2023 Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS gets underway in exciting fashion in Buriram, Thailand
Liu and Schiller lead Lee and Götz for dramatic 1-2 finish in action-packed Race 2
Craft-Bamboo Racing grabs Team Championship lead with strong performance at opening rounds
Craft-Bamboo Racing kicked off the 2023 Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS championship delivering a bold statement with a strong 1-2 finish in Race 2 of the opening weekend. Anthony Liu (CHN) and Fabian Schiller (GER) bounced back from the setbacks of the first race to deliver an overall race win in their #37 Mercedes-AMG GT3, with Jeffrey Lee (TPE) and Maximilian Götz (GER) following suit and securing P2 in the #77 Mercedes-AMG GT3 in an action-filled Race 2. Both driver pairings currently sit in P2 and P4 respectively in the Drivers Championship with the team establishing an early lead in the Teams Championship after Rounds 1 and 2 of the 12-round championship.
The weekend kicked off with several unknowns, with a mix of high temperatures and flashes of intense thunderstorms. After topping the first Official Practice session, all drivers struggled to find the ultimate pace of their car in the rain-affected second session. Given the lack of grip, both Craft-Bamboo Racing cars unfortunately dealt with off-track excursions and caused significant damage to 2 Mercedes-AMG GT3s. Things were looking difficult for the team as the crew was left with hefty repairs at the end of day 1. However, the mechanics and engineers worked tirelessly into the night and managed to get the #37 and #77 ready for Qualifying the morning after.
The first part of Qualifying was challenging for the #77 Mercedes-AMG GT3 with Lee having to contest with traffic on his fast laps despite having the pace, managing only the 21st fastest time. His teammate Götz offered a swift response in Qualifying 2, by securing a front-row P2 start for Race 2. The #37 red and yellow sister car secured a respectable P6 in Qualifying 1 in the hands of Chinese driver Liu, as he continued learning the Mercedes-AMG GT3 and was followed up by a P5, driven by Schiller in the astonishingly close second grid-deciding session.
Massive rain clouds and drastic downpours resulted in Race 1 being delayed for an hour before it finally got underway under the Safety Car. Conditions were treacherous, making the highly technical 4km Chang International Circuit track even harder to navigate. Liu was challenging the cars in front, however, unavoidable contact with a competitor on a slippery track resulted in an early drive-through penalty and put the car way down the order. Both starting drivers stayed out for a longer stint waiting for the track to dry up, handing the cars with new slicks over to Götz and Schiller. The pair of Mercedes-AMG pro drivers showcased their ability under tricky circumstances to make overtakes and bold defensive moves. Eventually, the chequered flag fell with #37 in P10 and #77 in P16.
Sunday was a total contrast in weather as track temperatures soared higher than 55 degrees and the rain clouds parted for the blue sky. The team was mindful of the golden opportunity as both cars were starting in the top-5 and a lack of success penalty put the duo right into contention for a race win. The race was action-packed with moves being made across the 25-car grid, as Götz managed to hold the position through the 2 early Safety Car periods and Schiller battled hard to promote himself to P4 before the sole pit stop. A perfectly timed strategy call along with swift work from the mechanics promoted the #77 and #37 to P1 and P3 with around 12 minutes to go as the track went Green again. Liu felt comfortable in the warm conditions, making the move on P2 and eventually swapping positions with Lee to take the race lead. The #77 J-Fly Racing-liveried car came under immense pressure from the chasing BMW, which he brilliantly defended against using a wealth of experience.
Craft-Bamboo Racing’s both cars were running in P1 and P2 with less than 2 minutes to go, as the race came undone when Lee was tapped and spun around, proceeding to instantly being T-boned by another fast-approaching GT3. The Red Flag was brought out immediately, and with less than 100s left on the clock, the race was declared over. What initially felt like a huge disappointment for the team was met with a sense of relief, as the race officials decided to determine the results based on the previous lap’s running order and confirmed a 1-2 finish for Craft-Bamboo Racing.
Jeffrey Lee | Driver, #77 Craft-Bamboo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3
“I am very happy with our result in Race 2. It was a great recovery from a pretty difficult start in the first race. Although the ending was not how we would have liked, a fair decision from the officials handed us the second-place finish. It’s a great start to the season for the team with a 1-2 and I am looking forward to Fuji next month!”
Maximilian Götz | Driver, #77 Craft-Bamboo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3
“I am super happy for the team achieving 1-2 today. It was a great team effort; a bit unlucky that Jeffrey got spun around and we had damage on the car. Fortunately, we got the place back which was really good. We showed great performance all weekend, and we were also the fastest AMG in Q2. It’s never easy to kick off a season like this with no testing and a lack of driving for some guys, it took some time for the mechanics to get back into the rhythm. In the end, it was a great result and I am looking forward to getting more in the rest of the season.”
Anthony Liu | Driver, #37 Craft-Bamboo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3
“It was a good weekend in Buriram, we had the incident in practice so we are happy to bounce back in the races. It’s been 4 years since I’ve been racing, so it’s good to be back and taking a race win is the best way to start the season. The team is looking good and we are waiting for the next stop in Japan, hopefully add another win.”
Fabian Schiller | Driver, #37 Craft-Bamboo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3
“My first race with Craft-Bamboo Racing is done and dusted. It was a fun weekend, we had a great car right from the start. We showed a very good pace all weekend and I think we deserved the victory today. I hope I will be able to win more races with the team in the upcoming races. I enjoyed this weekend with the team and everyone deserves the 1-2 finish!”
Darryl O’Young | Team Director, Craft-Bamboo Racing
“It was really an up and down weekend. With the mixed weather conditions, it really tested the team so I’m glad we are walking away leading the teams championship and also sit 2nd and 4th in the drivers standings. It has been 3 years since our team competed in the GT World Challenge Asia, so it is a great feeling to be back and competing with everyone again. We look forward to a fun year ahead and there is still a lot of work to do in order to improve and get stronger.”