Good results for Nathan Antunes and Lamborghini in Malaysia
After some bad luck with reliability issues at Autopolis, Japan a couple of rounds ago, Dilango Racing wanted to make things right in Malaysia. I was invited back to join team owner and co-driver Dilantha Malagamuwa in the Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 GT3 race car at the Sepang International Circuit for round 7 and 8 of the GT Asia Series from 15 to 17 August 2014.
The weekend didn’t start off as planned. A last minute engine installation meant I was only able to do one lap in the first official practice session. But the team worked hard to have everything ready for practice two so both Dilantha and I were able to get some laps in before qualifying.
With just 8 laps under my belt heading into qualifying, I knew it was going to be tough. Some changes made by the Lamborghini engineer meant that the car was improved from the previous time I drove it, but it was still very hard to drive, and there is still a long way to go. With limited testing we will have to guess and go on theory to make changes from here.
Qualifying one and the heavens opened up. The session started and all cars rushed out to try make the most of the weather before the rain got too heavy. Two minutes in, and the session was stopped with the water making things just too unsafe. I was having plenty of fun reading the rivers coming across the track but was relieved to see the red flags to stop the session because it was becoming impossible for me to see anything through the monsoon rain.
After a 20 minute stoppage, the track went green and the 26 car grid rushed out to finish the session before the rain started again.
I wasn’t too happy with how my qualifying session went, finishing in position 13. There was a lot of traffic and I struggled to find a clear lap. My main focus was to bring the car home in such tricky conditions and make sure our goal to finish the weekend was on the right track.
Dilantha jumped in the car for the AM session, still in wet conditions and did a great job to secure 6th position. Time to go racing!
Race one on the Saturday afternoon was hot and humid, very different to the wet qualifying just a couple of hours before. I started the race and was able to make up some positions handing the car over to Dilantha in 8th place. Towards the end of the race Dilango Racing was looking good for a 5th place finish but a touch by a very ambitious Aston Martin Vantage GT3 saw Dilantha spin and drop to 6th place, holding this position to the finish line.
I am very happy to finish in such a strong position. In very hot conditions and with a car very hard to drive I knew I had to do 35 minutes of qualifying laps to have any chance of keeping up with the faster more powerful cars. Dilantha did exactly the same and held off the pressure of some hard charging cars. I’m so happy for him and the team that we finished inside the top 10.
Sitting down with the engineer after the race, we needed some pretty special setup changes to get the car more drivable and competing with the faster cars for race two.
Race two and Dilantha got a great start, moving from 6th to 4th only two corners into the first lap. Things were looking very strong early on, but with the drivers getting into their rhythms it was impossible to keep up with the faster cars and Dilantha handed the car over to me in 6th position. The pit stop didn’t go entirely to plan and I lost 5 seconds in the pits which dropped us down to 8th. The superior pace of the other cars meant we were unable to gain any positions but held off a hard charging Ferrari 458 in the dying stages, bringing the car home in 8th for consecutive top ten finishes to end the weekend.
I’m very happy with the last race. We didn’t have the pace to challenge for the podium, but I had some great last lap racing with the faster Ferraris which was perfect practice under huge pressure. I am even sure there was a bit of bumping and rubbing, but that’s racing, right?
I am happy for Dilantha and the team because we now have some good data and experience behind us to move forward and improve the car for the next round of the series.
I am really looking forward to working with Dilantha and his team again for future rounds of the GT Asia series.
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