Absolute Racing wrapped off the inaugural Asian Winter Series with three wins out of three at the 5.543km FIA Grade 1 Sepang International Circuit.
– Absolute Racing drivers stole the show in Sepang
– Double victory and vice-championship for Yi Yifei
– Impressive maiden win for Eshan Pieris
Ye Yifei was the dominant force over the showdown weekend, clinching two victories and finishing his first Asian campaign as Vice-Champion. Team-mate Eshan Pieris concluded his first season in the category with a superb race win.
Ye’s dominance in Malaysia started in free practice and continued in qualifying. The Chinese youngster was unbeatable in both 15-minute qualifying sessions, capturing the pole-position for Race 7 and Race 9.
No less brilliant was the performance set by Pieris who qualified second for the first race of the weekend. The Sri Lankan driver kept impressing by posting the fifth best time in the second qualifying session.
Saturday morning’s opening race saw another flawless race from Ye. Two safety car periods didn’t distract the 18-year-old as he powered his way to his third victory in the series, setting the fastest lap on the way.
Less fortunate was team-mate Pieris who was taken out of the race after an aggressive overtaking attempt by an opponent while running in sixth.
Later in the day Ye drove another textbook race to win from flag to flag. Posting again the fastest lap of the 15-lap race, Ye finished with more than eight seconds in hand for the second place finisher.
Starting from sixth on the grid, Pieris avoid all kinds of hazards to finish fifth overall, equalling his best result in the series and the best-placed Asian based driver in Race 8.
With 25 points at stake for the final race on Sunday, Ye started 12 points behind the championship leader for the title decider race, knowing that his chances to win the championship were slim as guest drivers were ineligible to score points in the final round of the series.
The last race of the season didn’t start as Ye would like. He got left behind at the starting line and quickly dropped to third before fighting back to second by the second lap. The Chinese driver was the fastest on track and quickly closed the gap to the leading car.
Ye could content himself with the second place behind a non-scoring guest driver, which would award him the maximum championship points, but even that score wouldn’t enough to win the championship. Therefore Ye took off in the search for another win. On lap 12, in a fierce battle with guest driver Jack Doohan, the two cars collided and Ye was forced to retire.
The race leaders heartbreak opened the door to Pieris’s maiden win in the series. The Sri Lankan driver made a good start from fifth on the grid and moved up to second, but lost one position to Ye in the second lap. Following the leaders closely all the way, Pieris capitalized from their collision, inheriting the race win. He crossed the line more than two seconds clear of second place.
Ye finished second in the Drivers’ championship standings as Pieris was a remarkable sixth. Absolute Racing ended in second place in the Teams’ standings.
The new season of the F3 Asian Championship Certified by FIA kicks off on April 6/7 at Sepang, Malaysia. In its second season, the five-event Asian championship will also visit FIA Grade 1 race tracks in Thailand, Japan and China, with three races at each round between April and September next year.
#15 Eshan Pieris: “Winning the final race of the winter season was a big confidence boost for me. P2 in Q1 was already a big achievement but I needed more experience with the racing. And then, in the end, with the guidance from everyone at Absolute Racing, I was comfortably running in P3 in the last race and took advantage of the situation on track and went on to win the race. I’m just very grateful to share this moment with them. They deserve it just as much as I do. They work so hard on mine as well as Yifei’s car. It’s an incredible team to work with.”
#16 Ye Yifei: “First of all I am very thankful to all the staff at Absolute Racing. They gave me the opportunity to show everyone what the team and I are able to achieve. I think our pace has been outstanding throughout the championship. We scored four wins and three second places in just nine races. It is truly great for me, as Chinese driver, being able to reach the top with a Chinese team, and I am proud of what we’ve accomplished together. I think this winter was definitely unforgettable and I will take all the positives with me to prepare my upcoming season in Europe! I wish all the best to Absolute Racing and I am sure they will continue to achieve good results with their hard-working and fighting spirit as well as their seriousness!”
Fabien Fior (Team Director): “We could only be happy with weekend’s overall result as our drivers won the three races, did two pole-positions and scored three fastest laps. Ye did everything he could this weekend; just pity what happened to him in the last race. Nevertheless Ye was again the fastest in the last race as it has been demonstrated by the fastest lap time. Eshan’s improvement over the AWS season has been hugely impressive and today’s win shows all his potential. We have made significant steps forward and we must continue down this route for the new Asian F3 season. We can expect some busy months ahead when there will be plenty of opportunities to improve still further.”