SEPANG : The Al-Manar Racing by Getspeed trio of Al-Faisal Al-Zubair, Martin Konrad and Fabian Schiller finished fourth in the GT class in both four-hour races at the opening round of the 2023/2024 Asian Le Mans Series at the Sepang International Circuit.
The Omani, the Austrian and the German entered a Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo and visited the rain-soaked Malaysian circuit for the first time.
The second of the weekend’s races on Sunday afternoon finished under a yellow flag with victory going to the Pure Rxcing trio of Klaus Bachler, Joel Sturm and Alex Malykhin in a Porsche 911 GT3 R. Schiller brought the Al-Manar Racing by Getspeed car home in fourth in the final stint behind a Sainteloc Racing Audi and the Optimum Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3.
Al-Zubair said: “Fourth place today but, to sum it up, it was a very positive result after everything that happened. Martin had contact with two cars and we got a drive-through penalty and a stop-and-go penalty. Bringing that into account, it was a very good result. We got a bit lucky with the safety car timing but we had a great pit stop in the end to jump five cars and be in P4.
“But, unfortunately, with the damage we had on the car, it was difficult to go up to P3. Nonetheless, after being last with a drive-through we should be very happy with the results. We leave here third in the championship going on to our strong tracks in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Overall, I think we should be happy.”
The trio overcame appalling track conditions and late heavy rain to finish fourth in race one when the heavens opened and a deluge ruined racing in the last 30 minutes. Track conditions deteriorated quickly and the race was red-flagged with 10 minutes to run.
Victory in the GT class went to Christopher Haase, Gilles Magnus and Alban Varutti in the Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II, with Dylan Pereira, Alex Aka and Andrey Mukovoz finishing second in the Attempto Racing Audi. The second Sainteloc Racing Audi finished third in the hands of Dennis Marschall, Paul Evrard and Zhou Bihuang.
Al-Zubair said: “Martin had a bit of contact at the first corner but the car seemed okay. We were fourth after the start and then I felt the car was quite good in my stint. Unfortunately, I made a little mistake passing a car under a safety car restart, which had slowed down enough for me to think there was a problem and I wanted to avoid an accident. We got a drive-through penalty for that and finished fourth in the race. Nonetheless, it’s good points for the championship for a track where we came for the first time.”
Dry conditions prevailed for much of the opening four-hour race on the 5.543km circuit where the Al-Manar Racing by Getspeed Mercedes was in contention from the outset.
Torrential rain began to fall with just over half an hour to run. Al-Zubair had built up a lead of around five seconds when he pitted for a change from slick tyres to full wets and handed over to Schiller for the final stint in very tricky and deteriorating track conditions. He also incurred a drive-through penalty for overtaking a slowing LMP1 car during his stint.
Schiller initially slipped back to eighth place but began to climb through the field as the clock ticked down. He moved up to sixth and then to fifth with 24 minutes remaining and began to pressurise Pereira in the fourth-placed Attempto Racing Audi. Both Pereira and Schiller found a way past Marco Mapelli’s Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini and had their sights on the leading two Sainteloc Racing Audis in heavy rain.
With 18 minutes to run, Pereira overtook Marschall to snatch second place behind Marschall’s team-mate and leader Haase. Schiller also began to close in on the third-placed Audi with 93 laps run and 16 minutes on the clock.
But the safety car was deployed with standing water causing treacherous conditions on several sections of the circuit. With racing impossible, the race was red-flagged and cars returned to the pit lane.
Konrad took the wheel during the opening free practice session on Friday afternoon and ran the Mercedes for 31 laps with a best time of 2min 05.415 seconds that put him eighth of the GT entrants. Davide Rigon topped the session in the AF Corse Ferrari 296 GT3 with a best tour of 2min 04.476 seconds. Twenty-three cars competed in the GT class.
The fastest lap in the late afternoon’s second practice session went to the Al-Manar Racing by Getspeed Mercedes with a best run of 2min 04.901 seconds. Again the team carried out 31 laps of practice and the Team Project 1 BMW M4 GT3, driven by Maxime Oosten, was the closest challenger with a best lap of 2min 05.487 seconds.
The Sainteloc Audo topped the times in Saturday morning’s Q1 qualifying session with a best run of 2min 03.998sec. Al-Manar Racing was fourth and then finished second behind Craft-Bamboo Racing’s Mercedes in Q2 with a run of 2min 04.889sec.
The championship continues with the 4H of Dubai on February 4th, 2024.