his tenacity on the opening lap, he moved into 2nd position by the end of lap 1 and kept his head cool to continue to apply pressure during his entire stint.

When teammate Jean-Marc Merlin emerged from the pit-lane after the driver change, he found himself 2nd in the GT4 class. With the lead in sight, he quickly got into a rhythm and closed the gap to the leading car. Merlin spent several laps right on the gearbox of the lead car, applying immense pressure in his fight for 1st place. However, going into the hairpin in close proximity, contact was made which resulted in a drive through penalty despite Merlin voluntarily relinquishing the lead in a gentlemanly move. The drive through meant he dropped out of the podium positions, and Merlin crossed the line in 4th position.

RACE 2
#55 Mercedes-AMG GT3 | Daniel Au & Melvin Moh
Melvin Moh started the race for the #55 Mercedes-AMG GT3 in 7th position, and at the start he got stuck on the outside and lost several positions at the start, dropping him down to 10th. In the ensuing laps, Moh fought back strongly and was in a multi-car battle for position. When the battle pack came up on slower GT4 traffic however, a late defensive block from the car in front meant that Moh sustained heavy damage to the left front, forcing him to pit to repair the damage.

When Daniel Au rejoined after the pit-stop window, he emerged P22. Au kept his head down and set to work chasing the pack down. However, soon after Au took over the controls of the #55 Mercedes-AMG, a safety car period meant that the pack was bunched up, allowing Au to attack the cars in front. However, in the closing laps, another safety car period and he had to keep his head cool, avoiding contact and he brought the car home in 21st place.

#88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 | Jeffrey Lee & Alessio Picariello
After a brilliant qualifying which saw Alessio Picariello put the #88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 on pole position, the Belgian then took control of the race right from the start, pushing hard to build a gap. He controlled the pace well, with the gap increasing incrementally with every lap to the cars behind. When Picariello pitted to swap drivers, teammate Jeffrey Lee emerged in 1st position with a buffer to the cars behind.

However early into Lee’s stint, the first of two safety car periods meant that his margin was negated, leaving him open to attack from behind. The Taiwanese driver produced a defensive masterclass, as he placed the car perfectly on track, leaving no space for the pro driver behind to make a move. At the second safety car period, Lee kept his cool and ensured that the tyres were still in the working temperature range. With 5 minutes to go till the end, Jeffrey Lee was under immense pressure, with the top 6 cars right on his tail. Lee managed to hold them off and crossed the line in first position, taking the #88 Mercedes-AMG GT3’s 2nd win of the season!

#99 Mercedes-AMG GT3 | Darryl O’Young & Christina Nielsen
Danish driver Christina Nielsen started race 2 for the #99 entry from P20, and right at the start, she was on the attack, fighting for position in a multi-car battle. Despite several close calls, Nielsen kept the car clean and kept the pressure on the cars in front. During Nielsen’s stint, her lap times were consistent and she did a solid job to maintain a close gap to the cars in front.

When the car was handed over to teammate Darryl O’Young, the #99 Mercedes-AMG GT3 emerged from 20th position and he quickly got to work getting on the pace and to close the gaps up. Several fast out-laps meant that he jumped a few cars during the pit-stop window. Early on in his stint, a safety car meant that the gaps to the cars in front were negated, and O’Young set his sights on slicing through the field. After making up several positions when the race resumed, another safety car period meant that O’Young was right on the tail of the other GT3 cars. When the second safety car period ended, there was only three laps to go and he kept on the offensive. O’Young’s progress meant that the #99 car crossed the line in P10 after a great fight back through the field.

#77 Mercedes-AMG GT4 | Frank Yu & Jean-Marc Merlin
Frenchman Jean-Marc Merlin started 2nd after a great qualifying effort and right from the off, proceeded to attack the leader for position. He boldly attempted to go around the outside of the leader at the first corner, but didn’t manage to pull the move off. Merlin continued to apply pressure on the leader during his whole stint, and when he pitted he was still in 2nd place.

When Frank Yu took over the controls, quick work from the crew meant that the gap to the leader was reduced slightly. Yu continued to push during his stint and was under pressure from the car behind. The safety car period meant that the gap was closed up, and Yu eventually crossed the line in 3rd position, scoring the #77 pair’s fourth podium of the season.

Fuji Speedway coming up in two weeks time
The next round of the 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia season will be held at the scenic Fuji Speedway in Japan, on the 6-7 July 2019. With its long straight and fast sweeping corners, it is a real drivers’ circuit that tests the aerodynamic setup and balance of the cars. The team's preparations are already in full swing with the aim of moving further up the championship ladder

QUOTES
Russell O’Hagan | Operations Director of Craft-Bamboo Racing
“It was a really positive weekend for the #99 crew despite several challenges with finding an optimum setup. Christina delivered good pace under pressure, and her great teamwork in resulted in a double top-ten finish. It shows the progress that they have made together this year and we will keep pushing for better results in the remaining half of the season.”

Daniel Au | Driver #55 Mercedes-AMG GT3
It was a tough weekend on this extremely technical and demanding circuit. We had a few issues with the setup and were a bit unlucky with the different incidents over the weekend. Moving forward we will keep working hard to ensure that we are fully prepared for the next round at Fuji in two weeks!

Jeffrey Lee | Driver #88 Mercedes-AMG GT3
“Taking a second victory of the season really proves the speed that we have in the Mercedes-AMG GT3 package. During Race 1 it was unfortunate for us as we didn’t achieve our goals, but during Race 2 it all came together. Alessio had great pace throughout his whole stint, and when I took over, the first safety car period meant that our gap advantage was lost. The second safety car helped us somewhat; when the race resumed there was only three laps left. I defended with all my effort and it paid off with a victory at one of the most challenging tracks in the world. I’d like to thank Craft-Bamboo Racing for the fast package that we have, in addition to Mercedes-AMG for the support. We’re looking forward to the next round in Fuji, where we aim to score more points and hopefully another victory as well!”

Alessio Picariello | Driver #88 Mercedes-AMG GT3
“It was my first time here with the Mercedes-AMG GT3, and it wasn’t a smooth run all weekend; we weren’t where we wanted to be in the practice sessions but we kept working hard and improved for Qualifying. To be honest my qualifying lap wasn’t my best but it was good enough for pole. For Race 1 it was a bit of a missed opportunity for points but for Race 2 we took a different approach for setup and it paid off and I thank the team for trusting me in the direction we took. I managed to get a good start and pulled a bit of a gap during my stint but the safety car periods during Jeffrey’s stint did not help as it closed the pack up. It was the most stressful race I’ve ever watched as Jeffrey defended for the lead but he did an amazing job and took the victory. Massive thanks to him, the team, engineers and Mercedes-AMG this weekend and I’m already looking forward to Fuji!”

Darryl O’Young | Driver #99 Mercedes-AMG GT3
“Suzuka Circuit always makes for a challenging race due to its high degradation nature. This makes setup a challenge and forces the drivers to constantly drive on the limit. The #99 progressed well to earn two points finishes in the two races. It was unfortunate the safety car came out a 2nd time during my stint in race 2, as it stopped our charge up the order as I believe a top 5 was possible.”

Frank Yu | Driver #77 Mercedes-AMG GT4
“I had a really good start in Race 1, getting a near perfect reaction to the lights and overtaking two cars before turn 1! I was attacking the leading BMW around the outside but was unable to make my way past. It was unfortunate that Jean-Marc had the incident that meant we were not able to achieve our objectives, but our front-running pace meant that we were able to finish on the podium on Sunday, meaning we have finished in the top-three on 4 occasions this season. We will keep pushing hard in preparation for the next round in Fuji!”

Jean-Marc Merlin | Driver #77 Mercedes-AMG GT4
“I was really happy with my qualifying pace, and I felt comfortable pushing with the setup that we had. Really sorry about the incident in Race 1 which caused us to drop out of contention for the lead, but it was a good positive to take away that we were fighting at the front. I’m always impressed and welcomed by the Japanese fans, and the podium on Sunday was a nice birthday gift after not achieving our aim for Race 1. Looking forward to the next round in Fuji!”